This morning I was reading an article from my hometown newspaper about white-collar crime. A quote from a man who was caught embezzling money from his company had a familiar feel to it.
“I wanted to stop, but I didn’t have the strength and courage to stop,” he said. “I still felt guilt for what I was doing to everyone around me and to the company. I was waiting to be caught and out of the dark place I was in. Getting caught, I didn’t need to hide anymore.”
This quote feels familiar—particularly the line about hiding—because of all the work that I have done with people in drug and alcohol recovery. It seems that the story of hiding one’s self—from spouses, parents, friends, co-workers, etc.—is a familiar refrain that causes quite a bit of suffering. After years of playing hide and seek—putting on one face for this person, and another for the next, and the next—the game becomes too complicated and painful to keep straight. Sometimes we begin to lose any reliable indicator of who we are anymore, which brings up seemingly inevitable questions about the merits of continuing to exist; dark material, to be sure, when the inner nihilist kicks into high gear.
In some ways, experiencing this fragmentation of the concept of the solid self could be constructive, for if we can experience that there is really no solid self to hold onto, this may free us to be anything we want to be. We could experience that we are neither this nor that, but instead both. However, in the context of drug and/or alcohol addiction, this can be a very serious, debilitating and potentially fatal experience, one that requires some grounding in the real world. It can be especially therapeutic to have an experience of finding out “who I am,” after so many years of running, hiding and avoiding that experience.
What a relief, to not have to hide anymore; to just be yourself, whatever that is or may be.
I feel we can all achieve this.
We can show up in more authentic ways with people we love. We can be more congruent in the things we feel and say. We can show up and drop into our bodies and really feel the full spectrum of what it feels like to be alive, instead of hiding in the corners of life and confirming our darkest fears about the world around us.
This is hard, but hopefully rewarding work.
Until next time,