Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sick as your secrets

"You're only as sick as your secrets
The things you keep inside
The stories so awful, so hurtful ~ YOU think
The ones you choose to hide
The feelings you wall off and keep at bay
The past you regret each and every day
The memories you wish would never be
The stuff you hope no one ever sees
You're only as sick as your secrets
The longer you hide them you'll find
They'll rob you of joy and sanity
They'll drive you right out of your mind
They'll keep you from living life to the full
They'll tug at your heart, push and pull
You apart ~ like a puzzle, piece by piece"

I have heard that we're only as sick as our secrets. I've been wondering about what secrets have done in my life. I know that I tried to keep a secret about my father's drinking when I was younger. And in my marriage I did what I could to keep it a secret that my wife drank and that we had problems in our marriage. For some illogical ego-driven reason, I wanted us to be the "perfect" couple.

I can remember that when we first moved to our current jobs many years ago, I thought that this would be a chance to have a "new" life. We could "start" over. Now I know that the geographic cure only is temporary and that wherever I go, I bring myself.

I felt a tremendous safeness when I did my fifth step. It was the first time that I had unburdened and loosened up all the secrets. I realize that every day I can speak truth because when I believed Step Two, I believed that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I have had to come to the realization yet again that sanity for me means that I let others think and do whatever they need to think and do. It's none of my business.

I never let anyone do anything to me that I wasn't complicit about. I went along with the program. I let the alcoholics hurt me, take my self esteem lower, leave my mind in turmoil. That was done with all my cooperation.

I know and do believe that living a spiritual life is necessary for me to regain my self. Honesty is a huge part of this program. Being honest is not an easy thing to do sometimes, it can be frightening, and sometimes painful. But without it I will not only hurt those I care about but will hurt myself worse. When I chose to do the steps, I looked forward to getting rid of secrets and to break the logjam in my head that told me to keep things to myself.

But what do I do when others in my life decide that they want to hold onto their secrets? I suppose that the fairy tales that I read have led me to believe that if I share my innermost thoughts to another, then they would do the same with me. The secrets are really a barrier that prevents closeness, enhances inadequacy, and keeps me selfish.

My own self-disclosure was humbling. But just as I am powerless over alcoholism, reality is that even those closest to me don't have to tell me their secrets just because I want them to.

There are people that I love who have left a mark on me that hasn't gone away. They have provided a mirror on my own being so that when I looked in their eyes I found parts of myself. And then there are those who I haven't seemed to connect with or engage my being with no matter how much I stayed open or made them feel safe. And now I wonder what they needed and if they will ever find it anywhere. I think that those are the people with whom I only received a tiny piece of their being and will look back and wonder what if they had given more.

What I do know is that we aren't so different from each other. It's just that somewhere one person is willing to step up at a crucial moment and break the silence, share the secrets, and become whole. I don't want to be the one alone who suffers in silence.

I still think that my relationship would become more open if others were willing to share their painful secrets. I now know that secrets have kept me sick for a long time. Being willing to listen, share and be well is a better option.

. . in silence might be the privilege of the strong, but it was certainly a danger to the weak. For the things I was prompted to keep silent about were nearly always the things I was ashamed of, which would have been far better aired . . .
—Joanna Field


  1. Amen brother Syd!! I learned how to speak out in AA and I don't think i've shut up since. I found I was carrying a LOT of burden on my shoulders that wasn't mine. I had my own to deal with and it was not my job or place to carry others. Speaking the truth sure can get you hurt and hurt good, BUT, I don't think I will ever again let it stop me from being honest to, with and for myself.

    This was a wonderful post and thank you for sharing. Hugs. Tammy

  2. This reminds me of my "secret." The secret of my son's addiction that was on the front page of our local paper. The secret that ruled how the rest of the family interacted. The secret that all the judges, police, neighbors in town knew.

    It was insanity on my part to work so hard on keeping my secret.

  3. Bravo. I love what you say about secrets. They really become bound in shame, and it is so true that secrets keep us apart. You are doing a great thing here.

  4. So much wisdom here Syd. Very timely for me to read this. Thanks Syd.

  5. I find there are safe places to tell the truth: my husband, my sponsor, my dear friend or two. I also find it safe to tell the truth about myself in meetings.
    There are a couple of people in my life who don't want to address the truth, and I find myself keeping distant from them, though one is my brother. I can't fix him. So I feel sad we can't be closer. But that's one among many I find myself able to be honest with. Thank God.

  6. I thought one of my biggest secrets was that I hid vodka in the clothes hamper. I wasn't going to ever tell anybody! You can only imagine my surprise and relief to read a story in the Big Book about a woman who did the same exact thing!

    Our secrets keep us in fear and build a barrier...Step 5 is such a freeing experience. We realize that we're all so much alike. Sharing my secrets help me feel like I belong and I'm not so unique.

    I loved the quote. Did you write that? Great post Syd!

  7. Syg, this is go good. I've been hearing this for years, in fact me two best friends and I would meet once a week and say "anybody sick this week?" meaning: does anyone need to spill their guts about something?

    I am grateful for your blog and the wisdom you share and the wonderful way you have of sharing it that makes these truths easier to hear (if that makes sense)

  8. i think because of the unhappiness in my home, with my father drinking, i escaped into my imagination. and there i build a perfect world, of how relationships should be. and as i grew up, i needed to recreate those imagined perfect relationships, and of course that wasn't possible. so i hid, from others and from myself, all the things that were wrong, and that's how my secrets built and built. until they blew up in my face. now at least i am able to be honest, with myself and with others, little by little, and it certainly lightens the load...

  9. honesty is tough but usually oh so worth it when practiced in good faith.

  10. Wow, this is a great post! I've never heard of that "sick as our secrets" idea but I think it's fascinating. Thanks for writing about, Syd!

  11. Everything in my family was a secret. It still can come back to me in the middle of the night that I should not have "told." But thank God I get to live in the light - and so do you.

  12. Syd,
    I love this line:

    I have had to come to the realization yet again that sanity for me means that I let others think and do whatever they need to think and do. It's none of my business.

    Beautiful in its simplicity and wisdom. Thank you.

    You are loved.


  13. A very powerful post Syd. I wanted to also thank you for your comment yesterday, that meant the world to me...you are truly an amazing blogger! You're words resonate always!

    I find that I've kept secrets, shared secrets, and was complicit in most activities in my life...and like you I wanted my current husband and I to be seen as "perfect" LOL, that did not work out well, eh? That's what happens when we keep secrets!

    Many hugs to you!

  14. I do agree with this post, but, I also look at it in a different way, and maybe that is wrong.?
    Secrets and keeping them is hard, you have to discipline self, be sensitive to those who shared that secret. they are powerful and become weak when told, shared. I know speaking out and talking about certain things can help heal. Finding ones to trust in telling personal secrets is a challenge. We all have them and some like me feel some secrets are best kept to self. or only shared with SOME

  15. Hi, Syd.

    Truer words never spoken. Great post. I once lost a very dear friendship because she believed I had no right to seek help for myself (as the co-dependent) when clearly I had no say in the disease...


    p.s. Loved all your albums!

  16. Thank you for the meaty article and your willingness to share intimately with us. Your honesty and willingness are just part of the reason that I found it easy to leave you an award today.

    Blessings and aloha...

  17. This is such a great post. I have a couple of friends that I have struggled in our relationship. I recently realized it was because they couldn't open up and give as much as I was willing to give to the relationships. It was a hard realization, but a necessary one. Thanks Syd, greatly communicated post as usual.

  18. In my people-pleasing family of origin we were taught to make nice. The rule was that if one didn't have anything NICE to say then don't say anything at all. A whole lot that didn't measure up to NICE didn't get talked about, was turned into a secret.

    Good post! Love the poem, love the quote!

  19. Oh yes, the secrets. Thanks for a very powerful and thoughtful post.

  20. I can identify with much of what you have said, and I sense a deep sorrow in the awareness of your experience.

    Yes, secrets can be destructive. But, in defense of my reservation at sharing all there is to know about me, I must recall what my sponsor (who knows ALL of my story - as well as does my therapist) told me years ago - - - it is not necessary to tell my entire 4th and 5th step experience to everyone I meet. I have learned to be observant, and listen carefully to sharings, identifying those that I experienced myself, and share with the individual in order to help them understand that I have also felt the same pain, and that there is help available in the rooms of Al-Anon.

    In fact, in the "Suggested Al-Anon Closing" - third paragraph - it says, "A few special words to those of you who haven't been with us long: Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too. If you try to keep an open mind . . . ."

    The first time I heard this read, I did not believe it; however, after attending many Al-Anon and AA meetings, and listening to others' painful sharings, I learned this statement was very true, and I heard my story told in many forms and variations, thereby putting my EGO in its proper place, and providing me with the gift of compassion, and the ability to be specific in my sharings - -- not with any intent of keeping secrets - - - but in NOT bringing unnecessary ego-driven pity or attention to myself.

    Yes, I have many experiences that I am willing to share, but only when I feel it is necessary for the hearer to hear them. I am also selective about the content of my story when I am invited to tell it. Thank you for allowing me to take up so much blog space!

    Hugs always,
    Anonymous #1

  21. Thank you for this post. Wow, so true.I think I am just learning this now.

  22. When I began to let my secrets see the light of day (which is definitely not to say that I announced them on the hilltop), I could feel the shame I carried leave me as well.

  23. I LOVE this poem and would like to post it on my blog with your permission....


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