I was about 10 years old when my mother went into rehab for her alcohol addiction. It was a 30-day in-patient program that my father paid out of pocket for. My mother’s health wasn’t in immediate danger so medical insurance wouldn’t cover it. The experience was extremely shameful. We didn’t talk about it at home with each other, and we dare not talk about it with anyone else. Even after my mother completed the program and we started going to support group meetings I was forbidden to “tell them our business” although I was dying to talk to someone about what I was going through.
The shame was instilled early. It was shameful that my mother was an alcoholic and in rehab. It was even more shameful that rehab didn’t help her at all. I believe that is why everything else in my life felt so shameful. The things that happened to me, the things I did to others, and the way I felt inside was just shameful. I looked around and just couldn’t imagine that anyone else was going through this.
I stayed ashamed of my whole life and just kept adding to the list. I was in relationships I wasn’t happy with and made decisions that I wasn’t proud of. It became a shitstorm of shame, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Realistically, I knew that sometimes people grow up with a parent battling addiction, become victims of sexual assault, or are tormented by their low self-worth. I knew that I wasn’t the only one. However, I learned that wherever they are, they should be just as ashamed of themselves as I was. That meant there was no point in looking for them, meaning there was no where for me to turn.
I know I am so late on this, but I was scrolling through YouTube and came across some Dr. Brene Brown videos. She spoke to my soul! When I realized that she researched shame, fear, and vulnerability, I just needed to know where I signed up. I knew this was what I needed. I needed to hear about how shame has shaped my life and understand it better. I needed to understand the fears and anxiety it’s induced that shows up in my present day and keeps me from showing up in my present day. And most of all, I needed to learn about vulnerability. How can I be more vulnerable? In spite of the shame and the fear – 40 years of it! – how do I open up and become vulnerable?
My shame is deep-rooted, ingrained, and tough as leather. It’s been cultivated and groomed to perfection. It has gotten me into and out of so many life experiences making it a permanent fixture. It feels so unique and one-of-a-kind. I’m understanding now just how common it is, and I’m learning to embrace it as part of the beauty that is…me.
After spending a year in grief counseling, I started to see that my life needed a major overhaul. Yes, my boyfriend died making me the single mom of our infant twins, but I was still grieving my loss of innocence from decades of abuse. I decided to turn my pain into a new purpose and to share this journey with others that may need some motivation.