I am amazed at the power of voice.
Think about your darkest secret, the thing that makes you most ashamed. Now imagine yourself at a podium, speaking about it to a room full of people. Thousands of people. Your tiny voice reaching tens of thousands of ears.
Or think about your proudest moment, something you have overcome or accomplished in your life, and imagine the same podium, the same thousands of eyes and ears fixed on you.
My most shameful secrets and my proudest moments are one and the same. As time goes on, I'm beginning to understand how our darkest times, our biggest obstacles, can lead to our greatest triumphs.
What I love about blogging is that you don't need validation, experience or approval to put your voice out into the world. You don't need a publisher, or an established audience, or an agent. All you need is a computer screen and your voice.
Writing openly about my addiction and recovery is the scariest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I could never have imagined, in my darkest hour, full of secrets and shame, that one day I would be broadcasting my pain to the world. More importantly, though, I could never have imagined the healing, empathy and peace sharing my voice would bring.
Every single time I have opened my heart, used the power of voice to reach out, gifts have come my way. People emerge from the dark unknown to share their own experience, strength and hope, tell their own stories of pain and recovery. Together our little lights spark a mighty flame, creating a roaring fire for all the world to see.
The light chases away the shame, you see; it drives the shadows of fear, isolation and guilt away. They can't take purchase, because together we are a force to be reckoned with; a megaphone of hope.
I am humbled to be an honoree for the BlogHer Voices of the Year for my post, Look. I didn't know I was nominated, that a good friend had submitted this post for consideration. When I got the email yesterday saying it was one of 20 honorees in the Life category, I cried tears of gratitude. And joy. I get itchy talking about recognition or accomplishment. More often than not I'm on the other side of this, wishing it was my voice that had been recognized, feeling that little twinge of jealousy that I wasn't picked. And I know, too, that it is all arbitrary; that there are thousands - tens of thousands - amazing voices out there that deserve to be honored, and my voice is just one tiny drop in a sea of talent.
I'm talking about it here, though, because that post is about the worst, most shameful, day of my life. It happened in 2007, about two months before I finally got sober. As I lay curled on a stretcher in an emergency room, desperate, sick and forgotten, I wished that I would finally slip away. I couldn't imagine life without alcohol, and I certainly couldn't imagine I would ever overcome the shame and fear I felt that day.
And here I am, only four years later, looking back on that horrible day and feeling gratitude in my heart. Not because it is recognized as a Voice of the Year, but because I know, now, about the power of voice. I was stuck, alone, and I had clamped my heart and my mouth shut, determined that nobody could ever, ever know the depths of my worthlessness, my weaknesses, my shame.
All that changed when I let go of pride and fear, opened my mouth, shared my pain and asked for help. The power of voice saved my life.
Start telling your truth, ask for help. I promise you that your fears of discovery, of being shunned or discarded, are only one piece of a broader picture, an unknown future that is full of grace and hope.
Find one safe person, and start talking.
Use your voice. Your little light could start a mighty flame.