By R.Kevin Flood
To put it bluntly, I didn’t want anyone’s help for a long, long time, not that I didn’t need it. I was simply so scared of revealing any of my family story, my drinking history, my sex abuse, or anything that I felt would “expose me and my terrible ignorance and fear about my own story.”
We can feel unique and one-of-a-kind when we focus on our own story. And our stories are unique and one-of-a-kind for us. Shared with other men, (and many women have similar stories), the similarities in our stories can be amazing to hear. While the similarities exist, all of our stories are unique to each of us and should be respected in that manner. Where we all come together in common purpose is when we share what works for each of us in our recovery journey.
We may create a “cone-of-isolation” around ourselves
If you are in another recovery program for alcohol, drugs, weight, or other 12 step approaches, you may have experienced listening to how others tell their story of how they care for themselves in order not to fall back into an addiction. You may also be fortunate in not needing 12 Step program assistance, and that is good. However, the offset of not being in a program is that we may find ourselves more isolated and alone in our pain and frustrations. A risk is that we may create a “cone-of-isolation” around ourselves, making seeking help more difficult. While it can be much harder to tell your story of personal sex abuse, the benefits of being among supportive and caring men when you do it, is simply amazing. If you have not had a twelve step experience, the MenHealing Program can offer an opportunity to exam how a men’s group can operate to your benefit. You can also learn what kind of programs are available around the country for men seeking their beginning opportunity to tell their story.
As a recovering alcoholic of 43 years who is still active in the program, I can attest to what I have gained in those years through asking for help. As time went buy I was finally able to learn how AA recovery worked. I learned how to let go of most of my stubbornly held alcoholic belief systems. I learned to tell the truth about myself, to “tell on myself.” I softened my self-reliance, and loosened the grip my shame had me in, learned recovery thinking, and perhaps most importantly, how to listen.
A slow but unyielding search for the truth
It took me 17 years of sobriety before I had the nerve to ask for help, to ask an AA person to be my sponsor. I didn’t want to do this for fear of being shamed and told I didn’t belong in the program. I went to the same meeting for a while trying to get my nerve up to ask one of the men to be my sponsor. I finally asked a very hard line AA’er who came week after week and focused on his personal effort to remain sober.
My sponsor helped me break through the deep defenses I had for my every action and everything I said. For me personally, I needed this kind of hard experience. He was the right person at the right time. Without him I don’t believe I would have been able to make the progress I slowly did. With his help I developed a tenacious will to keep striving even when I wasn’t sure where I was or where I was going. He kept me on track and from hurting myself emotionally.
More help was still needed
Even though I was working hard at following the AA principles and asking for help from other people in the program, I was still struggling with demons inside. It wasn’t until my sex abuse memories started to come out, that with the help of my wife, I needed ask for a new kind of help, therapy. Like all my other moments of needing to ask for help, I was convinced that no professional therapist would agree to see me. If I was initially scared at asking for AA help, calling a therapist was terrifying. With the help of my wife and a marriage counselor, I finally made the call and started seeing a trauma therapist. Therapy has changed my life in profound and meaningful ways and I am eternally grateful for the experience.
Just don’t stop when the voice in your head says, “this is going to hurt” Listen to the other part of your brain that says, “yes it may hurt, but I know it is good for me, it is what I know I must do.”
Courage isn’t in the keeping of secrets, it is in the letting go of them.
Remember, at the heart of every person’s recovery is a very important lesson:
RECOVERY IS ABOUT PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION