Shame

I am feeling better ! Thank you to everyone who sent me such supportive messages. That was the biggest wobble I have had since I embarked on sobriety and I genuinely don’t know if I would still be sober now without you wonderful people.

Recently I have been doing a lot of reading around on the subject of vulnerability, shame and addiction. In particular I have been looking at the work of Brené Brown and her TED talks in particular. Quite how I hadn’t known about her before I am not sure but at least I do now. I think she is fabulous. If you are not familiar with her have a look at her TED talks

Brené started out by studying shame. She says that the ability to feel connected is the fundamental reason why we are here. Shame is the fear of disconnection “Is there something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?”

For me shame was the strongest emotion associated with my drinking. I felt overwhelming shame about what I was doing and went to great pains to make sure that no one knew about it because if they did, surely they wouldn’t want to know me. Let alone love me. Some of things I had done were really terrible and I knew that it was because I was a terrible person. It was all my fault and my shame was a burden I deserved to bear.

Now I am no longer drinking I still feel ashamed of myself and how I allowed myself to get into such a mess. Last week I had a letter from a psychiatrist I saw a couple of months ago, when I was newly sober. After a primary diagnosis of “moderate depressive episode”, as secondary diagnosis she wrote “depression/anxiety due to use of alcohol”. I know that is the truth – I was completely honest with her about my drinking and she was really supportive but the bottom line is I still feel ashamed.

I want to feel proud of my achievements and sometimes I do but I can’t quite shake the embarrassment of what I have done. I worry about what others would think if they knew I have a drinking problem. I suppose it is similar to the stigma attached to mental illness.

Although things have definitely improved as people are more open about their struggles with mental health, especially celebrities, there is no doubt that mental health issues continue to be seen as a weakness. I have always made a point of being really frank about the depression and anxiety I have experienced for the last 20 years or so. Sometimes my openness has made others uncomfortable – perhaps because they don’t know what to say or perhaps because they are thinking of things they have already said which they might not have done if they had known the “truth” about me. After all, to look at me you’d never know I had mental health issues. Just as I don’t look like someone with a drinking problem. Surely Tori can’t be an alcoholic can she – where’s the brown paper bag concealing a bottle of vodka? How come she sleeps in a bed in a nice home and not on a park bench? That’s what alcoholics do isn’t it??

Brené identifies empathy as the antidote to shame. She says “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too

Brené says that rather than weakness, vulnerability is courage: She explains the word courage comes from the Latin “cor” which means “heart” and the original definition was “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”.

For me, reaching out to others and sharing compassion, saying “me too”and having others do the same for me has been absolutely fundamental. I haven’t yet found a place to do this in real life but the mutual support and comfort I found in the online community is overwhelming. Rather than ashamed, we should feel proud of ourselves for admitting we have a problem and reaching out for help. Asking for help is terrifying. It means exposing our raw vulnerability. It is through vulnerability we can achieve connection. And connection is fundamental.

Tori x

 

8 thoughts on “Shame

  1. Hi Tori…I haven’t heard of Brene, but I sure have heard of shame! In the beginning of my sobriety, I was really sad that I had gotten to the point where I needed to quit. I was embarrassed (shame)…but as time has gone on, I now understood that my drinking, and everything that concerned it (which was basically my entire life!) was part of the journey to self discovery, self respect and most importantly, self love. Do I wish this journey on anybody? NO! But, it was the one that I needed to be on. This thought enabled me to push my shame aside and to move on! What’s done is done. I’m not living in my drinking past anymore. I am using that past as lessons learned. What else can I do? I can’t change what happened due to my drinking…I can only change myself going forward! xo

    1. That is such a positive and powerful message. You are absolutely right. Thank you for sharing.

      When you get a chance check out the TED talks – I really enjoyed them. XX

  2. Hi Tori!
    I am glad you are listening to Bren Brown.
    She is awesome.
    I know I was so ashamed of my drinking.
    But truly, I no longer am.
    I have put it out there to all my family and friends, and I no longer see it as a weakness. It is a strength to ask for help.
    There are a few things I wish I hadn’t done while I was drinking, but I have forgiven myself, and no longer hold that shame.
    I am human.
    I have found many good people in recovery who accept me just as I am.
    xo
    Wendy

    1. She is awesome ! I think I need to try and connect a bit more in real life but I’m not sure how yet. I must come into contact with other people with drinking problems every day. It’s just I don’t know who they are and they don’t know about me. There are probably people in my office. That’s quite a thought.

      Thank you for your support. Xx

  3. I feel like alcohol is just a tool that we all used…too much. We all have depressive and anxious moods and sometimes that turns into full blown depression and anxiety. Life is tough. Nobody should ever feel shame for feeling down. And then the fact that some turned to alcohol to “deal” with that in their own way, isn’t shameful either. Alcohol is a drug that while, initially, can calm those feelings, ends up making us feel worse because of how we then feel or how we act. Sometimes it just gets out of hand. Some people are OCD, some are compulsive exercisers (kinda wish I was one of those!), some have eating disorders, some drink too much, etc. (I had a friend once who compulsively ate citrus and her hands were always red, raw and peeling from the acid.) Nothing to be ashamed about, just a journey to gain control over our feelings. Forgive yourself, you’ve learned something and now you feel better! (I know, easier said than done but I think you get my gist.) Hugs!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. I think I am slowly beginning to forgive myself and it is a relief after such s long time. X

  4. I love this post. Thank you for sharing I will have to look up those TED talks as well.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the online community is wonderful in the fact that we can admit our faults and realize there are so many others out there going thru the same thing.

    Me too.

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