Speaking My Truth, and My Truth Only

My story is pretty unspectacular. The abbreviated version is that I began drinking heavily in response to some unresolved trauma from my childhood triggered by the birth of my son. I subconsciously knew this at the time of my drinking and after getting sober I know this to be true to fact. I hadn’t always been a heavy drinker, there were times when I’d binged, but by my early thirties, I was pretty mellow.

Over the course of my first year of sobriety, I did a lot of listening at meetings. I heard many stories of the first drink holding some sort of magic. Stories where people had become addicted nearly instantaneously. Stories that were not my truth.

I also heard many sayings. Sayings that seemed to make some sense for many people, even if they didn’t make sense to me. Sayings that went counter to my understanding of the universe based on my own experience.

Gradually, I found myself adopting these sayings. I found myself changing my narrative to fit the stories I’d heard in the rooms. I began to believe that perhaps my drinking had been troubled all along. That perhaps I’d had a problem from the start. I began to believe this in my core. Until one day, I didn’t.

I was reviewing my life, once again, and I came to realize that no, I hadn’t been an alcoholic all my life. And even though I perhaps showed some tendencies early in my drinking career, my drinking had not adversely affected my early life. The narrative that I’d started to tell myself, was not my narrative. It was the common narrative of the group. I was adopting it even though there were parts of the story that weren’t true of me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things that get said in the rooms. I’ve been thinking about how some of them resonate and others don’t. I’ve been thinking about how at times (particularly as I was changing my own personal narrative) some things resonated after they’d previously rang hollow.

And I’ve started to question things. How much of what gets said again and again in the rooms comes from a person’s own experience? How much of it is learned experience? How much is just being repeated because others have said it before?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I know that for some people what they say in meetings is their true experience. But I also know, that I found myself saying things as if they were my experience when they were, in fact, not from my experience.

I’ve learned that it’s important for me to be true to myself. I’ve learned that I need to be vigilant against adopting a narrative that is not my own. And I’ve learned that I have to be careful to share what is true in my experience rather than simply parroting the words that were said to me.

This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Coming Out Publicly About My Sobriety

Coming out publicly about my sobriety has changed my life. I wish I could tell you that I’d planned it out, that I gave it careful consideration, that I’d done it with a complete understanding of what I was getting into, but I can’t. That would be a lie.

I maintained another blog for several years that had almost no focus (surprise, I was a complete mess drinking all the time…) and one day, I just posted that I’d been sober and going to meetings as a way to get the word out to my friends. Over the next few weeks I posted a few more times and thought a lot about whether to keep these posts as part of the old blog or to start a new one. When I had the clarity that I had a lot to say about my journey, and that my journey would be life long, I knew it was time to split out these posts and start this blog.

In doing so I’ve made myself accountable. Most of my good friends, people in my local fellowship, as well as thousands of people around the world have read my posts, many with regularity. By writing about my journey, I’ve let the cat out of the bag and sometimes that’s what’s kept me from taking a drink.

There is also something highly cathartic about writing — I think that’s part of what many find so incredible about the fourth step. When we put our thoughts down on paper (or in bits and bytes as we do today) they stare back at us in black and white. We can’t escape them.

There have been times when I was a little freaked out about being so public about my sobriety. Last spring, while I was talking to my new company I was waiting for the shoe to drop that someone had found my blog. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I feared that this might hinder my chances at a new job.

There have also been times when I’ve worried that my openness may impact my family— more specifically my son. I’ve coached his soccer team, and I’m about to step up to be a Den Leader for his Webelos den. I have worried that people will judge him because of me. Still, I share my story.

See, if people do judge me, I don’t know about it — and more importantly, I’ve received nothing but positive encouragement from people who know that I’ve made a decision to be sober. I think that this represents a turning point in people’s attitudes about recovery. There was a time when being in recovery may have meant a moral failing in the eyes of some people, but I think that the majority of people don’t see it that way anymore. I may be naive, but my experience hasn’t shown me the judgement that I once feared.

If anything, my openness has helped others. I’ve had several friends and acquaintances who’ve asked me about my sobriety. Several have decided that perhaps they might give this a go. Some who have explored it have remained sober, and others have not. I don’t judge anyone who has chosen not to remain sober after talking to me — I recognize that we all have our own path. What’s important to me is that they know that they can talk with me — that they can ask me questions and that I am in a place where I can offer my perspective.

That’s why it’s important for those of us in recovery to tell our stories. If nobody knows that we’re sober, they won’t know who to ask for help.