There’s a well-worn saying in recovery which is ‘you’re only as sick as your secrets’. Another one is, ‘Our secrets keep us sick’. Letting secrets out is one of the most powerful things we can do in recovery, to help rid ourselves of shame. Shame is toxic. It tells us we are not worthy. Shame will keep us stuck, unable to move forward and become the best versions of ourselves that we can be. Telling on ourselves is the antedote.
With this in mind I opened this 'Anonymous Confessional' for members of our community to let out some of their secrets in a safe and protected way, in the company of others, where they can see that they're not alone, and receive warmth and understanding in return.
All of us who have struggled with alcohol have memories of things we've done while under the influence that we're not proud of us. Those things don't define us, and they certainly don't deserve to hold us back.
Each of the people who have shared here are incredibly brave in coming forward to shine a light on their hidden shame. Please read their stories, and if you take some comfort from reading their tales, do comment below.
1: When I was drinking, I used to blackout. I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d blacked out so would pretend to know what happened the night before, hoping like hell I hadn’t done anything embarrassing. Anyway, because of the shame, I didn’t want to know, so didn’t ask. I lied about my use of alcohol and consequent behaviour, so constantly lived with the stress of worrying what I might’ve done and being ‘found out’. At the same time, I worked hard to present an image that I was okay and had it all together. Living a double life is harrowing and exhausting.
When Lotta asked for a story, I plucked up courage and asked my daughter. This is how she tells it.
We were living in a house in Grey Lynn with others. She was about six years old. One night she was in her bed sleeping lightly due to the ‘blaring music’ in another room. I walked into her room naked, pulled a drawer open, sat on the edge and began to pee. When she asked why, I apparently said something like ‘I can’t go out there because there are people and I’ve got no clothes on.’ Then I shut the drawer and exited, and she went back to sleep. I have no recollection of this and there is no doubt in my mind that this happened as described. Thankfully these days I remember what I did yesterday. No more living in fear and shame. Secrets kept me so sick. No need to hide from myself and others today. I’m so grateful to be in recovery.
2. This last time that I drank, I drank so much that I was sick for one month and counting. My stomach, diaphragm, and centre stomach area was so painful that I could only drink water and eat crackers. There is nothing I could eat other than that for almost two weeks. My liver numbers were high - my doctor thinks it is my gall bladder. I had headaches for one month. I threw up every time I ate, would lay down for about twenty minutes, sweating, until I threw up again. I started a new job so I was not comfortable getting all the testing done because it would take time I did not have. I did get an ultra sound and my liver is in danger, doctor advising against NO sugar at this time, saying that his patients are getting cirrhosis quickly these days. The problem of course is, my doctor never asked me if I was an alcohol drinker. I never said I had quit and then started again. My blood pressure is dangerously high and my cholesterol numbers went from acceptable to unacceptable. All of this mostly occurred during Covid, though it is no excuse.
I guess the embarrassing part is that I could drink so much that I got myself that sick. I am finally not having the brain fog that went with all the toxins inside of me. I am still getting testing for all of the problems. I am embarrassed to say how much I drank to get me to this point. I never tell the truth about how much I drink and this, too, embarrasses me - both that I will not say and that I have drank that much.
3: Driving drunk I went to visit my Mum at the cemetery and drove the car down the row in between the graves right through that side of the cemetery.
Driving drunk I fell off my motorbike going home in the early hours and fell off at the lights when I didnt put my feet down, woke up in the morning and my first thought was MY BIKE! Went out to the garage and there it was on its stand in the garage, still running.
Got into a fight with my friend and ended up kicking his car tail lights in and jumping up and down on the roof of his car caving the roof in, then he got pulled over by the police after leaving because he had no lights and had a caved in roof (he was drunk too, then he tried to fight the police).
Woke up outside the Palladium Nightclub in Christchurch in the ally not knowing where I was or how I got there.
Tried to fight the bouncer at Bootleggers bar in Christchurch and got thrown out into the garden. My mate put me in a taxi home and when I got out of the taxi I went stumbling backwards for about 6 feet then fell backwards over the fence with my legs flying through the air landing in the garden while my mate and the taxi driver looked on.
This is the tip of the iceberg really.
4. It was ten years ago this week-end. My new brother-in-law and his wife flew in for a few days.. and my brother and his wife had a celebratory dinner for my new husband (of a couple of months) and me. I was still in a state of grief and some rage over a couple of deaths two years earlier, and was very angry at the insensitivity shown me. With that in mind, and being a bit nervous and overwhelmed, I went on to drink a lot of white wine. Quicker than ever before, I blacked out. And yet I was there in body, speaking to people apparently. Scary. A real out-of-body experience.
I remember coming to when my sister-in-law was asking me how to find our way home - 1 1/2 hours away. We eventually made our way home. The rest of the week-end was, of course, filled with a ton of self-recrimination. My two aunts and an uncle were there, and I still feel humiliated to this day, that I couldn't be a normal bride and enjoy the party in a festive, gracious way. I stayed sober for the rest of the week-end with my in-laws. I had an awful conversation with my mother later that week who said she had been so embarrassed and that I should go to out-patient rehab. Well, I didn't. But I did get sober 4 years after that. That was one of many catalysts to getting sober, one of the bigger ones. I am learning to come to peace with my past.
5. I did this thing, almost nightly, when I would drink most of a bottle of wine then tip the last inch down the sink so I could tell myself I didn’t drink the whole bottle. Who was I kidding?
6. I was home alone one night with our 10-month-old baby. My hubby was out of town for work. I was drinking wine but had finished all that was in the house and decided I needed more. So I went out, leaving our sleeping baby alone in the house and drove for 5 minutes down to the store. I distinctly remember walking down the isles thinking 'this is wrong'. Wrong because I'd left our baby alone. Wrong because I'd driven drunk. And wrong because I was only out so I could get more alcohol so I could get more drunk. I got home ok, baby was ok, but I wasn't ok. I continued drinking for three more years after this with the shame and guilt (from this and other sloppy and bad behaviours) eating away at me inside, making me feel weak and bad. I still feel sick when I think of this now, it makes me shudder to this day.
7. Oh boy was I the best party girl, funny and always up for an alcohol fuelled flirt. I was being pursued by my best friend’s husband who declared undying love and the promise of becoming soul mates forever. So too many drinks, 30 years ago… and 9mths later came the birth of my son. Rather than destroy the lives of my then husband and children I opted to kept my secret and live a lie. But the effect on me was devastating. I drank more and more, every day and lived in constant fear of being found out. (I come from that generation.) All came to a head when son did a DNA test and convinced his father to do one as well. We waited until the day of reckoning arrived and the results were there for everyone to see.
My husband was 98.9 % his real father, 30 years of guilt and fear disappeared in the click of a button. During this time and the lead up to the day of "reckoning" my feelings were so intense due to the amount of alcohol consumed - fear, grief, guilt, lack of self-worth, feelings of a pathetic soul utterly destroyed, the stupidity of a drunken "please love me act ". I tried to make deals with god and the devil, such was my fear. The only light was the Living Sober community - there every day with their stories of hope, strength and belief that we can survive, we can do this together. ..powerful life changing stuff. I've not touched alcohol since.
8. Several years ago both my parents died. My wine drinking moved up at a steady pace, for the year up to my Dad’s death and the subsequent year after his death, when my mom moved into an assisted living facility. Self-medication is after all, a form of self-care. And when one has to watch the death of a loved one, self-care is necessary for survival I think. About a month after my mom’s death I bought a cheap lap top.
One night, I was messing around with my new cheap ass laptop, watching TV and drinking my wine. I was pretty buzzed. I couldn’t get the stupid laptop lid to fold over, the hinge was not really lining up and it would not let me fold it back. I was getting frustrated with it, and I am drinking my wine. I am proud to say that I do not have ROAD RAGE, but I definitely have TECH RAGE. I have it sober, so you can imagine how the tech rage escalates when fuelled by Chardonnay or Merlot whichever one I was pumping down my gullet that night. It was not a good time for me. Not a good night specifically, and not a good time in general. I was grieving the loss of my parents, the loss of holidays with my family, the loss of relationships with two of my siblings, but I was doing it sloshed a lot of the time, which means I was not really doing it, not really grieving, I was numbing. My rage over the lap top was fuelling up, winding up and up, I grabbed the lap top and charged outside of my house into my driveway. I pulled the lap top up over my head, holding it by the lighter weight side of the screen, so the heavier weighted part of the hard drive is lifted above, adding force and velocity as I throw the fucking thing to the ground. And it smashes.
I grabbed the pieces and threw them to the ground again. I jumped on the pieces. I kicked the pieces. A few days later I ordered the same lap top. I still do not like the interface, but I am taking time and not letting my tech range manifest. I am doing ok, for a few days… then….I drink some wine. Watching TV and messing with this laptop. And god damn it, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get online, and I hate this fucken interface. So I grab this laptop, go out in the drive way—AND DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN! I am not fucking kidding you. I did it again! I smashed up a second laptop! What I did not realize at that time, but have learned only recently when I decided to go AF, is that is I was correct in that I should not have been concerned about smashing up the stupid laptops. What I should have been concerned about, is the anger and sadness behind it that fuelled me to bust up two laptops.
9. I attended a reunion of around 200 people - many friends, old and new and strangers with a shared membership that connected us all in a unique way. I felt extremely nervous and anxious at attending that kind of social event and proceeded to drink as much wine as I could without having eaten any food all day. The results were predictably disastrous. While others were catching up with old friends, reminiscing and enjoying live music, I started slurring, behaving erratically and generally being quite loud, annoying and tragic. At one point I interrupted the live music to sing a song (when not blinded I'm not a bad singer but at that moment it was pretty unappealing to the entire room) until an old friend came and collected me off the stage. I was pretty drunkenly upset so went outside and lay under some bushes hoping the world would stop spinning. When I eventually got up and went inside a very seedy man from the group tried to pull me into his room at the hotel where we were - ew.
I was saved by another old friend who sat me down by them at the bar and ordered me a big non-alcoholic refreshing drink and just hung out with me there until I had calmed down a bit. Then they got me another refreshing drink and waited with me until the first friend took me home. When I woke up at the friends place where a group of us were staying the next day, my closest friend there told me exactly how badly I had behaved and expressed how embarrassing, annoying and shameful I had been. I felt so terrible. I apologised meekly and made my way back to my home feeling pretty sick the whole way and for a long time after. I have been too embarrassed to have anything to do with that group ever since, though the closest friend is still a very close friend who I am grateful to have.
That experience was not actually the turning point for me, but it is something I do come back to when I think about how I never want to behave or feel or piss off my friends like that anymore. It still upsets me thinking about it over 10 years later, but this is the first time I've realised that it does have a value and use. Thanks for helping me let it go somewhat!
10. The overlying fuck up I obtained as a child was a core belief that to be cared for, well liked, free, strong and independent was to have sexual promiscuity. My first encounter was with my cousin, no intercourse but it was fun and felt like I had power and connection. Then, when a slightly older boy showed attention, I was happy. But he drugged me then raped me at 14. After that I would try for anyone, my friend’s boyfriends, encounters at bars - horrid sex. My first partner wanted an open relationship. It was uncomfortable, not my cup of tea and distressing. Having been trained from around 11 years old to drink my parents, by 23, I knew I had a problem, I was unwell. Older men started to pray on me. I had some frightening experiences. Inside I was screaming, what is wrong with me? Why am I doing this, why do I want to destroy myself?
Some time later when things were getting worse and worse for me, my friend was staying. Music really loud, I suspect I was kissing this man in front of my husband- then blackout. Next thing I remember waking up to my own screaming voice to my husband, I chased him, blind with alcohol rage, a trip, hit my head. In the morning I was not prepared for my child to tell me how frightened they were with the loud music “why were you and Dad arguing and yelling”? I was shot back to my childhood of hiding behind Dad as far back as I can recall as my mother screamed and threw precious family glassware at him. The alcohol induced punishments she would inflict on me at nighttime. Enough.
11. I have so many haunting and shameful memories. Selecting one is almost difficult. But I recall here one that could have had disastrous consequences. I don’t know by what grace it didn’t. This happened many years ago when my son was 2 or 3 years old.
It’s Sunday afternoon. I started to drink around lunch time. When I had finished a bottle of wine, I needed more. And I didn’t have any. I looked in the cupboard and somebody had left a bottle of kirsch at some point (horrible stuff). And I started to drink that. I remember to experience such a discomfort inside. I couldn’t stop drinking, I needed to stop this horrible feeling inside. I called a friend and she invited me for dinner. I wanted to see her of course and the opportunity to drink more was irresistible. I left with my car and my son in the back seat. My friend was living in another city and I had to cross a bridge.
I don’t remember anything. This drive is a blur. I don’t know how I could drive and arrive at my friend’s place. I honestly believe that somebody (an angel) drove the car for me. I could have killed my son or injured him for life. When I think about this I’m so ashamed. I never told him. He’s a mature and great young man now. How could have I done something like this? I now have grandsons, the same age he was. Looking at them makes this memory even more alive and painful.
12. When I was in college, I did a lot of binge drinking. One night, in the winter in northern Indiana, I went to a party off campus. Got smashed. My friends and I decided to walk back to campus. Somewhere along the way, I slipped and fell on the ice. Thought I twisted my ankle...no big deal to a Minnesota girl, right? Made it back to my dorm room, climbed up to my lofted bed, and crashed. Woke up the next morning with an epic hangover and a bump on my foot the size of a baseball. Could not put any weight on it. So here I am, trapped in this lofted bed wanting to puke, wanting something for my banging headache. So I had to call some guy friends to come over and lift me out of the bed. They got me down, not sure how. Then my roommate took me to get medical attention. Turns out I sprained my foot when I fell and was on crutches for a couple weeks. What boggles my mind is that I fell and hurt myself that badly, but was so drunk that I didn't feel the pain. Makes me wonder if there were other times that I hurt myself and didn't realize it, or was too drunk to take care of myself.
13. It took a long time for me to shake the feelings of guilt & shame around my drinking patterns in the year before my last drink. I was a high functioning Mum of 3 - juggling a career, business, household, marriage, my health & relationships. I was drinking to numb the feelings of despair & sorrow I was feeling about a particular relationship in my life, mainly because I felt my hands were tied and I fell down the slippery slope of a drink or two a night, then a bottle.. then more. Two particular evenings come to mind.
One was when I poured some wine into a 'keep cup' and took it down to my son's 6pm rugby training. I stood on the sidelines sipping from my 'coffee' cup on a cold winter's evening, feeling cold on the outside and ashamed on the inside. I don't think anyone else in the world knows what I did that night, until now. The other evening was when I had probably already had a bottle of wine, and was getting ready to read a bedtime story to my daughter. I couldn't stop myself opening another bottle and pouring 'just one more', then found myself sneaking it into her room and drinking it once the door was shut so my husband didn't find out. Because I didn't want to walk out the door with an empty glass, I hid it under her bed, tucked away out of sight, and retrieved it when it was safe in the morning. I felt physically sick that day, crawling under the bed to get the empty glass, and washing it out in the kitchen when no one was around.
I also felt so alone - unable to share my pain, and not knowing what to do about it. Those months & years were exhausting. I was constantly tired (and not just due to the shocking sleep, and 3am wake ups with dry horrors!). I cannot believe how much better life is now. No more sneaking around, hiding things and feeling ashamed.
14. I was on tour in a small town in NZ with a troupe I worked with in the 90’s. My partner at the time and I were billoted at quite a flash motel, where the director of the local theatre company also lived. We had the spare bedroom of his 2 bedroom motel suite. We had
completed a week of shows and had a few bevvies at the theatre on the final night as you do. Attendance had not been great, so it was more drink to forget you’re a failure rather than drink to celebrate you are a roaring success kind of drinking but by this stage there was little difference in the approach.
So, we get back to the motel and I’m too amped to sleep so out comes the Glayva (spirit), my partner had taken off to bed and me and the theatre director sat up til very late, drinking, ruminating, I probably cried at the unfairness of my life, ending up in this shit hole with a bunch of losers when I should be rich and famous by now kind a thing. The black out kicks in around about when he takes me to the room and delivers me to my by now really pissed off partner. I apparently fell into a deep coma and promptly pissed the bed. She had to go sleep on the couch and she dumped me the next morning. I had to confess to the Theatre Director about the soggy bed but I must admit he was quite a good sport about it.