Ok friend, it is time to get very radical. As a man in recovery, most of my life was covered in shame, guilt, and isolation. I spent a majority of my adult life afraid of the secret getting out. The irony is striking because as in most cases, I was the last one to find out that everyone already knew how broken that I was. We think that we can hide it but the vast majority of those that are in our circle are quite aware of what is happening. The closer that the light of exposure came caused the lies, manipulation, and secrets to increase ten fold. I was foolish to believe that I could hide what was happening, but the fear of being found out overshadowed everything else. This leads me to something I find to be a great paradox and somewhat of a hindrance of the greater message of freedom from bondage and hope.
Since I spent all of this effort and time “hiding” in plain sight, the idea of keeping the secret of my decision to change my life is baffling to me. I recognize that over 90% of the 12 step support groups or fellowships end with the word anonymous as a way of having a safe place to go and sense of security, but my experience with this remains suffocating. I am not saying that every cashier I encounter needs to know my life story, but the perception of exclusivity as an “addict” seems to require the same level of secrecy that kept me in bondage while now living in the solution based life. It’s also no secret that most everyone struggles with something and if the answer prescribed “in the rooms” is spiritual in nature, does that same answer remain only beneficial to those who remain anonymous? They say that the alcohol, drug, eating, sex, gambling, or fill in the blank is a mere symptom of the deeper problem, us. If that is true, and humans all use external things to some extent as a way of finding internal peace, then why be so anonymous?
The stigma of “addiction” is one of the hottest argued topics today and I believe that the very nature of this aspect of the solution is not helping. Society needs to be educated and know the reality, not just rehab success rates, overdose reports, and police blotters. Who better to tell the real story than those who are currently or have struggles with these things and have found a way out? Perpetuating the secret by not being vocal outside “the rooms” is a good way to keep a lot of people in the dark. Part of recovery is uncovering our true selves, which include our past struggles and victories. Reserving that important part of our lives for a closed, anonymous group keeps us from living out another vital part to recovery, carrying the message to others.
In the very first edition of the “big book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12th step in the program states to “carry this message to others, especially alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” Over 80 years later, the verbiage has changed and removed the “to others” part, and reserved it exclusively for alcoholics. The founders knew that the answer contained in the 12 steps could benefit all people, not just a certain group. I have to say that I agree with that judging from my experience. Humans are all born with a God or spirit filled hole that we try to fill with man made things. Finding internal peace is found through spiritual principles, hence there is a 12 step fellowship for just about everything there is , including social media. The only way most will ever find it is for those that have found it begin to use their voice and experience as a lighthouse on the banks of a rough, stormy sea of life. Prior to finding a solution, the shame of our struggles kept us hiding in the dark. We are now free to lead others to the brightness of day, only through having the courage to be bold and unafraid to speak the truth. Sir Edmund Burke said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” My caveat to that is ‘the only thing necessary for men to remain in the dark is for those that found the light to keep it to themselves.”