Women are often afraid to speak our own truths in the online and offline spaces because of the roles we play in our every day lives: the face (or reputation) of our families, the caregiver in our interpersonal relationships and/or the perception by those who have known us for all or most of our lives that we are forever little girls.
We also face scrutiny from family members, peers, former partners, harassers and potential employers.
With the #MeToo movement, I feel it starting to move outward from speaking up about sexual violence: women are finding themselves being more open about a broader range of truths hidden deeply in our inner emotional lives.
There are so many women (and men) that have spilled their truths online for all of us to see. Many of these accounts are detailed and allow us to see the harsh impact of trauma right before our very eyes.
Our stories can bring us together and allow us to feel safe during times of turmoil. At the same, we are not obligated to tell everyone every single thing about ourselves and experiences.
At this point in history when so much is being shared about women’s experiences, I wanted to ask: what could possibly hold us back from sharing our stories?
I felt the need to go to my sisters in recovery.
As some of you may know, I recently celebrated my one year sober-versary.
For the past year, the women in recovery I have connected with both online and offline have been the most open, honest, authentically raw individuals I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
There is a lot of stigma attached to women who are getting help for trauma, abuse and addiction – however I have seen that each one sharing their story has opened the door for others, including myself, to share.
Here is what they had to say.
“For me, shame kept me from sharing. Then once I started to, I learned that some people weren’t safe: they treated me like I had something wrong with me or they weren’t interested in hearing it. Professional environments often told me it was inappropriate to share such challenges, so I didn’t. I didn’t share online for fear of retaliation from my abusers or hate language from the public.”
-Anne Lauren, Blue & Lavender, Women’s Recovery Collective
“In the beginning of sobriety, I was able to share the truths of my addiction with strangers online. Mainly Instagram because my colleagues and family weren’t on there.
After a year of sobriety I finally ‘came out’ so to speak on Facebook where my family, close friends, and ex co-workers could see my story.
I was scared of the judgment and the perception of being weak, but once I shared to the people that knew me the most I realized it was all in my head. They were proud and so happy that I was able to turn my life around.
I think a lot of people, especially sober mothers are afraid to speak out about their alcoholism, because of the fear of being labeled as a bad mother. That shame keeps us isolated, and not able to develop genuine connections with other mother’s who are also sober.
This is one of the main reasons I created Sober Mom Tribe: to show other mother’s that you’re not alone in your struggles and you can talk about them in a place where there will be no judgment. Sharing not only helps us to heal, but inspires many others as well.”
-Alyson Premo, Sober Mom Tribe, a community for mothers on their sobriety journey
“I share my truth with people I love and trust, which is a small circle of friends and family. I think there are two basic things that hold me back from sharing my truth both online and in an open general way.
Actually, as I am typing I realize in a simple way it all boils down to one thing: fear and I am not even certain what I am afraid of.
But here is hopefully a short story: I lived most my life in a state of despair. I was a child in single digits when I had my first thoughts of suicide. Finding a way to escape my emotional and spiritual pain consumed me.
At 12, I drank two Budweiser out in my backyard with a neighborhood boy. It changed my life – I had found the answer.
Fast forward six years and I was sitting in my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Fast forward 15 years, I was 10 years sober, I left A.A. and eventually drank again.
This time though, I had a stronger sense of self, had developed values that I could live by, but the darkness was still there.
Fast forward 17 years, I was two years sober and had a plan to kill myself. I am EVER so grateful to my sister who insisted to the point of against my will, that I go to the hospital.
Seven years later, at 52, I am free of the darkness. I still struggle with alcohol though.
When I started to really recover from the damages of an abusive childhood, when I learned that I didn’t have character defects, but character strengths and beautiful life lessons to share with the world, I had every intention of doing so.
But I was talked out of living that kind of life.
A life where every step, every engagement with others, my work, my public life all wrapped up in my truth, I was told living such a life would have a negative impact on my career and livelihood. To-date I believed that to be true.
As I write this, I am deeply questioning that belief. Perhaps, 2019 is the year I learn to be my truth in all aspects of my life.”
“Growing up in a Latinx family and being a woman who suffers from addiction and mental health (issues) has not been easy.
I’m a sober mom of two beautiful children. For some time my partner and I took a very long break, and I was a single mom.
I was in denial that I was suffering from addiction, and thinking it was only men who had these issues.
Drinking the night away and waking up either hung over or still drunk was my normal routine. I suffer from social anxiety, and depression so drinking always gave me that push to be ‘Super Mom’ – in my own words – that’s what gave me the push to deal with a thing we call life.
The night before I decided to get sober was a night to remember. I was no longer Super Mom – I wanted to end my life.
At that point, I thought my kids would be better off without a drunk mom who was selfish at the time. I sat in the tub to the point I was almost black out drunk.
I felt helpless and no longer was myself. Addiction took over my life. I lost my job, family, friends and relationships. Life of addiction is lonely and difficult place to be.
The first month of sobriety was the hardest… I still felt helpless and suicidal. Everyday I felt as if I would give in. The urge to drink slowly went away. I still have some moments where I want to throw in the towel and say ‘fuck it!’
Having the help from the treatment program, therapist, social worker and psychiatrist taught me the steps I needed to take to no longer have the urge to drink.
After it felt like my life changed overnight. I started to slowly be Super Mom this time sober. Spending the time I wasted being wasted I enjoy it with all the ones I love.
I’m so grateful that I’m alive today, and that I’m continuously growing and learning even when I feel hopeless. I always want to be better for myself better to those around me.
Getting sober has been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I’m proud of my sobriety and not afraid to share my story.
I am so grateful to be around all the people I care and love. I believe my hope and healing will take me to a beautiful place we like to call life.
I have realized after sharing myself with others when it comes to my sobriety I get so much more support. It makes me feel so much more fearless and not be ashamed of who I used to be.
To anyone else who is struggling: you are not alone.”
-Anabel, café, conchas y chismes
And finally, what has held me back from sharing my truth?
I feel that stigma surrounding mental health and alcohol have prevented me from sharing my emotional truths, as well as family privacy.
When it comes to topics about more political topics, I feel concerned about personal safety.
I was the target of online harassment by numerous individuals when I was in journalism, particularly when I was reporting on police shootings and activism.
There were a few instances in particular where the harassment went offline in which my life felt endangered.
Even though that was a while back ago, there is still a part of me that is scared to share my truths in fear that I could still be a target.
However, I have been braving through it recently so I can reach as many women as possible with my story and the stories of others.
My hope is that there is strength in numbers and we are better together, united by our stories instead of holding back in fear.
“Trauma halts possibility, movement activates it. Movements create possibility.”
-Tarana Burke, original founder of the Me Too movement, at Ted Women 2018
“We must begin to make friends with fear and get comfortable with a little bit of discomfort. We must allow our purpose to burn brighter than our fear.“-Azita Nahai, PhD, Trauma to Dharma: Transform Your Pain into Purpose
“The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: Me Too.”
-Brené Brown, Ted Talk on shame in 2012