I was first told to share my story in rehab. I was sitting in a room with seven other people at the time. The idea wasn’t so much of a surprise, since we were all told on the first day that we would be going over our history. However, I didn’t expect the process to be so difficult. It involved a lot of soul searching, digging and revisiting of events that led to where I was. It meant looking at past traumas as well as my own motivations and responsibility for becoming alcohol dependent—something I wasn’t always prepared to do.
Putting my journey into words required me to share some of my less-than-edifying moments with others. As you can imagine, I would have rather kept many of these things to myself so the writing did not flow easily. I had to take several breaks, as each chapter of the story left me feeling drained and emotional. I also found myself wanting to leave parts out, not wishing to tell others of my most shameful moments. But if I had not been scrupulously honest, then the process would not have been as effective. Revealing myself—warts and all—was a fundamental part of my recovery process. Here are 3 reasons why sharing your story may do the same for you.
1. It helps you get rid of the shame.
Having been in the throes of addiction often entails a lot of past actions that are shaming, embarrassing, mean and low. Knowing that others have also committed similar misdeeds helps to ease the guilt of our past as well as the feeling that we’re alone in the experience. Looking back, I see that I didn’t need to be so reluctant in recounting my worst moments. The process of sharing itself is what actually releases any feelings of shame. In fact, you may even be surprised at how differently many people react. In my group, there were even a few laughs because some moments can be seen as pure farce from an outsider’s perspective.
2. It makes you feel understood.
Speaking about the traumas and difficulties that I had gone through as a child also helped me feel more understood. Each person in that room had faced their own difficulties, and that almost always contributed in some way to their later addictions in life. The process of sharing and listening made us all realize how big of a role childhood experiences play in our lives as adults. This was eye-opening for me because I saw that I wasn’t alone in my pain and hurt and that there are so many others walking with similar scars from the past.
3. It connects you with other people.
As important as telling my own story was, the process of listening to other people was equally rewarding. It felt like such a privilege to be a part of someone else’s journey—even just as a bystander. The fact that others were willing to lay bare their entire truth stirred emotions in me that had been dormant throughout my drinking years. The delicate process of sharing our stories enabled each of us in the room a chance to join in a deeply powerful, moving and ultimately healing experience.
In telling our story, we have the chance to make sense of the things that have made us who we are. Each of us is unique and yet we also share commonalities that allow us to feel a human connection. While being vulnerable can be scary, and many may balk at the idea of opening the way to rejection or criticism, but it is through this catharsis that we may truly begin the beautiful process of recovery.