It’s been a while since I have put thoughts to screen. So many great and terrible and beautiful things have happened over the last month or so. I attended a funeral for a client for the first time. A dear friend lost his brother to a heroin overdose. I met the most amazing man in the world. I had to face some of my own demons and fears. Life is crazy like that.
Last week, I spoke at reGROUP at Summit Church for the first time in a few months. It felt good to be back up there, just connecting with people. I had the privilege of teaching on “The House”, or what happens when we start to look at our stories truthfully and begin to tell them in the presence of other people in a vulnerable way.
I work with a lot of men and women who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, behaviors, and people. Addiction is a large part of daily life for me – both personally and professionally. My family is riddled with it. Most of my clients struggle with it. Almost all of the women I work with in jail are in withdrawal of some kind. I am still working my own recovery from hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Addiction is everywhere and it affects each of us whether we acknowledge it or not.
I was talking to one woman in particular who had been in and out of groups, meetings, and treatment programs for the last 20 years or so. She had small victories in terms of sobriety, but nothing long term. We talked about what has worked and what hasn’t, and the thought that kept creeping into my mind is “nothing changes when we remain anonymous.”
I love Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s done WONDERS for the addicted communities around the world. The 12 Steps should be a part of EVERYONE’s lives. I mean that. But I have a real problem with it being “anonymous”. Addiction and shame breed in isolation. Our demons grow larger when we remain faceless. Something changes when we are free to be honest about our lives and use our names at the same time.
I have thought about this a lot lately as I get to know and spend time with said man mentioned above. I have been telling my story, in great detail, to someone who care quite a lot about it, and I can’t do it anonymously. I don’t want to. Shame still creeps in every so often, but shame isn’t winning the story. I get to look someone in the eyes and tell them about the brightest and darkest moments of my story, and be met with the kindest and most compassionate of responses.
I am learning in real time what it means to re-tell my story in a different way, truthfully, and to hear someone else’s at the same time. I get to hear many people’s stories though out the week, and that is a privilege in and of itself, but I don’t usually get the chance to share mine. That’s the Catch 22 of the therapeutic relationship. My job is to provide a safe and caring environment for other people to re-engage their hurts and wounds and traumas, but I have to keep myself pretty anonymous in order for healthy boundaries to exist.
It’s quite different sharing my story while showing my true face at the same time.
There is a great documentary called “The Anonymous People” that addresses this very topic. Addiction will not change until we remove the anonymous from addicts and alcoholics. We won’t be able to tell our stories truthfully until we are able to show our faces at the same time.