21 Years!

Brene Brown posted the following on Instagram on May 12th,

“I rarely think about my sobriety in terms of years. For me, celebrating 25 years of sobriety is about reflecting back on “trying to do the next right thing” for the past 9,125 days or, more honestly, for the past 219,000 hours. It also means staying humble and grateful that, with the help of countless people, I’ve been able to get back up the same number of times I’ve fallen down. And I fall a lot.

The biggest learnings from the past 25 years are twofold:

  1. Own the stories and the hard shit, or the stories you’re trying to outrun and the pain you’re denying will own you. The truth will set you free. It will kick your ass first, but then it will set you free.
  2. We don’t have to do the hard stuff alone. We weren’t meant to. We heal in connection. This is why it pisses me off when people shove my work into the self-help category.

The gifts that have accompanied my daily and sometimes hourly decision to feel instead of numb have been too many to name, but the one that I rarely talk about is how my sobriety has affected my level of self-trust.

I write a lot about trust as a marble jar. We build trust like we collect marbles – one small gesture at a time. It’s not a big, sweeping act or a single gesture in a stressful moment. Trust is a collection of small moments.

We talk about trust between people and groups, but we often forget about self-trust. Self-trust is normally the first casualty of failure or mistakes. We stop trusting ourselves when we hurt, get hurt, feel shame, or question our worth.

Here’s how we use the BRAVING tool to think about self-trust:

B – Did I respect my own boundaries? Was I clear about what’s okay and what’s not okay?
R – Was I reliable? Did I do what I said I was going to do?
A – Did I hold myself accountable?
V – Did I respect the vault and share appropriately?
I – Did I act from my integrity?
N- Did I ask for what I needed? Was I nonjudgmental about needing help?
G – Was I generous toward myself?

Today, I’m putting 25 marbles in my self-trust jar. One for every year of my messy, hard af, wonderful, wholehearted, imperfect, sober life.

xo,
BB”

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When I read that (which I LOVE by the way, but I’m not going to talk about it) it reminded me of one night when I was painting the stairway in my house in Mississippi. I was listening to Brene Brown’s podcast episode with Glennon Doyle. They went off for a few minutes about how long they’ve been sober and it was such a contagious excitement that they shared that I couldn’t help but get drawn in.

Suddenly it hit me! Hey wait!! I’m sober too! I started thinking back… I think the last time was Halloween night of my senior year of high school – at least I don’t have any memories after that date, though there might have been a few? I don’t know. But either way… that comes to 20 Years! (now 21!)

I’VE BEEN SOBER FOR 21 YEARS!!

(and I’m not just referring to alcohol.)

I think it’s always exciting when someone is going through AA or another program and can proudly share their sobriety milestones. It’s a great time to share encouragement and support for their hard work and to celebrate how their effort and dedication is paying off.

Why don’t we do that more??

I know in my own life, this is NOT something I have ever shared openly. It’s only been in the last 4 or so years that I’ve finally started to open and up selectively share some of my struggles from my past. I know I’m not the only one who has walked this path, or a similar one, and I would never judge or condone anyone for their life experiences. Heck, some people wear it proudly, like a badge!

But for me, all the complex contributing factors left me buried under a MOUNTAIN of shame.

NEVER in my wildest dreams did I ever think I could come out from under that pile of trauma, rubble, burden, weight, SHAME.

SO.

MUCH.

SHAME.

I didn’t even know I had shame. I didn’t know it was shame that kept me quiet, isolated, hidden and hiding, masked, walled up, alone, scared, barely able to breath, and terrified to feel.

Shame is a killer.

About 4 years ago I committed myself to kick shame to the curb.

I had no idea the depth and breadth of what shame entails… it runs so deep and covers so wide. I thought I knew, but I had no idea.

Then I started going to therapy and reading books and learning about self-compassion, and being shocked to learn more and go deeper into just how pervasive shame really is. And my passion and desire to fight it has only grown in intensity the more my eyes are open to it.

It’s a process to come out from all of that shame. It’s definitely not something you can just throw off you overnight. It takes time, it takes healing and learning, and lots and lots of courage.

When I listened to the podcast a year ago, I was so excited to share with my sisters this new excitement and freedom to celebrate, even if only with two other people, that I was sober! Because why can’t I also celebrate?! To realize and believe that I am also worthy and deserving of support and encouragement and acknowledgment of all the hard work I’d put in to stay sober over all these years. I am! And so are all of us!

When I read Brene’s IG post from the other day it relit that spark and that recognition that I am also worthy and deserving to celebrate my wins, too!

I’ll be honest and say these last three years have been a STRUGGLE! While I KNOW I will be sober for the rest of my life, there have been so many moments, I can’t even count them, where the pain inside was so unbearable that I wished I could numb them out. But I knew that wouldn’t solve anything, and I know it never will. That past is behind me. And I’m proud of that!

Things are definitely getting easier now, the more I heal, the more I learn to fully love and accept myself. It gets easier. But as I’ve thought about this these past few days, I’ve realized that as part of my journey and healing, of coming out from under that shame, I need to be open and vulnerable and not hide any longer. Like Brene says above, we need to “own our stories and the hard shit”.

I’m sure no one will even bat an eye, but for me this feels monumental, and oh so freeing! Boy do I ever want to be set free…

In the church growing up I had it drilled into me, “We don’t talk about our sins. We don’t share our sins.” This is the breading ground of shame, isolation, and the opposite of what is required to heal and overcome, which is connection.

I know I could just share this privately with my trusted friends.

But I don’t feel like that’s enough. As with my openness and vulnerability of sharing my mental illness journey publicly, I feel strongly that there are others who need to know that they are not alone. That they too can come out from the rubble of shame in their lives, that they too are worthy of celebrating and being acknowledged for the struggles they’ve faced in their lives and the amazing job they are doing to overcome! Because they really are! We ALL are!

Sure, we all struggle and there are things we fall back on and can’t seem to ever fully overcome, but there is no shame in that either. No reason to stay isolated and alone. There is no requirement of progress in order to reach out for connection in the easy, and the difficult, times of our lives.

Along these same lines, I was talking with a friend the other day and saying how I wish we could all hang a banner on our house that stated what our “shame thing” was during covid. That we could all drive around and honor the struggles that each of us has faced, and show up with compassion and love and acceptance – exposing the shame of how these last few years, or maybe even our entire lives, have affected us.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?!! I’m sure some of you are horrified by that exposure, or the idea of seeing into the intimate details of other peoples lives, but I think if done with humility and love, it could bring us all closer together in a way that nothing else could.

In essence, to be able to get a glimpse of what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, to have an opportunity to practice compassion and hold space for each other without judgement.

What would my banner say??? I think honestly, it would probably say a lot of things… in summary it would read, “I got divorced, moved across country, and I started swearing.” lol.

But even that is not enough…

“I lost my family I never had. I’m alone, shattered, and picking up the pieces one at a time with God by my side.”

Life is hard, y’all.

life.

is.

hard.

I think it’s about time we start celebrating the victories and kick shame to the curb once and for all.

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