As I continue my journey in sobriety I am starting to realise that I have been disguising my vulnerability with alcohol and using alcohol to disguise my shame. The longer I am sober, the more investment I have been making in myself, the evenings, once devoted to my red wine and reality TV, are now being devoted to reading though provoking literature and rediscovering who I am.
I’ve recently discovered the social scientist, Brene Brown, and have been reading her amazing book Daring Greatly where she talks about her research and experience with vulnerability and shame. One of the things that I have found incredibly relatable in her book is her analysis on shame, and shame is our own feelings of inadequacy which I have been numbing with alcohol.
As an alcoholic when I reflect to the reasons I have drunk, they are often related to shame, the shame that I wasn’t good enough, that I was overlooked for a promotion, that I wasn’t pretty enough, the shame of going back to work too soon, the shame of not working at all, the shame of being made redundant, even tough that’s what I wanted.
Brene’s work is even more appealing to me, especially when I recently discovered that she too is a recovered alcoholic and actually went through the AA 12 steps program with a sponsor back in the 90’s. I didn’t realise, that such an accomplished, well known and respected academic was in the same place I was 23 years ago, it was quite an inspirational moment.
The more I read through Daring Greatly the more I am realising that I have lost my ability to be vulnerable and put myself out there. My alcoholic diagnosis is something that I have kept very guarded, there are only 2 people in the world outside of my AA colleagues that know I’m an alcoholic. I want to share my diagnosis with others, however I don’t believe that I have the right level of trust with many people in my life to openly share this secret.
You see vulnerability is about putting yourself out there, but in order to put yourself out there you need to have trust, and Brene refers to it as a bit of the chicken and the egg. Without trust, you can’t be vulnerable, but in order to be vulnerable you need trust. You see, if I confide in the wrong people about my condition, I expose myself to judgement, I expose myself to the secret getting out and I expose myself too ridicule. My sobriety journey is too important to derail.
I so badly want to share with others that I am an alcoholic and my journey, but I am also realistic in how people would respond. You see, I would be an overshares, and unfortunately in our society mental health and addiction is not understood by the ‘main stream’. Unfortunately my children will be judged if I tell their school friends, and I will be judged if I share my secrets too broadly. The frustrating part of this is that I know my journey could help other people, but at the same time I also know that there are many people who wouldn’t understand me, and therefore the social prejudices isn’t worth the disclosure.