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October 02 • Family Secrets

Day 816

Well, that was interesting.

A casual conversation this morning at my wife's family reunion somehow turned toward addictions. Someone mentioned a friend's husband that lost their inheritance with his gambling addiction. Another told the story of a friend whose husband had a relapse in his porn addiction that had been previously 'forgiven.' I was afraid this was going south fast. I was torn between sharing what I've learned first-hand and crossing that line of anonymity with people that I didn't think were ready for my story. I was very uncomfortable with the conversation's direction until a few random comments from unexpected sources — like, 'addictions are vicious' — surprised me.

I would have guessed that this particular group of people, whom I love very much (and who know nothing of my addiction issues), would not have had a lot of sympathy for the addict. Years ago, the family's patriarch famously declared his lack of patience with so-called addicts and made it clear he believed addiction to be just an excuse for weakness (Family Fog). Now, from his progeny, I was hearing expressions of knowledgable concern. Someone even mentioned Russell Brand and his contributions to understanding addictions and addicts.

I couldn't help but wonder how many other people in the room were dancing with their secrets, wanting to be accepted for who and what they are, rather than the above-average children of the Lake Wobegon generation with which we have often humorously identified.

A couple of times, I nearly confessed to being a 12-Stepper. I would probably have leaned into the alcohol problems and kept silent on the core issues of my sexuality because that would have been safer and more acceptable, or so I presume. Oddly, I stopped myself from that disclosure, but not because of protecting my image like I would have done even a few months ago. This time I was troubled by my tendency to share my 12 Step knowledge and allowing people to assume it's a drinking problem. That suddenly struck me as another version of my chronic dishonesty, or at least a lack of undefended honesty.

I don't think I accomplished anything dramatic by pulling-up on my revelations today, but maybe in my mind and heart, I leveled-up on what rigorous honesty is. That doesn't mean I should have spilled my guts and disclosed all my issues to these people who may or may not have loved me just the same. It does mean that I don't get to play in the pool of integrity by letting people believe I'm something socially acceptable so that I can be part of the conversation.

I am a sex addict. That's not all I am, and I'm learning not to let that define me. But when it comes to discussions about addiction, pornography, unfaithfulness, etc., I have to be very careful about sharing just enough to give a good wrong impression. That is disrespectful to the people I'm talking with, it is not good for my path toward honesty, and it is by nature manipulative and self-promoting, in a back-handed sort of way.

What do I do with the friends that I've already allowed to believe that I'm an alcoholic, or, more specifically, only an alcoholic? I don't know, but I think I may have just added a few more amends to my yet-amended list.



A perfect heart I never was

I lied to everyone I loved

It made them love me even more

And made me hate myself

–Silverstein, “Secret's Safe"



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