Shattering the Shame: Why I Haven’t Openly Talked About My Sobriety

“The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you.”

-David Foster Wallace

For the past ten years I’ve known I had a problem with alcohol.  Time and time again, my drinking caused me to be unpredictable, irresponsible, and downright destructive.  Despite knowing all of this, I spent the better part of the decade trying to “drink like a normal person.”

I grew up glamorizing a glass of wine, going to Sunday brunch, and dressing up to sip champagne.  Over the years I’ve proved to myself that there was nothing romantic about it, yet over and over I tried to take control of something that was out of my hands.

There have been many reasons I’ve held back from sharing my truth.  I’ve been worried I would be judged, ridiculed, or rejected.  I’ve romanticized the “good old days” and avoided sharing that I don’t drink; sometimes it just seemed easier for me have a drink than to explain myself.

I was afraid of being seen as broken or a burden.

I recently had a conversation with a woman I respect and look up to about the shame I carry about being an alcoholic.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve worn a mask of “having it all together” to avoid facing the problems that lie underneath.  I never realized it, but she recognized how my facade of looking and acting a certain way has blocked my ability to truly heal and accept myself for who I am.

I’ve held onto the shame so tightly that I didn’t even realize I had it.

Since I hadn’t been completely honest with myself and others, I went back to drinking more times and I can count- and it never, ever got any better.  I know this today, and I need to continue to remember it in the future.

Instead of continuing to pretend, I decided it was finally time to openly share my struggles- and my strength. From Brené Brown to Glennon Doyle, I’m in good recovery company- and hopefully my own journey will help someone else one day, too.

We only grow when we do something that makes us uncomfortable.

Own Your Story

“May the Forth” Be With You!

This probably isn’t the first time you read that today, and it probably won’t be the last.  However, as someone who has never even seen one Star Wars movie, this phrase doesn’t mean a whole lot to me- until Brené Brown posted an article on LinkedIn:

The most difficult part of our stories is often what we bring to them—what we make up about who we are and how we are perceived by others. Yes, maybe we failed or screwed up a project, but what makes that story so painful is what we tell ourselves about our own self-worth and value.

Owning our stories means acknowledging our feelings and wrestling with the hard emotions—our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative—denying our stories and disengaging from emotion—means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark. It means no accountability, no learning, no growth.

To harness the Force, we must own our stories and live our truth. In we must go.

Adapted from the amazing book Rising Strong, Brené related “the force” to shame, vulnerability, and fear.  As a role model, Brené has taught me there is beauty in my story- even when it doesn’t seem so pretty.  Our society teaches us to “be” a certain way, when in reality, we’re doing ourselves (and others) a disservice by holding back what’s truly in our soul.  Why would we want people to love us for what we are not?  Why would we ever want to be accepted under false pretenses?

It’s amazing when I look back on how I used to live- I used to be crippled by what the outside world thought.  I used to hold back my talents in fear of people criticizing me, I used to quit things in fear of failing, and I questioned my talents because of a few naysayers.  I used to be on defense, 24/7, wondering what little remark or mean comment would come next.

The people who always seem to have an opinion may never change, but you can.  

I used to have an internal battle with my own brain, second guessing every move I made:

“Don’t say that!”

“You shouldn’t wear this!”

“Someone might laugh at you!”

“What will people think?”

Thank goodness my mindset has changed.

Today, I own my flaws.  I embrace my mistakes.  I share my story, and I can laugh at the pain; but most of all, I feel grateful to help others not feel so alone.

I hope you will gladly accept your power, give yourself a break from doubt or shame, and own the uniqueness that is you.  You are worth it.