Things have changed a bit over the past two and a half months since I dropped my pen name and exposed my true identity.
The biggest difference is how free I feel. Living my truth to the fullest extent possible has empowered me. I love this feeling.
It also holds me accountable to myself and my sobriety in a much different way. Because more of the people I know in real life now know my story. Despite how free I feel, I’m edgier and more guarded than I was when my truth was insulated. And, I’m terrified.
I don’t have a solid handle on who knows about my alcoholism and recovery and who doesn’t. It’s a very unsettling feeling. And, I have to remind myself to stay out of my head. Because if I don’t, I will easily convince myself everyone around me is whispering and judging.
So, some people know my story, as told here, and some don’t. Even though I have begun using my real name, I have attempted to keep boundaries in place when it comes to my business and my personal social media. I never share my recovery story via my business channels. And, since I don’t want to be in anyone’s face with the topic of alcoholism, I don’t share my blogs on my personal Facebook.
However, it’s not always black and white and the lines definitely get blurred. For example, my latest TODAY Parents article has nothing to do with sobriety and everything to do with kindness. I interviewed my nine-year-old daughter for it. Most of my blog readers don’t know her. But most of my Facebook friends do. So I shared the article via my personal Facebook.
And waited. And wondered.
My TODAY Parents bio says, “Retired wine drinker,” includes articles about life in recovery, and links to this website. Would my Facebook friends make the connection from the article to the blog? If they did, would they visit the blog and read it? Would they say something to me? Or would it be an awkward silence?
Professionally, I have learned to pay close attention to analytics, sometimes even obsess over them. Those skills allow me to stalk my audience. I know how many have read the article and from there how many have clicked over to the blog. I know where they’ve gone once they’re on the blog.
What I don’t know is who they are.
Nearly 300 people read the article. More than 10 percent of them clicked through to my blog. And popped around, reading post after post after post.
That’s a decent number of people. Who now probably know more than they ever wanted to about me. Aside from one person, I’ve not heard from anyone. Not publicly. Not privately. Crickets.
My dear childhood friend read every word of my story and sent me his own beautiful words:
I was just reading your blog…you are an amazing woman. You are an inspiration to so many people. Keep up the good work on yourself!
What was that? Did someone else say something? No? Oh, alright.
I know I am reading way too much into this, but the silence is crazy. Silence. With the perceived buzz of whispers all around me. At Starbucks. In the pick up line at school. In the hockey rink.
Psst! Did you hear? Did you know?
I’m not that fabulous. Maybe people aren’t talking. Maybe they already knew. As much as I hid my addiction, I now clearly understand that anyone familiar with this disease and its signs probably had me pegged a long time ago.
And, while I’m not going to stand atop my roof with a bullhorn calling out to my neighbors, and I don’t really want to be the topic of conversation around town, I do want people to talk because I know conversation and comaraderie can benefit others who need help.
To my friends and colleagues and even clients who may now just be learning more about my story, my little double life as I like to call it:
Please don’t whisper.
Please don’t look the other way or turn your back when you see me.
Please don’t exclude me when you wouldn’t have before.
Please, talk to me.
Maybe you don’t know what to say. Sometimes I don’t know what to say either. But, it’s just me. Nothing’s changed. Think about how we would interact if you didn’t know this part of my story. If you prefer, pretend you don’t know. It’s alright. Staying in that space is fine if it makes you more comfortable.
On the flip side, if you want to talk about it, please bring it up. Anytime. Anywhere. If for some reason I’m uneasy at that moment, I will let you know and we will find a time that’s better. Did you have an alcoholic parent, friend, teacher, relative? Do you know someone currently struggling? Do you struggle yourself? I’m by no means a counselor, but I live and breathe this everyday and I am more than happy to openly share thoughts and experiences and lessons.
Do you want to be a guest blogger? Write about your experiences with alcoholism – yourself or someone you know? Share how you felt when you learned about my battle?
People’s true colors will show, so don’t hide yours. I have no expectations whatsoever. I’m ready for you to be everything you are and nothing you’re not. I’m finally living my truth and hope those around me will do the same.