What About Secrets In 12 Step Recovery?

no secrets?One of the unofficial slogans you’ll hear at 12 Step Recovery meetings is ‘your only as sick as your secrets!’

My sense of this saying is it’s mostly true and designed to help people be more honest with themselves, and as a result, more honest with others. But I wonder about the part that says if I’ve got secrets I’m sick… but the slogan wouldn’t work as well if I tried to make it something like: You can get in trouble by keeping most secrets. It’s much more pithy the other way.

To some degree it’s true, at least for those of us in 12 Step recovery.

When I came into A.A. I really thought I’d hidden my drinking from most people – and that thought of hiding the drinking or whatever addiction, is a perfect example of how secrets can make us sick.

It’s true, I suspect with all addictions. In my case I can tell you exactly how sick my secret drinking or even my public drinking made me. The same was true of my drug use and of my debting and underearning.

Letting go of shame

Of course, behind that secret keeping is shame because at some level we know we’re out of control and in trouble – we just don’t know, or don’t want to know, what we can do about it.

I suspect that the most insidious secret keeping we do is when we’re in denial about something – some misuse of a substance or persistent unworkable behavior.

How much better it would have been, how much sooner I might have gotten help if, when drinking or using, or debting or underearning I’d been willing to admit early on something was wrong, that I had a problem. For it’s only, I think, from that recognition that I don’t know what to do that I can ask for and be open to help.

Appropriate secrets

There are, of course, appropriate secrets. For example, when we hear a 5th step we’re pretty much bound not to discuss what we hear with anyone. I’ve occasionally made exceptions when working with underaged kids – but I tell them right up front that if they share anything with me that I think means they are in a dangerous position I will blow their cover and make sure they get the help they need.

Keeping other’s anonymity is another secret of a sort. And though I’m not anonymous myself, I won’t break yours unless you’re doing some sort of real harm to others. Then I may step in and report you. On the other hand, if a 14 year old tells me they are taking money from their mom’s wallet, I won’t say a word to anyone. You get the idea.

I doubt, however, if the slogan refers to that sort of situation. Instead, it is encouraging me to get out of denial about whatever’s going on and face reality.

Sounds like pretty decent advice to me.

What do you think? Are secrets a problem for you? Have you had others tell your secrets? Tell us about it in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered



Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by katerha

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