Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Blessings and Curses of Being Honest

Several weeks ago I received an email from a subscriber who wrote, in part: “… Some of your thought processes are not very pretty and sometimes conflicting. Why do you share on such an intimate level? ...”
It’s a good question and those of you that are subscribing to this free weekly message deserve to know a little more about me. It may help you interpret or integrate these messages into your own life. Conversely, it may cause you to decide to run for your life!
I am a recovering alcoholic with over 25 years of sobriety. I used to be an active Presbyterian minister. Today, I remain very spiritual, but not very religious. Those who have read my book and/or listened to my Audio CD already know this.

Several years into AA’s program of recovery, where the acceptance I found transformed my life and accomplished what all the religious dogma and biblical studies never did, I relived a repressed memory from my days in high school. A girl became rather sweet on me and, during a band trip, shared how much she both respected and liked me. All the time she was telling me this, I remembered thinking to myself: “The me she believes she’s talking to isn’t the real me.” Exploring this memory, I discovered that that experience was a classic symptom of toxic shame – a phrase coined by John Bradshaw in his book Healing the Shame that Binds You. 1988.

It was a very, very sick feeling – believing that my “me” that you responded to wasn’t really me. And if it was not really me, then who was it? Who was I? I had no earthly idea, other than knowing I had this hollow empty feeling deep inside that I was living a lie and was a very incomplete person. Unlike you.
In AA meetings I heard many different people describe this same feeling as “…having a hole in your soul.” Very apt, I believe. How do I fill that hole? Honesty – real honesty. I found honesty in meetings, with my sponsor, working the steps, making amends.

In AA meetings for the first time in my life, I experienced the ability to be really me, nothing held back, and still feel supported and accepted. That totally transformed me. I will never be able to repay the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous for that tremendous gift of Grace God gave me – speaking through the voices in those rooms.

In personal computing there is a term used in conjunction with printer technology called WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”). That’s exactly what I want to be in my life. That’s the only way I can feed the real me and starve the feeling that I have a hole in my soul.

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