#1 Reason to Recover Out Loud

Shouting Into My ComputerIt’s the kind of relationship where we tolerate each other for the sake of our mutual friend. We’ve all been there. I wouldn’t hang out with this guy if he wasn’t so close with a good friend of mine. But since he is, we end up in the same place doing the same thing once every couple of months. We have little in common. He is a little younger than me and a lot more confident. He talks about his stuff and never asks me about mine. He isn’t arrogant or aloof, he just doesn’t know any better.


A couple of days ago, our mutual friend brought us together again. As people were gathering and plans were being made, I found myself alone with my friend’s friend. As I was struggling to think of a conversation starter, he told me he heard that I write about addiction and recovery, and that he thinks it is really cool. I was speechless. In the probably 100 or so conversations we have had over the years, this was the first time he’s ever talked about me.


He went on to tell me about his own struggles to moderate his weed smoking, and even shared that he needs to get his sugar intake under control. Not only did he take an interest in a passion of mine, but he then opened up about his own challenges and laid his weaknesses and concerns at my feet.


This little interaction changed our relationship. We aren’t suddenly besties, and I doubt we will see each other unless our mutual friend brings us together. But when that happens, I’ll look forward to it and likely find it much easier to come up with something to say.


And our budding friendship is not a result of my addiction or my sobriety. It is because I am recovering out loud.


We all have secret struggles. Every single one of us. When we struggle in silence, we suffer alone. When we find the courage to open up about our demons, we fight together as an unstoppable community. And that’s when people heal. That’s when we get better.


A long, lost friend found me through Facebook last week. She read my posts about alcoholism and recovery, and she told me she was proud of me. As we emailed back and forth, she revealed that her husband had died of suicide a few years back. I could not help myself, so I pried and dug and looked for a connection between alcohol and his decision to end his life. She confirmed my suspicions, and shared details about two other tragic suicides in her family. It was as heartbreaking a story as I have heard, and I ached for her as she confided in me and exposed her pain.


I suggested that I could help her write her story and share it for the benefit of others who face similarly desperate and hopeless family trauma. She refused swiftly and definitively. There is no way she would ever want her husband’s name published and felt protecting her secret would protect her children. I made no counterargument, and respected her wishes. I apologized for bringing the pain of her unimaginable loss back to such a raw and vivid place, and asked no further questions.


But I can’t help but wonder if the suffering she manages on her own – the pain she absorbs from her children – couldn’t be eased and shared if she opened her heart to the vast community of suicide survivors. I wonder if she has explored the connection between irreversible changes in brain function caused by heavy alcohol consumption and suicide. If she does, could she find the understanding that has thus far proven elusive and haunting?


Nothing will bring back her husband and her other two loved ones, but might honest vulnerability bring at least some peace and comfort to her restless, broken heart?


When did we become so private and withdrawn? Why is hiding our painful stories now the norm while exposure is considered heroic? Do we thank the playground bully for our shyness and cowering? Is it because Eve ate that damn apple? Who made our weaknesses a sign of weakness completely ignoring the strength it takes to overcome?


Why do we prefer silent agony to asking our community for help?


I remember my terror the days before I sent my coming out letter about my alcoholism to over 3,000 people through email and social media. I didn’t sleep at all the night before my coming out day, and I slept very little for the preceding week. I was afraid I would be scorned and shunned. I was scared I would be fired. I was anxious about the retribution my wife and kids might face. I was petrified. But I took a deep breath and pressed the send button. And it was the best decision of my life.


The support I received was overwhelming – far greater than I expected. But even more significant, and completely unexpected, was the number of friends, family members, distant acquaintances and complete strangers who contacted me about the pain they had suffered in their lives. Some shared stories in complete detail, while others just looked at me with tears in their eyes and a knowing expression of pain endured etched into their faces.


In a recent exchange of opinions on social media, I expressed my disappointment when a celebrity was clearly uncomfortable talking about his alcoholism. He had been outed by TMZ photographs of his journey to rehab, and would likely have kept his recovery a secret had the photos not been published. Some fellow recovery warriors countered that some people are more naturally private and deserve to recover secretly if that’s what it takes to leave addiction behind.


No one wants to air their dirty laundry until they understand how fresh and renewed we can feel from the cleansing of our souls.


An alcoholic can never become an in-control-social-drinker, and a secret exposed can never be re-hidden from the world. And we spend our lifetimes thinking both of these facts are unfortunate. Only through the enlightenment of community healing can we understand abstinence in a blessing and the truth will set us free.


I told my coming out story seeking the support of my community. What happened was far more profound. I inadvertently made connections that will give back to my people every bit of support I was fortunate to receive from them.


I knew if I kept my secret a secret, I would have fewer shoulders on which to cry and fewer friends on whom I could rely. What I didn’t understand when I battled my wretched addiction in debilitating silence was that I was depriving my community of the best part of me. Hiding my disease and wallowing in shame was an act of selfishness. By giving my pain over to the network I built, I gave them my discoveries and strength as well.


And that’s where the cure lives. Are you an alcoholic? Do you struggle with suicide or drug addiction? Do you eat too much, or too little? Do you turn to sex or pornography as your only bastien of relief? Do you have a secret pain you hide from the world? Is your truth too shameful to share with your neighbors?


When we keep our secrets, we not only sacrifice our own chance to heal, but we deprive our world of our strength and love.


Maybe there is too much love in the world already.


If you don’t think so, I would love to hear your story and share your pain. Please leave a comment on this blog, or send me an email. If you are concerned about your drinking, please consider joining us in SHOUT Sobriety

SHOUT Sobriety

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  • Reply
    Jay W.
    March 13, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Love it Matt. This was a really good one. Suffering in silence IS the selfish act.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 13, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Yes! Recovering out loud does three things. It helps you. it helps those around you. And it gives you something to focus on to fill the void left behind where the booze used to live. Thanks, Jay!

  • Reply
    Carla Foote
    March 13, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Thanks for continuing to share important thinking – out loud. I think this principle applies to so many areas of pain beyond the area of addiction. I mentor young moms, and miscarriage is so very very common but not talked about. I find moms who suffer in silence, where if we were all willing to share, they would find common ground – I too had a miscarriage many years ago and know the out of control feeling of not being able to stop the bleeding.
    Still hoping this is a great new season for you and your family. A few more loaves in the freezer, then I will need to venture out 🙂

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 13, 2019 at 9:32 am

      One of the most important discoveries for me has been that addiction is just my affliction, but the lessons learned apply to most challenges different people face. And yes, I agree completely, the concept of recovering out loud applies to all of them. We can help each other. There is no reason for each of us to reinvent the lightbulb. Storms we have weathered must turn into stories we tell for the benefit of each other. I didn’t know you worked with young mothers, Carla. It just makes me love you even more!

  • Reply
    Claudia Roell
    March 19, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    I agree the problem is our society . Nobody wants to deal with problems/addictions. We are too busy making money, living up the expectations…having one scheduled appointment after another, too busy to heal or to relax, to get healthy when we are sick. The house has to look like the magazine cover…but is it really the goal in life? Thomas and I decided what’s important for us and we don’t care anymore. He gave up drinking almost 10 years ago, because he didn’t want to get addicted and he has a family history. It was also due to having kids and being able to drive, pick them up even In the middle off the night. I probably was on the edge but after ending up in the hospital and gotten my life back twice, I decided to cut out everything that could harm me. I’m not drinking alcohol for almost 7 years now and it’s good. Health problems are still a part of my life but with a clear mind you can better work to get better. I’m thankful for my partner that we have the strength, trust and love on this our journey

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 19, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      I’m so glad you subscribed to my blog, Claudia! I’m glad you shared your opinion, I’m glad you’re sober and I’m glad you cut out the bad stuff in a quest for health. Congratulations and thank you!

  • Reply
    Maylee Willson
    March 27, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    “Recover out loud” I love that and have not heard it described in that way. I too am trying to recover out loud. I am a 34 year old wife and mother who happens also to be an alcoholic. In my year of recovery I have met very few women like me- and not because they don’t exist. We just don’t fit the typical “alcoholic stereotype”. But I am trying every day to be honest about my recovery in hopes of reaching those women who desperately need someone to relate to in the way that I did not so long ago.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      March 27, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      I think you are going to have a big impact on people, Maylee. Congratulation on your year of sobriety, and GREAT JOB talking about it and offering to help those in early sobriety in need of support the most. You are right. They are our there. Lots of them. And they will be glad to find you!

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