My friend Jascia sent a link to this article to me as a suggested blog topic. It’s about all those lies that we tell our doctors. When I was in my early 20s, I saw a psychologist because my emotional life was a mess. I remember him pressing me on the topic of my alcohol use. I lied about it to make it sound like I drank normally. The truth was I drank to a black out state on a frequent basis. It was a few years before I faced up to the truth about my drinking. What a waste of money it was to lie to my health care provider! Who knows how much he could have helped me, but I just thought he would tell me to quit, and I knew I couldn’t do that on my own. I had tried and failed many times. And, drinking helped me avoid pain. I could not imagine living without it.
Fast forward to the counselor I saw after my second divorce. I had been in a program of recovery and was starting to get honest with other people about who I was. I had begun to normalize my issues and realized that most everybody had some kind of struggle. I realized that telling the truth about who I am is the only way to heal. We had been separated, and he had an affair. When the affair started he filed for divorce but didn’t tell me. In fact, he didn’t even talk to me. He cut off all contact with me. When his affair partner dumped him after our divorce was final, of course he came back to me. I had done so much work and so much grieving at that point that I had let him go. But, he showed back up on my doorstep, and, in a desperate attempt to stop the pain, I took him back into my bed. I had been working with this particular therapist for many months and was beginning to make great progress on rebuilding my life. I just knew he was going to think I was totally stupid for taking this guy back. I had an appointment with him already scheduled, and I considered my options. Maybe I just wouldn’t tell him until I saw where this was leading.
When I walked into his office, it occurred to me how stupid that would be. I’m paying him. He’s not my friend. He has to walk through this with me as long as I keep coming back. The truth is that most of my friends had gotten so sick of hearing about my divorce that I had lost a lot of them. Having a therapist who would listen to my stuff without judgment helped me keep the friends I had left. I could talk to him, and they didn’t have to hear it. I walked in and spilled it. He didn’t judge me at all. In fact, he said he wasn’t surprised. Sex is usually the last thing to go in a marriage. It allowed me the opportunity to really process what I was feeling and why I was taking him back. In time, I realized I had already moved past that marriage, and I didn’t want him back. But, if I had kept it a secret and remained in isolation with my ex, I may not have been able to do it so quickly.
A friend of mine had an affair with a married man. She told me she was doing it, and I listened to her. At dinner one night, I asked her to tell me about him. What do you like about him? Is he cute? Does he have kids? About halfway through the conversation, she looked at me incredulously. “I never get to talk about him,” she said. “Thank you.” I’ve learned that I’m not really here to judge people for what they do. I’m here to help them be who they are and to hold space while they navigate difficult decisions and paths. We are all tempted. We all act against our beliefs at one time or another. It may be something as innocuous as binging on chocolate when we’ve decided to lose weight. It could be verbally abusing a child or a spouse. If we only hear “stop doing that” or receive judgment, we end up battling shame and isolation. There is no healing in shame and isolation. In fact, it’s those times when I’ve been involved in something painful that I’ve grown the most. But, I’ve only grown when I didn’t keep the secret anymore.
Perfectionism keeps me stuck. I can’t tell you I’m doing something sinful, embarrassing or unhealthy because I think there is something really wrong with me since I can’t stop myself from doing it. There was a time in my life when I thought divorce was morally wrong. Then, I chose it for myself. I remember my whole belief system shattering around me. I crazily thought that if I believed it was morally wrong, I would be able to stop it from happening. It happened, and I felt a lot of shame around it. I did lose friends. But, I also gained some friends who had suffered through divorces, and I never even knew it. They walked me through the pain with love and acceptance. They helped me understand that divorce did not mean I was a bad or inadequate person. I decided then and there that I wanted to be the person that helped walked people through the pain rather than the one that walked away in judgment. I’m a better person for it.
Friends do have their limits in supporting us. I find support groups, counselors and doctors vital cogs in my support system. They are critical in directing me to help, giving me perspective and helping me feel supported when I’m isolated. I still have a hard time telling the truth to my sponsor or a counselor if I think they will disapprove. But, I’ve learned to ignore the fear and do it anyway. I’m learning that they often don’t disapprove at all. Are they afraid I will be hurt? Yes. But, they don’t tell me to stop. They assist me in talking through it – lancing the wound so to speak. Because if I can’t open the wound to let the bad seep out, I can’t let the good stuff in either. They even tell you to take band-aids off these days to let the wound air out. Secrets keep me sick. And, even though it might hurt in the process, telling my secrets helps me heal.