Can we forgive John Galliano?

IMG_1957John Galliano famously self destructed two years ago when he drunkenly went on a vile anti-Semitic rant that then went viral.
He was fired from his job as chief designer at Dior and abandoned by many of his friends.
With nothing left to loose he had a moment of clarity and went into rehab. Newly sober, he has just done his first interview with Vanity Fair, which you can read here.

Clearly, John Galliano is an alcoholic whose drinking had become more and more self-destructive, resulting in his public melt down.
In the interview he discusses the vile rant and apologizes profusely, claiming he doesn’t even remember it, as he was in black out when it happened.
The next day he woke up and the true horror of his actions came home to him.

As an alcoholic I can relate to this horror.
The pounding of my heart as I desperately tried to rack my memory for some hint as to what I’d done the night before. Then the sinking feeling in my chest because I knew it wasn’t good.

I remember once going to on a hen night (bachelorette party) and creating a scene outside a nightclub we were meant to be going in to. The doormen barred me and therefore all my friends, ensuring the future brides night was ruined.

At the wedding the following week I tried to smile at several friends attending the wedding, they just looked at me in disgust.

A minor incident maybe, but no less shame inducing. I can’t imagine what it must be like, for the absolute worst part of yourself to be filmed, then sent around the world for everyone to see.

There is no end to my gratitude that my drinking and drugging years happened well before the advent of smart phones or Internet use. There are a few (well more than a few) pictures of me in various states, usually in bars with my arms thrown round whoever was near.
Thankfully, these pictures won’t ever be paraded across Facebook or Twitter as even after all those years of sobriety I’m still embarrassed at how I used to behave.
Being an alcoholic is hard enough without having to deal with your worst moments becoming publicized.

But this is what John Galliano is dealing with.
His absolute worst behavior will exist on-line forever, for everyone to see when ever they want. According to the Vanity Fair article he is beginning to make amends to everyone he hurt (of which there are many) and in particular the Jewish community.
He has clearly alienated a lot of people and a lot of people are finding what he said very hard to forget let alone forgive.

The reason for this, is the myth that when we are drunk we speak the truth. Which means when we say hateful things (or that we love someone) it’s how we have always really felt, we’ve just never expressed it before.
This is the reason people are finding it hard to forgive John Galliano, they believe he really meant what he said and no amount of apologising will change that.

I can’t speak for Galliano as I’ve never met him, I’ve not even had the fortune to wear any Dior (sigh).
However, I do know about alcoholism and I do know that when alcoholics are in the worst of their disease, their self-hatred is inescapable.
That’s part of why we drink the way we do, we hate ourselves, we hate being in our bodies we hate the voices in our heads and we are trying to do everything we can to block it all out.
It that state, constant use of alcohol and drugs makes sense.

My guess is that on that fateful night, when he unleashed his venomous hate, it was not because he is anti-Semitic and hates Jews or Asians. It was because he hated himself so much, that the final act of this self-hate, is to act so repulsively that the world will hate you back.
Thus, proving to yourself how hateful you are.
This is how alcoholism works, it wants you alone, isolated and hate filled because then there is only one thing for you to turn to; more alcohol.

As extraordinary as it sounds, what Galliano said wasn’t actually personal. Booze didn’t reveal how really felt about jewish people, it revealed how he really felt about himself.

It was a truthful revelation of his inner life.

As the most spiteful, meanest, repulsive thing his sub-conscious could dream up in order to achieve the end result of ultimate self-hatred.
It was an attack on himself, no-one else.
Our ‘outsides’ are just a reflection of our ‘insides’.
When you hate yourself that much, then the inevitable consequence of that, is to manifest in your life, something that equals your internal hatred.
This is what John Galliano did that night in the Paris bar.

It is only right he makes amends for what he said and then he needs to be forgiven.

5 thoughts on “Can we forgive John Galliano?

  1. Darlene Steelman

    Hey Veronica… great post! So true about the things we do when we’re drunk… making drunkenness an excuse for irrational or irresponsible behavior is so common in the untreated alcoholic!
    I hope and pray that Galliano gets the help he needs and comes to exise his inner demons…

    Great post…


  2. Veronica Valli Post author

    Hi Darlene, You are right using drunkenness as an excuse is not acceptable. We have to take responsibility for our actions, no matter how ugly they are. They are really just an expression of how black our souls are. I’m so glad I don’t have to wake up with that feeling of dread anymore!

  3. Kristen Johnston

    As usual, sheer brilliance.
    For me, the key to forgiving myself was telling the truth, to myself & others.
    People with sick loved ones write me all the time “…and THEN Tim did this or that” and I say “Honestly? I don’t care. He’s just an addict. I don’t need the stories, he’s an addict.”

    One topic I wonder about often, now that I’m well over 6 years in recovery & have managed to forgive my own drunk-passes: Forgiving yourself for what you did using is a piece of cake over forgiving someone who’s betrayed you sober.
    Thank you, as always, Veronica


  4. Veronica Valli Post author

    Hmm interesting point. I actually think that isn’t actually about forgiveness but about how we take everything personally. As alcoholics and addicts we are hyper sensitive and think everything is about us, that continues into a recovery for a while. I used to think what you said or did was always about me. Especially if you let me down or hurt me. I mean how could you!
    But here’s the thing, as I worked on myself, true freedom really came when I began to see that what everyone else did was actually all about them and NOTHING to do with me.
    It was life changing.
    Other people’s behaviour has nothing to do with us, it just isn’t personal. We just interpret everything personally.
    When people behave in ways that are abusive or damaging to us we have choice in how to respond to that. My choice is to not invite you into my experience. Sometimes for a brief time, sometimes permanently.
    So if someone has betrayed you when they were sober, realise that was never anything about you. Then choose your response.

  5. Kristen Johnston

    That’s absolutely the best course, when you’re perfect. But how do we not let other’s realities (that we don’t share) affect us.
    Say, my mom…She loved my acting career, was SO supportive. Then, GUTS, which she was understandably a bit concerned about. Yet since it’s release a year & a half ago, and despite the great care & respect I showed her in it, she refuses to say a word about it. Or if bring up, subject instantly changed.

    Now, I KNOW this is her deal. I get it. I don’t need her approval. I honestly just can’t fathom how she can’t bear to say one kind word about the book, or even the work I’ve done since.

    I’m not expecting you to answer this, I gotta admit that the very idea of being a sober, happy, successful woman in her mid-40’s who’s “mad at her mommy”…..Ughhhh.

    Love you V

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