Tiptoeing out of hiding

Photo credit: David Sanger

Woke up to blue skies and twittering birds and a much greater sense of equanimity.  It was so nice to get such supportive comments on my last post, and, because it’s been so helpful to me in the past to spout off and be heard, I wanted to expand just a little on Mary LA‘s:

One of the uses of a blog for me is that we can say what goes unsaid in daily conversation or letters or over the phone. It does make a difference to say it — and perhaps robs the desire of its power.

I was fortunate in my first week of sobriety to find an online recovery forum where conversations were searching, honest, for the most part supportive, full of humor and playfulness, and often went off on wild tangents about books, food, dogs, religion–you name it. For me, finding a safe place to talk about my past and present struggles with alcoholism–and a lot of the issues that made drinking so attractive–was key.  I really needed people who’d been through it, could understand, and didn’t judge me, and who modeled what life without wine could be like.  The online venue worked well for me, reduced my usual apprehensiveness about putting feelings out where people could see them, being the center of attention, all that.

Over time, I began to see that emerging from a life of heavy drinking was taking off layer after layer of veils, masks, bulletproof vests–full suits of armor–I’d used to disguise and protect myself.  It wasn’t just about exposing myself as an alcoholic–hard enough for most of us–it was about exposing all those dark secret areas of vulnerability that I used alcohol to cover up.

Those things we’re afraid to tell the people closest to us?  They still need to be said somewhere, or they fester and grow.  Sometimes it feels safer to say them to strangers on the internet, I suppose because we can click on a button and erase them from our lives if we feel the need. But it’s also practice: saying those things to people I don’t know has given me courage to say at least some of them to people I do.  And gradually, too, there’s been some overlap:  strangers have become friends.

For me, there is an advantage to limiting to a few trusted friends the people in my real life who know about my blog. I guess I still want some control over what I present in different worlds. Not particularly admirable, openness and trust are values I support, but it feels safer. Maybe in time that’ll change.  I hope so.  Speaking the truth, coming out of hiding, has been an essential tool in my recovery.  Extending it to all of life is a goal worth aspiring to (secure in the knowledge it’ll never happen).

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7 Responses to Tiptoeing out of hiding

  1. eddiered says:

    Thanks a lot for the post. I know a lot of the times people talk about being an “open book.” But I agree with what you are doing completely. I don’t think being honest is all about going and telling everybody what is going on with you and what your deepest secrets are. As long as I have people that I can talk to about what is going on with me then I am all right. I also try to be as honest as I can with the people that I come in contact with but that does not mean that I tell everybody that I meet what was on my fourth step. That kind of approach has worked out well for me. But it is very important to me that I do have people that I can be completely honest with…also that I do not get stuck walking around with secrets and things that tend to drag me down. I got help getting clean and sober from a place called New Life House. Check out their site if you are looking for help. New Life House – A Structured Sober Living

    • sswl says:

      Thanks for this comment, Eddiered. You got what I was trying to say, that “it is very important to me that I do have people that I can be completely honest with…also that I do not get stuck walking around with secrets and things that tend to drag me down.” Secrets do drag you down, and in a sense, they invalidate close relationships, because the “you” who is known and loved isn’t really you, a big chunk has been left out…so it’s easy to tell yourself you wouldn’t be loved if they knew who you really were. Hope that makes sense.

  2. cleo says:

    I love that way you write and can relate to every sentence here. My expereince of finding blog friends who have helped me to give up drinking is the same as yours. And you are right – the blogs about drinking start to cover other subjects and then the openness in blogging starts to flow over to “real life”. I feel at times that this blogging is really starting to change me. I start to see people differently – I look for the “inner blogger” in people I meet. On the surface people present themselves as X but if they were blogging what would they be saying? I must try to write a post about all this too. Thnaks for a lovely post.

  3. Mary LA says:

    Susan I have found the same unmasking process taking place and yet I am more open with strangers on forums than with my housemate — some of the protective masks seem necessary in very intimate and close relationships. But a good friend of mine died yesterday and this morning I found myself thinking about all the things I will never get a chance to say to her now and there is no reason I should not have said them to her over the years.

    Lines from the poet James Merrill that I love:

    See through me
    See me through

    • sswl says:

      So very sorry about your friend, Mary. I assume this is the one you’ve been worrying about for awhile. And, yes, the things we wish we’d said…

      I agree about the protective masks in intimate relationships–I haven’t shared this blog with my husband for just that reason, yet doubt any of it would surprise him, so much of ‘knowing’ is nonverbal. As the person I turn to in a crisis, he’s certainly aware of my vulnerabilities.

      I’ve always loved those lines from Merrill too.

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