In my Fourth Step, I've been writing about shame using the Blueprint book of Al-Anon. This is a topic that dredges up a lot of stuff from the past. I've felt a lot of shame for various things in my life.
The childhood shame didn't occur until I was old enough to know that my father drank on weekends. I was a happy kid and enjoyed playing but was always anxious when my father was home. He worked a lot so it was the days off that would cause me the most trouble. I also heard so much about how great our family was and how we were better than everyone else, that I began to feel shame because I felt worse than everyone else. I didn't feel good about myself and became withdrawn around others. I would avoid everyone as much as I could and mostly read a lot or played in the woods.
When I got to high school, I made good grades but never felt really like I was part of anything. I guess that I actually didn't want to be part of anything much because to do so would make me very vulnerable. I had friends that I hung with but it was a closed group. I remember going to some drinking parties and got slapped in the face at one of them. Acting out to get attention brought me a lot of shame.
College was where I could be anonymous. No one knew me or my family. I still took me with me to college but I could hide it a little better. I studied hard and played hard. I learned there that I could be in an entire room of people and still be alone. It bothered me some but I just figured that was what my life would be. Because I excelled at my classes, I didn't feel so much shame. I was good at something and knew it.
The years of graduate school were also okay. I did well, published a bunch of papers, got my career going and got married. I learned that the marriage was rocky right from the start. I have felt a lot of shame from things that happened in social situations in which my spouse would act out after drinking. I couldn't relax in social situations and never knew when the demon created by alcohol would arise. Suffice to say, there was a lot of anger in me, and I was ashamed of how I tried to control and manipulate an insane situation.
I also have felt ashamed at how I felt betrayed by my mother's mental illness. She suffered severe depression later in life and had to have hundreds of ECT treatments. She was a wonderful person but was always in a state of denial. Being the only child, I had to care for her by getting her admitted to hospitals, taking her for outpatient therapy, moving her after my father died, and a host of other things that sucked my time and energy. I knew that she had a disease, but I just wanted it to stop and for her to be well again. My frustration at her was inexcusable and something that I have felt ashamed over.
The shame that I carry from the past that affects my feelings today is that I didn't do something sooner. I wished that I had gotten help long ago. I still think about the embarrassing episodes that occurred at parties. I am ashamed that I was so lost. I felt so much anger that it was hard to be nice to those that I loved the most.
What I've learned in Step Four is that I have had shameful feelings, but I can't change the past. The concepts of powerlessness and unmanageability help me to confront the shameful feelings that I have. I know what happened but that part of my life is over. I now have more manageable emotions. I can now detach when I don't feel good about what is happening. I know that neither the alcoholism or depression were things that I could control. I am trying to take care of myself and think about the good things that I do. I'm learning that I don't need to earn the right to be loved and that I have a lot of really good qualities that make me lovable. I also am willing to grow in this program and be taught. I no longer feel ashamed of me.