There is a lot about the end of my drinking that is lost to me forever.
I have one memory, though, that is as clear as a bell.
I don't remember how close to the end it was, or what day it was, but I was sitting on my bathroom floor, sobbing.
After about ten minutes I started to cry, and I couldn't stop. The tears poured down my face; I was drowning in self-loathing. I am a prisoner in my own life, I thought. How did I let it get so bad? If people knew - oh God, if they knew - how sick and broken I was my life would be over.
And then a thought dropped out of the sky and into my head; a lucid, clear, thought rang through the self-hatred and the haze: if I make it through this, I'm going to live my life out loud.
I had no way of knowing it, of course, but that was the tiniest beginning of telling my truth.
The other day I was emailing back and forth with someone who isn't sober, but is terrified of her drinking.
She asked me two simple questions: Why are you so open about your drinking? Are you ever embarrassed?
Crying Out Now? What is behind this compulsion I feel to talk and talk and talk about it?
The memory of that day in the bathroom came roaring back, and I knew the answer: I talk openly about it because I don't ever, ever want to live in silent suffering again.
Alcoholism is a disease of isolation and shame. Anyone who has ever struggled with drinking knows what I'm talking about - the huge amount of energy and effort it takes to sustain a double-life. The endless lies you tell yourself - and others - to cling to the one thing that is slowly destroying your spirit.
When I got sober I was awash in shame. I couldn't ever envision a day when I would be able to look people in the eye, admit I was an alcoholic and not feel that stab of self-loathing and guilt. I went to recovery meetings for months and sat silently in the back row, arms crossed, hating myself and wondering what on earth made these other people seem so happy.
I got honest. First with myself, which was the hardest part. But an amazing thing happened: my friends were right. A burden shared is a burden cut in half. I felt lighter, freer. The process of forgiving myself began.
I started this blog when I was almost a year sober. It wasn't supposed to be a blog about addiction and recovery; I thought it would be about creativity and making jewelry - a platform to launch my fledgling jewelry business.
But I realized that without my recovery I have nothing: no creativity, no light, no genuine connections with other people. No love.
I know from my own experience and listening to countless stories that at the root of addiction are two things: denial and shame. Denial keeps you thinking you aren't as bad as you really are, and shame floods in when moments of truth surface and you see had bad it really is.
Women are particularly burdened with shame, I think. I don't mean that our suffering is worse than a man's - but it's different. A lot of the pressure to be perfect comes from within our own community of women; it comes from inside our own heads, too.
When a woman is struggling with drinking, the hurdles to telling people seem insurmountable. These hurdles become even more complicated when the woman is also a mother. The world is still struggling to understand that motherhood doesn't exempt women from the disease of alcoholism, any more than it would from diabetes or cancer. Indeed, for me becoming a mother both fueled my drinking and drove it further underground.
Even women who know they have a problem with drinking often don't know where to begin. How could they possibly tell anyone else? The stigma of addiction and the shame of not being who people think you are keeps women stuck. I know, because I've been there. In my head it was better to suffer in silence than to face the judgements, alienation and shame of admitting my problem.
I'm open about my addiction and recovery because I'm not ashamed. Not anymore. I know I'm not the only one.
I write about it so I won't ever have to have that moment on the bathroom floor again.
I write about it because it keeps me honest with myself. As they say in recovery: you're only as sick as your secrets.
I write about it to live out loud.