In my family of origin, keeping secrets was sometimes the “spoken” but more often the unspoken rule. My Dad was an addicted gambler and serial adulterer and Mom was an alcoholic. Yet such facts were hardly ever articulated and any verbalization of these truths resulted in knee-jerk reactions of denial, minimization and most of all, rage.
Consequently, throughout my childhood, I was never sure what was safe for me to say and consciously doubted many things that I intuitively knew to be true. Cognitive dissonance is defined as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. Prior to my recovery in CoDA, cognitive dissonance described me to a T. I convinced myself that life was manageable and kept family secrets (including that of my wife’s alcoholism) from the world and, to some extent, even from myself.
My shadow-life of silence, denial and minimization came crashing down in February 2018 when my wife was dying of alcoholic cirrhosis in the ICU. Life became so unmanageable that I had to admit the truth of the situation regardless of emotional pain, shame or my old habits of denial and minimization. That crisis became my rock bottom, and led to my journey of recovery in CoDA. I immediately started attending meetings, sharing my story at meetings and with my sponsor, working the Steps and asking for help.
As I approach my third anniversary in CoDA, this basic fact has remained the strong spine that supports my recovery. I tell my story, I keep telling it, all of it, especially the parts that I’m ashamed of and in this way the shame dissipates and my recovery continues to strengthen and stabilize.
Richard W – Port Richey, FL 10/28/20