“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
-Step 5 from the Al-Anon Family Groups
One of the unspoken rules that children growing up in families impacted by alcohol and drug addiction learn is “Don’t Talk.” (Claudia Black). Sometimes these rules are spoken, where a child is actually told not to discuss family situations or certain events. Often times, however, this is learned by example. A big blow up happens at home, and then the family goes forward pretending – and presenting – like nothing ever happened. Of course, those feelings don’t subside – but if we don’t talk about it, we don’t have to admit the truth.
When I started my journey as a family member in recovery, I hadn’t talked about IT – or about anything that could possibly be perceived as less than rosy in my life.
What would happen if I spoke about it? Would I be judged? Would people think less of my loved one? Would I find out that this is a hopeless situation? Would I be told to do things to remedy this that I just couldn’t fathom? Would I be blamed for this problem? I was unwilling to find out.
There’s a reason for the adage that’s often heard in recovery rooms: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” There’s also a reason why isolation is discussed as a primary symptom of the disease. It’s difficult to get un-stuck from any situation without a willingness to talk about it.
After writing pages and pages and pages during the fact finding mission into myself that I was asked to do in my recovery work, it became time to talk about it with someone. Honestly, I had blocked that option out of my mind. I knew that I would never even start to write with that sort of outcome looming. Although I’ve learned that denial isn’t helpful in one’s life – it was a tool that served me well in that timeframe!
Admitting these things to myself didn’t seem like it would be all that difficult. I had been there while they were happening! I had known all the things! But, sometime shifted in me prior to this point which I discovered as I was doing this work. I had spent years telling myself all the awful things about myself, and how I should have known better, and how unlovable I was. Beating myself up wasn’t helpful to this situation. In this admission to myself, I did my best to be non-judgmental and accepting of myself. Not engaging in the shame allowed me to open up to deeper learning.
Admitting to my Higher Power was much more difficult, but in that practice I found a humility that I hadn’t expected. And, a willingness to ask for help. That willingness lead to an openness to share all of this with an actual person. One of the things that I know to be true for each of us is that an outside perspective can be helpful. Sometimes I can see clearly what’s happening in someone else’s life, and they can’t because they are “in the swirl”. The same would hold true, therefore, that I can’t see things as clearly when I’m in the swirl – and someone else may be able to.
I settled in for a long chat with a person I trusted. We broke for pizza half-way through. I told her all of the things I had never told anyone, including the one I hadn’t planned to share. She listened, and shared, as well. At the end of conversation, I was waiting for the scolding – or the end of the relationship to happen because now she knew who I really was. Instead, she said that she felt like she needed to tell me that she loved me. The comment took my breath away.
Talking about IT lead to experiencing unconditional love. I know that type of love had come my way before – but, now I was in a place where I could receive it.