Because of shame.
Yes, shame. Brene Brown calls it, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
It’s the difference between, “I am bad” and “I did something bad.”
Shame flourishes inside “I am bad.” It’s a statement about ourselves, not our actions. It’s an emotion that so many of us run from because it’s rooted in the belief that something is wrong with us. When we feel shame, we feel broken. Flawed. Unworthy.
“I am bad” versus “I did something bad.” Do you see the difference? The first is a statement about the person. The second is about her actions.
Maybe you think the difference is too subtle to really matter. Isn’t it just semantics?
Imagine have to choose one of these statements as the framework for your life. The lens through which you viewed your experiences, your behaviors, and your outcomes.
Under the first framework, “I am bad,” your oversights, mistakes, and missteps all come to mean something about you. Who you are on the inside. The very stuff that you’re made of.
Before long, not only would you do everything in your power to avoid ever making mistakes (which, by the way, is impossible), but it would become harder and harder to admit when you did. After all, who wants to own up to a mistake when it means declaring that something is wrong with you?
Now take a look at the second framework, “I did something bad.” Do you see how even a little bit of distance between you and your actions allows you to be a good person who did something you with you hadn’t? Do you notice how it allows you to be human? Because, truly, no one is perfect (try as we might).
This framework gives you space to be complicated. To be multi-dimensional. Messy even. You can make mistakes and still have value. It’s not a zero sum game.
Knowing all this, which framework would you choose?
So what’s this got to do with alcohol?
I believe that the prevalent narrative for people who struggle with alcohol and want help is steeped in shame. It has a lot to do with the admission of defectiveness. Taking a moral inventory. Asking for relief from character defects. Removing all personal shortcomings.
It sounds an awful lot like, “I am bad.” While it may work for some, it certainly doesn’t work for everybody.
Being a better person isn’t the solution to your problems. Those who struggle aren’t bad people. Listen, if all it took were self-flagellation, there would be precious few people in need of help, because every person I know who’s wanted to change her relationship with alcohol (including me) is an expert at beating herself up.
Just imagine if we cleared away the shame. If people didn’t embrace the framework of “I am bad” in order to enter into a dialogue about how and why they use alcohol, imagine how much easier these conversations could be. Imagine if we could talk openly and honestly about what we’re struggling with and be unbroken at the same time.
Imagine if you could desire to change your relationship with alcohol and understood that wanting to change had no bearing on your character. Imagine that.
That’s what I can help you do.