Addiction is all about secrets. By the same token, recovery is about letting sunshine and fresh air into the hidden corners of our souls. In addiction we build ourselves a little fantasy world, a totally imaginary place where we go to hide when we act out.
It doesn’t matter if we are alcoholics who seek solace and solitude in a bottle, food addicts who attempt to control our little world by controlling our bodies, shopping addicts who imagine that if we only have that one special thing we’ll be happy, or sex addicts who search for love and solace in porn, online chat rooms or massage parlors. However we set up these magical places in our lives, we do so in secrecy. Even if we brag about how much we can (insert behavior here), we don’t want others to know how important acting out is to us, or exactly what we do. We don’t want to admit that we are trapped.
And when the excrement begins to hit the impeller, when the consequences of our behavior begin to mount and the pressure begins to build, what do we do — the sane thing, and stop whatever we’re engaged in that’s causing the trouble? Hardly! That’s what “normies” do. We addicts build the walls of our prisons higher and thicker, with bigger lies, more deceit, and more secrets, until eventually — inevitably — the walls come tumbling down. Even then, we cling to our secrets, afraid (as we always have been) that they will destroy us if we let them escape.
In one of my 12-step fellowships we talk about accountability partners a lot. These are people we trust enough to open up and tell them our secrets. It’s not easy to do at first. To begin with, our habits of secrecy are so ingrained that we tell only half-truths, but over time we learned that those are simply more half measures, availing us nothing. Just as sickness and infection thrived in times past until someone decided to open windows and shutters — not only letting in air and light, but also letting the sickroom miasma out — so is it with secrets and accountability.
The bare fact is that we are as sick as our secrets. Only when we understand this, and are able to throw open the gates of our fantasy world and let the light of reality in, will we begin to achieve the understanding of ourselves and trust in others that are the foundations of growth, change and lasting sobriety.