Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shame? Really?

On the way home from work last night, I used Siri (love her!) to call an old friend.  She's the kind of friend you only speak with every year or so, but when you do, it's like no time has passed at all.  We've been friends since I was 16 and she was 18.  We met at my first ever job as a cashier at Western Auto.  She'd been on my mind and my heart lately but life kept getting in the way and I kept putting off calling her. 

We spoke for about 20 minutes about what was going on in each of our lives and what had happened since the last time we talked.  Her father passed away and she's now caring for her sister who suffers from mental illness.  My boys are getting ready to graduate from high school, the oldest is doing well in college, my nephew's new baby looks just like him.  Same old same old.

Until we reached the point where I told her about being sober.  I thought I had told her before but apparently it didn't come up in our last conversation about two years ago.  She asked me about my sister and I said she was the same, an addicted mess who would likely die that way.  And then I told her that I had quit drinking...but...I did not tell her that I was an alcoholic.

Even as the words explaining my "sober-ness" were coming out of my mouth, I could feel something in the pit of my stomach beginning to turn.  It's the same something that turns when I lie or do something I'm not proud of or, most likely, when my mouth gets away from me and my foot goes along for the ride.  As I was saying, "Yeah, I had to give up the booze because it was getting out of control and I didn't want to repeat the behavior of my childhood for my children," my stomach rolled and my jaw began to tense and I knew that I wasn't being entirely truthful.  I mean, the statement is absolutely true but the words, "I finally realized that I was an alcoholic," or "I'm an alcoholic," would not leave my mouth.

Why?  Why couldn't I say it?  What was stopping me?  It was that feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Let's name it ladies and gentlemen!  Let's call it what it is...


I really hate that fucking word.

Damn, damn, damn, damn it!!!!  I thought I was over that!  I thought I had moved past the point of shame but apparently I was wrong!  As I thought more and more about it and I continue to think more and more about it today, I realize that it's still very hard for me to say that word.  That I was ashamed to use it when talking to her because I was afraid she would think less of me.  That she would think I was like my father and my sister

Intellectually I know that number one, I am NOT like my father and my sister.  While I am, no doubt about it, an alcoholic, I do not carry the burdens that they carried or continue to carry and I do not make the decisions that they made or continue to make.  I am me - and that's all I will ever be and thank God for that.  And number two, if there is any person on the planet that would understand, not judge and really NOT think that I am like the rest of my family, it would be her.  We've seen each other through some pretty crazy shit.  Believe it or not, this is small potatoes in comparison.

But emotionally?  Emotionally I guess I'm still trying to convince myself that I'm not like my father or my sister.  That I'm better than they are.  That somehow I'm some kind of superior addict.

Holy Mother of Jesus where in the hell do I come up with this shit.

So, while my sobriety gets better and better every day and my recovery has made me better than I've ever been...I've still got some work to do.




  1. I have one of those girlfriends too, and I cherish our friendship. This fall I got together with her and the subject of my not drinking came up and I had a similar conversation. There was a lot I left out, mainly because I didn't expect her to "get it". She's not an alcoholic and, in fact, she shared about a family member being a recovered alcoholic, as in now this person can drink normally. In this case - that particular meeting, anyway - I felt like I did the best thing playing it close to my vest. I still feel funny about it though. This post hit home.

  2. Shame can be a real wench, eh? I haven't had the experience you described - anyone who has needed to know knows now, and the rest don't know because they don't need to know. But what got me in your post was the difference in knowing of something *intellectually* and the knowing of something in our hearts and souls. There are lots of things I know in my mind - I fully understand them at the cerebral level, but the trip from my brain to my heart gets hijacked, and I don't *feel* it deep down yet. It's sometimes a slow ride. So I get what you are saying about that. It's something that you may still need to process. I am still processing things, but at least I am moving forward, and that is all we can do, when we go from hopeless alcoholics to wonderful, sober and productive people.

    You might end up bringing this up with your friend next time...or she might. Or maybe not at all. But be true to your gut instinct. It's almost never wrong :)

    Thanks for the groovy post :)

  3. Mostly it's the stigma of being categorized and judged as being "weak" that promotes that feeling of "shame"...the problem is that of societies ignorance and not the facts of ones condition, no matter what it can only be in control of their own actions and not responsible for the actions and thoughts of others...

  4. Shame. You got me to thinking. I don't think shame is a bad thing, sometimes. Regret, remorse, and shame are human emotions. Valued emotions. Hard on us emotions. But they do tend to keep us on the straight and narrow. Unless they don't. Unless they spiral out control. Then they eat you alive. I'm not going to let it. I feel shameful about so many things. Things I can't go back and fix, can never be repaired. I hate it when people say this, but it's true, "It is what it is." So, ok. Next time I'll do better, and that's all I can do. Great post, by the way.

  5. Shame is a word worthy of research. We must understand its depth and applicability - it really can sabatoge our good standing.

    I'm pretty "out there" about my recovery. I've said, "I'm an alcoholic" so many times,, it really has become a non-issue for me. This is not to say, however, that in my early years of recovery I did not struggle tremendously. I struggled because "I" was that individual who judged you, who visualized an alcoholic as a worthless human being, ESPECIALLY a mom. I personally nurtured the stigma of addiction for many years.

    Today, I'm on a soapbox shouting out to whomever will listen. I'm proud to be in recovery and if "alcoholism" causes you to think different of me negatively, then I don't have much time for you. I love the person who is like I used to be and will press on with questions in an attempt to understand this thing called alcoholism, to create some knowledge and lose the ignorance - those kind of people can hang out in my space all day long.


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