A LifeRing Keeper: Coming Out of Hiding
Some of the LifeRing online venues allow members to post relatively long comments and some of these are very well written and informative. What we call “Keepers.” They deserve a wider audience. Here’s a fine recent example from the LSRsafe email group, slightly edited and with names altered:
“When I continue to isolate and hide, I drink – eventually. The
more I risk ‘coming out’ here and in other areas of my life, the less
power my dragon seems to have.”
I plucked this out of your longer post because for me it was key. I
think a lot of us have a tendency to isolate, probably for lots of
different reasons, but for me, anyway, it had to do with feeling I
wasn’t “good enough” to be part of things and trying desperately not to
admit it. It was easier to hide than risk criticism and failure. And
alcohol itself became something that masked who I really was. If I
acted the fool, I could always tell myself it was the wine talking, not
the real me–that perfect, infallible creature beloved by all.
Accepting my own imperfections and failures as part of the human
condition was a huge step out of hiding, and it started with admitting I
was an alcoholic. I couldn’t do it in person for quite awhile, it’s why
online venues worked so well for me. When I found LifeRing’s Delphi
forum and came out as an alcoholic, it was the first time I’d said it
anywhere. I really thought the sky would fall. And lo and behold, here
were all these other people–funny, smart, great people–who were
alcoholics, too, and welcomed me with open arms. It made me feel brave
enough to tell a few people in my life, and to open up some
conversations about other failures and imperfections of mine that made
sea changes in my relationships.
I thought I was damaged goods. Turns out, we all are. NOBODY makes it
to adulthood in mint perfect condition, but the only way I found that
out was to start coming out of hiding myself…and after that, I didn’t
need alcohol so much to mask who I am. Not that I don’t still want it
sometimes, but I feel like I can survive without it.
I have a photo on my wall that a friend took from Alcatraz, a former
prison on an island in San Francisco Bay, notorious for its isolation,
and supposedly escape-proof. It’s taken from inside one of the
buildings. There’s a heavy iron door that stands ajar, and looking out
through the crack, you see creamy grayish water stretching away to
distant blue hills. You can just imagine someone looking out that door,
longing for freedom. It’s become a symbol for me of coming out of
hiding. As we shed our alcoholic selves, we’re walking through that
door, dear Tom–and there’s gold in them thar hills. Keep on walking.
I don’t have much advice to offer, but I’ll email you with what I have.