People are people -- even former drama queens.
When I started MMO gaming, there really weren't a lot of girls playing. In my first game, I was the only girl in our large guild system for a very long time. I totally milked that, too-I'd get free things and was consistently supported by guys going out of their way for me. I discovered very quickly that I really liked the attention. I'm ashamed to say I was very much "that girl" who would send nude photos to some guys in exchange for favors, and I'm not sure how much worse a person could really get.
This behavior went on through multiple games; I liked being the "darling" of the group. And oh, the catfights that would ensue if another girl encroached on my territory...
A few years later, I got married to a childhood friend-a marriage that was doomed from the start for multiple reasons on both our sides. When that started (very quickly) falling apart, I turned to in-game attention in WoW to bolster my skewed sense of self-esteem. I still hate myself for most of what I did, and I did it while assuring people that I was in a very happy marriage (we were actually separated at that point) and so much in love, and that "he" was ok with everything I did. The things that went on between me and my husband were despicable, but what I really regret is what I did to everyone else. I almost ruined another guy's marriage, and ended up making most of my former friends despise me. To be fair, I tended to hang around with dramatic people at that point, so of course we all just passive-aggressived and gossiped ourselves into a frenzy. What I'll never forget, though, was the night when someone I actually did respect told me what she thought about me, just before putting me on ignore.
During all this, the only positive thing to happen was that I met my current husband. Of course, the girl who blew up at me (understandably) was the one who had introduced us, so when he and I got together she started treating him like dirt as well. We both left WoW, went to other games, etc. We ended up getting married once my divorce went through later that year, and this will be our fifth anniversary.
When we did come back to WoW, the very first day I ran into one of the alts of that same woman. It was a nerve-wracking thing, waiting to see what would happen (it had been about 7 months at that point); she /spit on me and walked away. Then, other people in the guild started showing up to /spit on me. Needless to say, we immediately logged out and did a server transfer.
We've been on our current server since 2007, but every time I run across someone new or post somewhere outside the actual game, I'm scared to death that the people I disappointed are going to show up and tear me apart. Thankfully, we transferred to a server in a different battle group, but anytime someone sends me a tell asking who I am and if they know me, I have miniature panic attacks that I'm going to be in the middle of this all over again.
I've spent the last five years doing everything possible to make myself a better person-professional therapy, both religious and secular studies, discipline (still working on that one) to control my impulses. I'm really a totally different person at this point, as they say. Nothing I will ever do can change how badly I hurt people those years ago--every time I sign into the game, I wish (even briefly) that I could change what was said and done over those 6 months.
I'm afraid it's going to haunt me for the rest of my life, that I'm going to be so afraid anywhere I go online. I miss some of those people terribly, though I completely understand why they don't want anything to do with me. I just wish they could see what I've changed, and give me a second chance so I could prove it. Should I even hope to be able to patch things up at some point, or just count this all as a painful lesson learned?
If nothing else, I hope I can be an example that bad people don't always stay bad.
Drama Mama Robin: Hey Ex-Drama. Five-year anniversary, huh? That means a lot of time has passed since your disruptive antics. Not only have you put forth an effort into changing, but time has helped you mature as well. It has also helped your victims heal, though obviously they are going to be wary of further contact with you.
I know something of what you are going through. As I've said before, I'm bipolar, which means I go through some pretty rough depressive cycles. Whenever that happens, every single thing I've done wrong, every missed opportunity, every person I've hurt -- they all come knocking at my mental door at the same time, vying for my attention. I've had to develop some techniques for dealing with these visitors so that I don't stay in the fetal position for days, and I think that these techniques can help you, too.
- You don't have a time machine. And even if you did, you wouldn't be able to change things along your own timeline, if the doctor is right about those things. (And of course he is.) So you have to accept the things that you've done in your past as unchangeable. At least you didn't have to commit double genocide to save the world, right?
- Mentally address each regret. When a past act pops up in your head to haunt you, don't just brush it aside to not think about it. Look at it head on. Accept that it happened (see above). Are you still doing anything like it? If yes, promise to stop it. If no, praise yourself for changing. Can you forgive yourself? Do it. Can you right the wrong? It's rare if you can, particularly after all this time. But if there's something you can actually fix, promise yourself to do it and give yourself a deadline. Once you have completely addressed this regret, make a mental agreement with yourself never to beat yourself up about this particular thing again.
- Make amends ... maybe. Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-Step Program is all about helping you deal with your past in such a way as to prevent you (hopefully) from escaping into drink again. This program is used by other addicts because it tends to be successful. Since you are a recovering drama addict, its techniques can help you, too. I've been on the receiving end of the amends steps a couple of times, and they really moved me. It takes so much courage to contact each person you've wronged individually and apologize. But lack of courage isn't the only reason to not make amends; it stirs up drama. Many of your victims have accepted things and moved on, or they weren't really affected and don't remember this one drama queen among so many encountered. So I don't think you should contact every person you can to apologize for your past reactions. But I do think you should try to get one (and only one) message to the woman who spat on you when you returned to WoW. Make it concise, and don't expect any response. Don't beg for forgiveness. Don't ask her to believe you. Just acknowledge your bad behavior, apologize for it and express hope that she is doing well. Keep it concise. Don't offer future contact. Don't talk about your current state. You are not trying to initiate forgiveness; you are just trying to offer her closure.
- Avoid future regrets. Treat people the way you wish to be treated, and do your very best to avoid doing anything that will haunt you in the future. I think you are already doing this. It's so much more relaxing to move forward without the extra baggage of new regrets, don't you think?
Drama Mama Lisa: Change on the scope you've accomplished traces a long, treacherous path. It sounds as if you've managed to finish the trek across the desert and reached fresh, verdant lands once again. Congratulations. Truly.
At this point in your journey, I would encourage you to remain vigilant against developing a sense of expectation or even entitlement about being forgiven. You'll get a lot of positive feedback from others -- and rightfully so -- about the positive changes you've made in your life since "those days." You deserve those kudos.
But that's where what you deserve ends. I think you understand that you most likely burned through every last set of last chances with your old friends, and I think you understand that you must likely chalk this up as a "painful lesson learned." Don't let the warm fuzzies you've been earning for your improved behavior trick you into a sense of expectation that leaves you feeling disappointed ... and then hurt ... and then slighted ... and then wronged, if your ex-friends turn out to be uninterested in giving things another shot. This is not a formula: err, repair, apologize, renew. Sometimes, you err, you repair, you apologize -- but there's never any renewal.
What I want for you to enjoy -- and I use that word in the broad sense of having the freedom to indulge in something, not as in merely having fun -- is the freedom that comes with your new understanding of interpersonal dynamics. This freedom is not without responsibility, as you've discovered. But if you can keep emotional balance sheets out of your relationships -- if you can block any mental tallying of wrongs versus rights and what consequences are "earned," "deserved" or "fair" -- then your relationships can truly be based on connecting with others. I think you're well on the way toward this genuine place. Good work, good luck, and good journeys.
Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at firstname.lastname@example.org.