“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
I want you to think of a time that you kept something secret. Maybe it was a bigger secret, such as an affair or a time that you hurt someone, or maybe it was a smaller secret, such as a time that you were embarrassed. Whatever the case is, I want you to remember that secret. I want you to think about what drove you to keep this thing under wraps. I want you to reflect on how doing so impacted you. Really, take a moment to reflect before reading on.
Often times, we keep secrets in efforts to protect our egos. We think that if others were to know what it is we have done, they would see us as the person that we so desperately fear becoming. For example, if a partner were to find out about an affair, we fear they will see us as untrustworthy. If a friend were to find out about how we spoke ill of them behind their back, we fear they will see us as a bad person. Or, if a parent were to find out about our struggles with substance use, we fear they will see us as flawed. Therefore, we may elect to keep actions, feelings, and thoughts to ourselves in hopes that others will not see us in the same negative light we fear seeing ourselves in.
Makes sense, right? I mean, if we can hold onto our secrets, thus preventing others from knowing us fully, what is the problem?
Well, unfortunately secrets come with a toll. A toll that tethers irritability, anxiety, remorse, and depression, among others, to our lives. When we hide our wrongdoings from the world, we decide that we will carry the burden alone. We keep others away and place ourselves on an island where no one can get to us; we isolate. When we isolate, we do not even give others the chance to respond to our secrets. We cut off any possibility for compassion or love before we even have the opportunity to receive it. We cement in ourselves the very wretched feelings that we had hoped to avoid. For the addict, the toll means continued substance use or relapse.
Fortunately, there is another path to take. This is the path of connection, admission, and confession to another. Instead of putting ourselves on the island of isolation, we draw upon our moral inventory to share our secrets and wrongdoings with a trusted individual, whether that be a sponsor, friend, or therapist. In doing so, we share ourselves. We allow ourselves to be seen and understood. We open up the doors for compassion and love to enter. Often, we then begin to experience ourselves differently. Not as flawed creatures, but as a human beings.
Although this path is not a cakewalk, it is essential. It is perhaps the most important part of recovery.
By Jonathan Fricke, MA