Saturday, August 3, 2013
I’m As Sick As My Secrets
I’ve told my story before in these messages – the story of my toxic shame. Typical shame occurs when I do/say/act in a way that is perceived bad or destructive or inappropriate. Afterwards, I’d wish I hadn’t done/said/did whatever it was. Typical shame is one of the principle ingredients in the shame/blame/guilt cake I baked for myself weekly.
We all make versions of that same cake.
In fact, I have come to prefer to eat my cake with a slice of humble pie.
Toxic shame, first coined by John Bradshaw, is different. It’s the shame that comes from simply being me. It is not about something I did or said (or didn’t do or say). It’s about feeling sick inside just because I’m me. It’s not about the fact I did something inappropriate. It’s about the belief that I am inappropriate. Toxic shame is sickening. It is deadly. It is who I was until I hit bottom and ended up in AA.
Early in my recovery I heard people in the Fellowship say, “Just remember, <name>, you’re only as sick as your secrets.” So, I thought I understood. At first I shared all sorts of superfluous trivia trying to sound authentic. It didn’t work. It only made me feel that hollowness inside. It was toxic shame all over again.
As I continued to sit in meetings and heard others share openly about themselves, I was shocked by how open they were. I was also baffled at how they and everyone else would actually belly-laugh at their dark secrets. So I continued to share as openly as I could. Some of what I shared was probably okay, but some really was inappropriate and friends told me I should share those kinds of things only with my sponsor or other close and trusted friends in the Program. That was very embarrassing, but I lived through it.
But – after months and months of meetings – the openness and acceptance of all those other honest-sharers created the safe place I needed to come clean – with myself. I began by sharing – meeting after meeting – something like this: “I don’t think I really know who I am. So, I’m just going to listen for the rest of the meeting.”
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) focuses on healing my mind by allowing the Holy Spirit to begin awakening my higher mind to the idiotic “realities” of my Egoic mind. That is where healing occurs. That is where miracles occur. That is what began happening to me as I began truly sharing … simply me.
After these meetings folks began to come to me and admit they felt the same way. Others would comment, “I don’t believe you. You seem more together than many old-timers.” I would answer them by indicating I was a pretty good actor. As I began to explore the idea of truly being myself – someone who I really didn’t know – I began to experience the liberating freedom I needed to begin fully recovering: Recovering from toxic shame; Recovering from the compulsion to drink.
I believe these kinds of experiences that happened to me and which I’ve witnessed in the Program are what ACIM calls a Holy Encounter or a Holy Instant. It will change you from deep inside outwards. It certainly did me.
Now, I have to simply “share myself” in order to stay on my spiritual path. I continue to do that in AA meetings, in my ACIM meetings, and through these messages. That’s why I always close these messages with the statement: “Although these messages are mostly for me …..”
I understand that sick feeling inside me whenever I’m projecting a “me” that isn’t really authentic. After 26 years it remains a horrible, nauseating feeling, but it’s also a great indicator that I’m on a very dangerous precipice. That sick feeling inside me is the residue of my toxic shame, but it has become a supremely beneficial caution light for me. I use it to simply be as honest as I can – with compassion, acceptance and empathy.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 Aug, 2013