Is the shame what drives the anonymous part of my program?
Recently I have been thinking about the saying “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t” as it applies to my recovery from drinking. In my recovery I know that a grain of doubt my addictive voice puts in my mind is that I am not really an alcoholic. This voice can list for me all of the reasons that I am not an alcoholic – I didn’t drink in the morning, I never drove drunk with my son, I didn’t drink more than many of my friends, I didn’t lose a job because of drinking, it was so easy to quit, maybe I was just having an overindulgent period during stress, etc. What the voice isn’t admitting to me is that it is there for two reasons: 1) to isolate me in my recovery from drinking as it did during my drinking, thereby cutting me off from help; and 2) that it needs me to forget where my drinking got me and was taking me because it needs me to drink again or it dies.
When I drank I did not want anyone to know how, why, or when I drank. It was a control I needed to have because the image I wanted the world to have of me was someone who would be a fun drinker who kept the social party going but never got out of hand. The truth was and is that I don’t drink when I am having fun, I don’t need to. I drink when I hurt. I drink when I am mad. I drink when I am sad. I drink when I am frustrated. I drink when I want to be someone or somewhere else – certainly when I am somewhere that isn’t fun. So my drinking was never a good time thing. It was always a sign of trouble.
This isolation led to me spiraling out of control because I couldn’t dare admit there was an issue. Admitting an issue would confuse people who had never seen me drink or worry people who loved me. It was also a shameful admission of failure as a mom, as a career person, as a daughter, as a family member, as a friend, and as a wife. It was a failure because I often wasn’t present in my life or that of others because I was physically ill from a hangover (they lasted days for me) or I was wondering when I would start drinking that day and worrying that I wouldn’t be able to control it. I was a failure because I was ill tempered, emotionally off balance, and not able to handle the slightest discomfort because every part of my mind and body were working to keep my systems going. I was a failure because “a smart person with goals and morals wouldn’t do this” was what I saw every day in television shows, self-help books, and the whispered, sorrowful conversations I heard friends and family have about others who had drinking problems.
When I did finally get to a bottom that required me to find help I was comforted that there was an element of isolation in the anonymity of the program. I found reason to read the texts in ways that told me to stay anonymous: “When writing or speaking publicly about alcoholism, we urge each of our Fellowship to omit his personal name…” I found this comforting because it was a habit of isolation I developed while drinking that allowed my shame to grow and my addiction to take control. Without knowing it I used the very program that has been for me the single thing that has allowed me to take back my life, do the next right thing, and lose my obsession with alcohol as evidence that I should stay in shame during my recovery. (At this point I want to emphasize that these were in my opinion my wrongful readings of the program material. They were wrong because my addictive inner voice was doing the interpretation and it is always driven by finding a way to keep me in shame and drive me back to drink.
And why stay in shame? Well it makes me “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” – a situation that leads me into a spiral that will take me right back to where my addiction wants me – in front of a glass of wine in my back yard thinking this time I will have just one.
If I am ashamed in my drinking I will drink to not feel my shame. If I am ashamed in my recovery I will drink eventually to not feel my shame.
So, I work every day to name my shame, ask my Higher Power for guidance and support, and do my next right thing.
Susan Aplin Pogue
began her career in personal development after many years focused on self-development and improvement work. Her experiences led her to discover tools and practices that she was inspired to share with other people through her blog work. Additionally, she has created and facilitated leadership trainings for executive teams in corporate and small businesses. Susan is a public speaker, and has addressed audiences on topics ranging from leadership to time management. Her mission is to share practical and powerful self-management techniques to those in recovery from any aspect of their life that has begun to negatively impact their well-being and quality of life. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of Colorado, Boulder, a Certification in Emergenetics ® , and a Certification in DDI Management Skills ®. Her work draws upon her background in corporate training and human resource departments, as well as her life experiences. Susan’s blog work is published by The Neurosculpting ® Institute. Transform, Inspire, Thrive.