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I Don’t Even Like Myself

In the old days, recovery was simple. Not easy, but simple: hit rock bottom and join a twelve-step group.

In the 1980s, private residential treatment facilities exploded onto the scene and with them came options: in-patient treatment, outpatient programs and prescription-assisted detox. Hit rock bottom, go to rehab, stabilize, join a twelve-step group as after-care.

Since the 1990s the internet has added a new level of private empowerment, whereby one could seek out information and support without having to muster the courage to face another human being. This gave many individuals, including me, the ability to identify and confront alcohol addiction long before the disease spiraled down to a disastrous “rock bottom” scenario.

The old days of the “world wide web” have evolved into an interconnectedness that is ever present – in our pockets and our purses, on our counters and desktops.  As social media replaced old-school chat rooms, our identities have become enmeshed with our online activities and it has become harder to be private about anything, anywhere.

What a challenge this presents for a person in recovery who wishes for balance between anonymity and support! What a conundrum for a recovery advocate like myself, whose efforts are focused on a global reach through blogging, podcasting, and social media while remaining utterly silent in my own community about my identity as “UnPickled”.

I don’t even like myself.

That’s not a statement of low self-esteem, it’s literally a fact: I have not “liked” my UnPickled FaceBook Page from my personal profile. Or The Bubble Hour’s page either, even though I am a co-host of the show!  I don’t retweet between my separate Twitter accounts, or share the rather fabulous (I must say) graphic quotes I create.

Here’s the thing: it’s complicated.  It is a matter of privacy, not shame.  It is a matter of protecting others around me in recovery, those who might be less inclined to meet me for a much-needed Starbuck’s tete-a-tete if I am as visible and vocal about my alcoholism in my (small, Bible-belt) hometown as I am online. And partly a matter of ensuring I fully understand the purpose (and wisdom) of the tradition of anonymity before I blow it off. It’s hard to put that toothpaste back into the tube.

While it is true that someone who really wanted to suss out my identity could do so rather easily, I am not at all concerned if readers of UnPickled know who I really am. I just haven’t figured out the other side of the coin: telling my community that I have a secret life as a recovery advocate – a pretty well-established one at that.

Social media is framed around “likes” and “shares” but my pages are regularly viewed and revisited by many individuals who are quietly seeking. They need to be able to tiptoe through undetected, and I welcome and respect that. I don’t care about hits or likes or stats. (Okay that’s bullshit – I’m hooked on validation but it’s a flaw I am working on.)

My one fear is to miss the chance to connect with others around me. It feels strange to openly help the world but to walk past someone on my own street that might be in need. Would knowing my secret give them courage and hope?

I am uneasy with feeling inauthentic or duplicitous. As was pointed out in the documentary The Anonymous People, we get mixed messages in recovery. We are told “you’re only as sick as your secrets” and in the next breath encouraged to remain anonymous. There are good reasons for both – please resist the urge to blast me with comments defending your program – but this “catch 22” does present a challenge. A challenge that, for now, I will continue to ponder.

I don’t “like” myself, and I understand if you don’t “like” me either.

Just keep coming back.

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About UnPickled

I am learning to walk without the crutch of alcohol. As I begin I am 1 day sober. Gulp. I drank in private and hope to quit just as privately. The purpose of this blog is to help make me accountable - just by following you will give me enormous support and encouragement.

Posted on November 6, 2014, in Getting Sober and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. This is an eye opener. For me i guess. Thanks though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dear Jean, this post makes me think of you as Superman, popping into your telephone booth to whizz round and change into your superhero outfit and save the world one person at a time! (as you certainly set me on the path as you were the first sober blog I ever discovered, thank you, thank you! I was one year sober last Tuesday! )

    and then you change back into mild mannered Clark Kent for your local community. because wearing that advocate’s cape can be hard work, sometimes, and you need to look after you, and your recovery, too.

    I understand that your biggest concern is missing out on the chance to help someone who is crying out inside in your local community. in my experience it is incredibly hard to discuss an alcohol dependency in real life unless you know the other person pretty well. perhaps anyone in RL who knows you well enough to feel able to discuss it with you also knows you well enough to know you are not drinking? and that in itself will enable discussion, without you wearing an advocacy t-shirt wherever you go?

    you are doing an amazing job. you are touching people who are desperately hunting for help on their iphones and devices around the world. we may just be the tip of the iceberg but we know we need help and that makes us fertile ground for your message of hope and the possibility of achieving recovery. thanks as ever for the seeds you are planting! xx

    Like

  3. very glad you have written this for women struggling!! I found AA a very strange place, with lots of contradictions. It works for some but in my brief introduction to it ( a friend suggested I try it) I couldn’t abide by their philosophy of ” your best thinking got you here.” and “shut up stupid.” I found it very cult like. I was never able to “stop” thinking except when I began to do Qi Gong and meditation.

    Like

  4. Well if I have a say…I definitely like you! You and this page have been my go to for months and months for my journey through sobriety. I am now on the road again after relapsing briefly and my first stop was here to get some much needed anonymous support. Just reading comments and knowing your not alone in your feelings makes a world of a difference. I actually decided as part of my sobriety to get off of facebook..for some reason or for many reasons I felt it was a trigger to my drinking… so as for “liking” you on the the “put your best face forward” world of facebook I do not(please don’t take it personal…there is many things on FB I do not “like” LOL!), but in the real world of reality, I really LIKE you! Thank you for all you do and please keep it up. You are making a big difference in many lives and for that you definitely should not like but LOVE yourself for! Sending you a big hug and a big “THANK YOU!”

    Like

  5. I thought of this post last evening. It’s just one week today for me being alcohol free! Last evening I was having a hard time, my husband is traveling…last night alone…wine…wine…wine would really taste good. It was a bad day at work. I decided to go to an AA meeting. I pulled up and recognized an engineer from work. I didn’t go in. I got anxiety…see, I’m head of the committee at work that plans employee recognition events. I’m the life of the party…he is a nice guy, but wasn’t ready to spill my guts in front of him. Pondering.

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  6. I like what Mrs. D commented, and was thinking along those lines…that other people are only interested in our story to a point. I think what you always offer to your readers and listeners at the BH is so rich genuine and caring that I fail to see how or why anyone would twist that around. That being said, I am very judicious in who and what I share about my blog and recovery. I mostly think about my kids and how it might affect them. It’s very complicated and such a personal decision, with no right or wrong answers. I think we are at a point in this process and I hope my perspective will change over time.

    Like

  7. This so bizaare that you write this post! I have been thinking about things a lot lately! I know sounds trite and generic. But, really, I can not get something out of my brain my older sister told me a few years back. And…..it has nothing to do about alcohol, (because she did not know about me than), she told me this…and I promise I can not recall the exact context that she was dealing with or even referring to….My sister said to me “be careful what you tell people…make sure they LOVE YOU”!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    How did she know that I would say that over, and over and over again!! in my brain, be careful!
    Well, Jean…….. we do Love you! And thank you!

    Like

  8. That was such a witty title! I totally was intrigued thinking “Jean from The Bubble Hour definitely likes herself! What does she mean?” And then when I read your post, I thought, “AHH, I get it. I get why she decided not to ‘like’ herself.” I have totally stayed anonymous too! But then the lovely Mrs. D’s is the first comment I saw. And I read that and thought, “Wow that is a really interesting perspective too.” Your blog, Mrs. D’s blog, Belles’ challenge, and The Bubble Hour have been my primary tools. It is so wonderful to read your blog, but to hear your actual voice – sometimes I can almost hear it when I read your posts! You have a great voice – and so does Amanda! And my favorite episode is when you had Mrs. D on as a guest! I love her enthusiasm. So that is the other thing I wanted to mention as I approach Day 180 in 2 Days. I love how the sober blogosphere works together and supports each other and respects how different people might take different approaches. For me, you, Mrs. D, and Belle are such heroes! As well as Ellie, Amanda, and Catherine from The Bubble Hour. So when I see Mrs. D commenting here and giving her insights on your posts, and when I see that Belle interviewed Ellie the other day, and when I hear Mrs. D on The Bubble Hour as a guest, I just love that everyone is working together. We are all supporting each other and giving each other food for thought, and as busy as you all must be, you, Belle, and Mrs. D will always respond when someone reaches out via email or a blog. Thanks for all that you do. I look forward reading every one of your posts!

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  9. This is interesting to me because I have ‘come out’ in very dramatic fashion to my community, the whole country in fact, by crying on prime time TV (the most watched TV show in all of New Zealand) about my addiction then releasing a memoir and doing lots of media around that and now doing pubic talks etc … and yet still I’m amazed (delighted) to meet people every day who don’t know all of that side of me or even better still don’t care and I can still just be ‘Lotta mum in the neighborhood’ and not ‘that woman who is a proud alcoholic in recovery’.. sometimes I wonder are people too shy to bring up that they’ve seen or heard me somewhere else talking about my booze history? But then I just think, you know what, it’s only one aspect of me and doesn’t always have to be at the forefront. I LOVE talking ordinary shit with people I come into contact with.. and I think most people are only really interested in other people’s ‘stuff’ for a brief time and then get on with theirs and the basis day-to-day dealings of life. So if you want my persecutive it’s kind of a big deal at first and then it becomes not that much of a big deal. Love me xxxx

    Like

    • I lived in NZ for 3.5 years and I am returning there in a few weeks to live at least another 2 years..I’ve been nervous about returning because like America it is a heavy drinking culture, possibly heavier, and I know my friends might not be immediately supportive of me not returning as the american party girl, unless I divulge all the stressful details of my “rock bottom” episode that has caused me to really quit finally. But, I have resolved that if they don’t like my sobriety, too damn bad! Getting wrapped up in what people will think is a waste of time I’ve realized, and your true friends and supporters will see it as a healthy lifestyle choice and not a lame, “square” choice. Good for you for going public about it!

      Like

  10. I thank you for this post. I am new to blogging and still finding my way. I, too, decided to blog as a way to keep myself accountable in my recovery (I did 30 days in a rehab this summer and am presently 80 days sober). I am “the pickled pastor.” I apologize for any similarity, but I came up with the name before I ever carved out my space on wordpress and long before I discovered “unpickled” — and yes, I was also a parish pastor before alcohol leveled the landscape of my life. If I had any reservations about who I would share my alcoholism with, the choice was taken from me. Members of my previous congregation, colleagues, and lay church leaders all know. It seemed silly that I would attempt to maintain any anonymity on my blog, but I did toy with the idea of trying. I have since settled on the name that appeared on my rehab name tag: “Jennifer S.” If any folk care enough to put it together, that has to be ok (at least I hope I can let it be ok). I’m just grateful I can effectively string words together this side of the brine.

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  11. This is an interesting issue for me; I am the adult child “filling” in an addiction sandwich. My Dad, maternal grandfather, several maternal aunts and a few siblings all either had issues with alcohol or were/are raging alcoholics. I have two daughters who are in recovery from heroin addiction – 7 years clean. 81 days ago, I decided to quit drinking because I saw a trajectory in my consumption that foretold the high likelihood of an unhappy outcome. I had a ‘high bottom’, if you will. I started an anonymous blog to offer support/explore my own issues with alcohol. I’ve only told a few friends, my grown children, and my immediate family about my decision. Most don’t know the less attractive aspects of my alcohol use. But – as far as our daughters’ addictions go, my husband and I have gone public several times to tell the story of their addiction and what it did to our family. I even wrote an essay about it that was published in our local paper. It has been so, so difficult to stand in front of strangers and tell our story – but also incredibly cathartic and healing for us, too. We’ve done this with their blessing (they’ve also told their stories willingly in public) but my own issues – I’m far more comfortable keeping private.
    I guess each situation is different, each person’s comfort zone has different boundaries. The most important thing is to do whatever it takes to stop. And stay stopped. More power to all of us!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You know I read something that said when you reach 40, you really don’t care what people think or say about you that much. Well I just turned 44, and I somewhat feel that way, however, I don’t think I have to shout it out that I quit drinking or that I felt I had a drinking problem. Sometimes when you feel good about yourself that’s all that matters, not like I’m hiding my past to anyone, it’s nobody’s business, but my own. So no I don’t follow you on Facebook or anything like that, cause sometimes why does everyone have to know everything about me.

    Like

  13. I like you. In fact, I like a lot of recovery and life related pages on my personal Facebook page.
    That said, my blog is anonymous, although it’s clear my name is Anne and it wouldn’t be too hard to figure the rest out.

    For me it’s come down to this. I’m tired of worrying about being judged. The anxiety. It was crushing me to death.

    I’m finally happy. Really really happy. Joyous. My life is full. If people can’t see that because they see an alcoholic they are the ones losing out.

    But that’s just me! We all gotta do it our own way. And each way is right.

    You give a lot to this community. Never underestimate the lives you have saved! Mine included.

    Love you!

    Anne

    Like

  14. I have recently turned a corner in my recovery and feel that it has really helped my attitude around not drinking. I saw myself as a broken person having failed at controlling what seems so natural to other people. I was a fragile, shameful and paying my dues for bad behavior. That has changed, I now see myself as a person working her ass off to be a good wife, mother and friend…and I happen to not drink. It is not my identity, it is just part of the way I CHOOSE to live my life. Just like normal people don’t announce they are in recovery, therapy, a diet, etc. I choose not to share my decision to not drink…unless asked. Which rarely happens…turns out, most people dont care one way or another.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is exactly why I haven’t “liked” your fb page or have followed your twitter! On facebook, friends might think I’m being overly dramatic and extreme, since at 29 I’m one of many weekend binge drinkers (but unable to stop before it gets out of control; cutting myself off is just not something I can do) and on twitter, professionals seeing that activity might think twice about hiring me. I too want to encourage other people to come out, so to speak, and not be ashamed or afraid to recognize they have a problem with alcohol and want to fix it, and yet I still feel the need to preserve my reputation. It’s also ironic because admitting a substance abuse problem, being proactive about recovering from it, and having the discipline to stick with it are all such admirable actions and show strength..but sadly I think substance abuse is also stigmatized as a sign of weakness and a personality flaw. But please keep doing what you’re doing! You’ve been a tremendous help in the past few days since I decided to get sober! I try to remind myself that human beings are not “supposed” to have control over alcohol…some of us do, some of us don’t, and that doesn’t make us any weaker or stronger than the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand totally. We will change things little by little, starting with ourselves. Each of us is on our own journey, and it is everyone’s right to choose the their own terms. I am glad you are here and taking care of yourself!

      Like

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