Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your Voice Matters

Let's say you have a secret.

Most of us do.  Sometimes it's just a small thing we keep tucked away from the world for our own private reasons.

But sometimes it's something bigger than that.   It may start out small, but - as with most secrets - it grows, filling your spirit with shame and fear more and more each day.

As the secret gains power over you, your determination to keep it hidden from the world - no matter what - becomes your primary mission.  

Often the shame and fear revolve not around the secret itself, but around its discovery.    You lead a double life, pouring more and more energy into how you are perceived by the world.  You struggle to make the outside look okay, and people won't peer too closely at the inside.

This is true for people who are struggling with drinking.   And, I believe, even more true for women who struggle with drinking.    We are hard on ourselves, and pressure to make life look effortless (if not downright perfect) is everywhere

The stigma surrounding women who have a drinking problem is very real.    Society struggles to wrap its mind around the mother of three who hides bottles in her hamper, or the powerful executive who drinks herself into oblivion every night.      Because women are accustomed to putting up a brave front, to projecting an image of multi-tasking competence, we can travel far down the path of problem drinking before we admit to ourselves or anyone else that things are eroding from the inside out.

The one thing that can set you on the path to healing is the one thing you live in fear of the most: the truth.

You have a powerful weapon to use against shame and fear:  your voice.   When you stop running and turn towards your secret, get honest with yourself and others, you have taken the first - and the bravest - step towards recovery.

But how?   How to do this?   Recovery meetings are (warning: generalization alert) all too often the place of last resort.   By the time women drag their broken spirit into a meeting, they are often far down the path of addiction.    Meetings are one place people can go and know that everyone in the room understands.   I love meetings; it's where I went to get sober, and it's where I go to stay sober.    But, without taking away from the healing power of meetings, I have also wished that I had learned I wasn't alone and sought help before things got as bad as they did.     I believe that the more we talk openly about addiction and recovery, the more chance we have of reaching people who otherwise may think they are completely alone.

A powerful thing is happening on the internet.   Women are coming forward, speaking their truths, sharing their experience, strength and hope with the world, and because of it people are getting help, and getting it sooner.

Women like Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, Heather of the EO, Maggie Dammit and Corinne stepped forward, shared their stories with the world, and hundreds, if not thousands, of women saw themselves in their words and decided to get help.

I started Crying Out Now ten months ago.   Since then eighty-six women have shared their stories there.   Many of them were telling their truth for the first time.    Reading others' words helped them muster the courage to square their shoulders against the beast, and get honest. 

It's powerful, watching somebody pour their darkest secret onto the page, and see how much lighter they feel.  It's even more powerful to read the words of support, understanding and love strangers leave for them.   Some of them understand first-hand, some of them understand because they have a loved one who struggles with addiction.    Some people don't have any first hand experience with addiction, but everyone can empathize with how much courage it takes to speak your truth out loud.  

We're incorporating a few changes over at Crying Out Now.   We now have six regular contributors who will share their journey with all of you.   Some have been sober a while, some are newly sober, one is very newly sober, and one isn't sober but knows that speaking her truth will help her understand herself better.

The primary mission of Crying Out Now is to provide a place for women to share their stories of addiction and recovery, so first and foremost we want reader submssions - the regular contributors aren't meant to eclipse that, they are there to lend their voices to the cause.  

You can lend your voice to the cause, too.    Please help us spread the word about Crying Out Now.   Even if you don't struggle with addiction - either directly or indirectly - your voice can help us break down the stigma that keeps so many, many people stuck, sick and alone.    

Imagine the courage it takes to rip down the walls of denial and secrecy and put your truth out there.   The women who post there are vulnerable, and in that vulnerability beats the heart of raw courage.    Every comment and supportive word means so much.   Every Tweet or Facebook post puts the word out there a little more, helps all of us understand the humanity behind addiction.   

Together, we beat back shame and fear.  With our hearts and our voices we have the power to heal.  

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who comment, who put the Crying Out Now widget on your blog, who tweet and retweet posts, who send emails of support.  

And most of all, thank you to all of you who have the courage to put your story out there.   Your words help so many people know they aren't alone.

To submit a story to Crying Out Now, please send an email to cryingoutnow@gmail.com.

11 comments:

  1. This is excellent. I love hearing about the resources like this available to women. There aren't enough.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm so thankful that you started Crying Out Now. It's such a valuable resource, and I'm thrilled to start writing there more frequently :)
    Thank YOU for all your hard work, Ellie!

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I haven't said it lately, you are beautifully illustrating "Be the change." Love to you my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I didn't know about Crying Out Now. What a wonderful thing. Just let me know how I can support it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. So blessed to have met you.
    Really. I sound like a cornball, but ees true.

    I don't know why I spelled "is" like that.
    But I'm letting it stand. It just feels right.

    Love you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The love ees coming your way from me, too, my friend. Love you, too.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Right back at you, my friend. Love and one giant, sloppy cyber-hug to you, too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Support can come many different ways - a comment on a post at CON, a tweet or RT to help spread the word ... every little bit counts. THANK YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  9. MWAH. You know I love you, right? :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've read CON since its inception and it was a HUUUUUGE help to me in the beginning. Still is, but that first part, yeah, I really needed those voices out there. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for that, Ellie. And Corinne. And my dear Maggie. You're doing good work.

    ReplyDelete
  11. YES. What you said...

    ReplyDelete