“Once exposed a secret loses all its power.” – Ann Aguirre
Often times I am asked why I am so open with my recovery from alcoholism. Isn’t there shame in admitting a weakness? Isn’t there embarrassment in recalling my behavior? Isn’t there pain remembering the hard times? Sometimes, I wonder the same thing. Then, I remember why it is so important for me to own my past that has shaped who I am.
When we go through a traumatic event, or series of traumatic events, it affects our mind, body and soul. Whether we like it or not, it is in our cells and becomes a part of who we are, the decisions we make and how we view the world. Denying it is denying a part of ourselves. In this denial, this fight to push events back into non-existence only increases the struggle and never lets us begin to heal – begin to recover.
We are not alone in our feelings.
Sharing our hurts, our secrets, our “big stuff” – it connects us to others. While maybe unique in our personal struggles, the emotions that coincide are often the same. I did not necessarily go through what you have gone through. Yet, I know what it's like to feel scared. I know what it's like to feel lost. I know what it’s like to feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is so, so far away.
So, because of all of this, I have also learned how strong I actually am. Those feelings were real, but they didn't last forever. They were all I knew at that time, but putting one step in front of the other, I learned to manage my fear. I found a path back to myself. I started to see that light at the end of the tunnel. That is recovery. I have regained what I had lost amidst the chaos of my darkest time.
I used to think if people knew my secrets, then I would be too vulnerable. They could hurt me. I would crumble. Through the years in recovery, I have learned that quite the opposite is true. I faced a gauntlet of hurtful words and actions that could and did crumble me. My vulnerability was not the fact that I made mistakes. My vulnerability was that I was trying to hide and deny it.
Often, we go through life hiding what we see as our mistakes, our failures, our weaknesses. We cover our scars. We hide our insecurities. We use material things, money, food or other substances, even harsh judgments to numb our feelings and reflect back what we don’t want to see in ourselves. We deny parts of us, believing somehow the fancy shoes, cars, popularity, or even a sharp tongue will adequately fill the hole inside and protect us from anyone seeing the cracks. We feel the need to get approval from other people because we won’t give it to ourselves. We don’t deserve it. And if they knew the truth, they wouldn’t think so either. So we hide.
But it takes a lot of effort to always be covering.
It takes a lot of effort to always watch what we say, to not give complete reasons, to live half-truths in the public eye. And when there is such a fear of discovery, we are more vulnerable to those that prey on the weak – those that look for the scars, the bruises, the insecurities. We get into relationships and situations that are not good for us.
However, when we own our shadow sides, stepping fully into the light, we take our power back from those that seek to bring us down – even if that force is coming from within ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy.
When we take our power back, we don’t allow our fears to drive our decisions, our relationships. We don’t compromise our values for others to keep our secrets. We answer to ourselves. We answer to our own honesty, authenticity and accountability. We know true friends, true loves, true happiness - true freedom.
We all have something to offer this world.
We all are worthy of kindness, understanding and forgiveness, no matter what our mistakes.
Remember, we can always apologize for the things we do, the mistakes we make; but we never need to apologize for who we are.
My weakness lies not in my mistakes, but instead, in my failure to believe in myself, and when I deny my worth in spite of my mistakes. My greatest strengths come from where I have fallen. Today, the only time it's necessary for me to hide, is when my 2 year old has her eyes half covered and says “Ready or not, here I come!” And I wouldn't have it any other way.