By: Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin
From Addict 2 Advocate is thrilled to publish this guest article from Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin. Writing from the perspective of addict, author, and advocate is what makes his writing so authentic.
Addiction: Secrets, Shame, and Slights
Addiction loves secrets, loves, loves, loves secrets! The bigger and darker the secret, the better to feed the addiction. But while the addiction is fed, shame is fueled as well. Shame is a killer just like an addiction; both are very “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” In fact, shame is the core of addiction and self-centeredness is the root.
Guilt and shame do not mean the same thing. In simple terms guilt means how we feel because we do bad, shame is because we think we are bad.
Have you noticed that lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating all seem to go hand in hand with addiction? I wonder how many poor souls die because they are ashamed to let anyone else know the truth about their toxic shame. It’s just so sad to think that disclosing their experiences could have set them free from their addictions.
I remembered going into a recovery meeting approximately thirty-two years ago; grey-haired women said, “You’re only as sick as your secrets!” I thought to myself, what the Hell does that mean? It wasn’t long before I found out!
Do I have secrets? I’m just like you are; yes I do! I believe that everyone has a room behind all the other rooms that no one gets the key to, the inner room of secrets. It has been a long time, but I can remember just like it was yesterday. Ironically I was a blackout drinker, so I don’t remember much about the crazy nights of drinking, but I vividly remember the shame of the days after those nights.
I would be afraid to answer the phone, or look out the window to see if my car was in the driveway. I would hide under the sheets in my bed for days. It was truly like living in a nightmare. When people would tell me what I had done in blackouts,I was mortified!
Did I Really Do That?
The scary thing about being a blackout drinker is whatever someone tells you that you did; you did, whether you did or not. You will never know the truth because of the blackout. It’s like a part or a time of your life will be forever missing. If you have ever had someone video or film you in a blackout, it is horrific!
We protect those deep, dark secrets with everything that we can. The reason that we do is because of shame. Those who have suffered from addiction don’t have the luxury of being able to keep secrets because ultimately it kills them.
Even though the newspapers never say that Sally died from shame today or John was a victim today, plenty of people die because of shame. Think about it!
- Those who are bullied.
- Those who are different.
- Those who think they don’t measure up.
- Those growing up in broken homes.
- Kids and parents who are gay.
- People with mental illness.
- People with addiction problems.
- People who think that they’re weak.
- People who are ashamed.
Secrets breed shame and sickness! I’ve been working in the addiction field for the past two decades and am also an Ordained Reverend. I have heard and seen the damage that secrets and shame can do in the lives of those who don’t find ways to get honest and cope. Just like hurt and fear grow into anger and then resentment and ultimately rage, secrets grow into guilt and shame and then toxic shame. For those of us who have been hurt, it’s hard to trust again but we must.
- We can practice by letting one small secret go.
- Then test the waters and see what happens.
- If all goes well, we can let more secrets go.
Can I Trust You and Tell You What I Did?
We need to be selective who we share with; we don’t need more injury and mistrust. I don’t know that I will ever totally unlock that last door, but I hope I can.
I’ve been sober for nineteen years now; I should be dead.Everyone says that!
No, I should be exactly where I am, alive and writing this article. That’s the God’s honest truth, and the truth sets us free!
There are a few things that I learned over the years that helped me to survive:
- You have to learn to trust again.
- Honesty is crucial.
- It’s important to grow spiritually.
- Meeting makers make it only if they work it.
- “You are only as sick as your secrets!”
- Take more risks.
- Be more open-minded.
- Everyone isn’t out to get me! (Some may be)
- It’s alright just to be me!
I know that so many people have let me down and hurt me in my life, so it’s hard to trust anyone. I’ve had to learn to trust again for my sanity and growth. In addiction, dishonesty is its calling card!
In recovery, honesty is paramount. I’ve heard for decades that the truth sets you free, but you need someone to tell the truth to, so trust and honesty become bookends of faith. For years, I have heard the half-truth that meeting makers make it.
They only will have a chance to make it if they do the footwork. If I keep secrets that leads to shame and shame feeds the addiction. I found out that I don’t always need an umbrella and a lifejacket, and I can try new things and new ways. Not everyone in this World was put here to make my life miserable; there are good, kind people here. I’m not so bad as long as I’m sober!
Ticking Time Bombs
I look at rage and toxic shame as time bombs that are ready to explode at any second without further notice. With rage, it will be external and toxic shame usually internal. We have anger management programs, but we don’t have secret and shame management programs. It is a silent killer. We need solutions. An action plan to trust again. Think of it like this with anger we explode, we shame we implode.
Today I speak all over the country. I’ve been interviewed on several radio talk shows and in written press, published hundreds of times, have a podcast, websites, LinkedIn profile, Facebook, teach and share my story every chance I get.
Why do I do these things? Because what used to cause me shame, I use to help others today.
I have been blessed to wear many hats as a Pastoral Counselor, Reverend, Master coach, Interventionist, Director of a residential facility, domestic violence advocate, anger management practitioner, Associate College Professor, Board Member, Instructor, writer, blogger, sponsor, and much more.
In each of these worlds, I’m able to share the message of hope.
A fourth and fifth step or religious confession can be very freeing! Just letting those secrets go. I have sponsored hundreds of men over the past few decades, and when they finish their fifth step or confess their secrets, it’s amazing to watch the transformation that happen.
Sometimes their faces look completely different; it truly is amazing! You can see with your own eyes that their burden has been lifted and that they have been set free. It’s a true blessing to witness. The truth does lead to healing and freedom.
©2015 Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D.
Learn about Rev. Dr. Kevin T. Coughlin Ph.D., DCC, DDVA, DLC, DD, NCIP, NCAMP, IMAC
Rev. Dr. Coughlin is a Founder and the Director of New Beginning Ministry, Inc. a grassroots evidence based, twelve-step residential addiction recovery program for adults that is accredited by the A.A.C.T. Most call him RevKev.
RevKev is also a Nationally Certified Recovery Coach and Anger Management Specialist, a Nationally Certified Family Recovery Coach, a Nationally Certified Christian Recovery Coach and Family Recovery Coach, and a Nationally Certified Gambling Addiction Coach, Nationally Certified Case Manager, Life Coach, an International Master Addictions Coach, Sexual Addiction Coach, Life Recovery Coach and Trainer.
Dr. Coughlin has helped thousands of people to change their lives over the past seventeen plus years. He is an Addiction Expert, Blogger/Writer at Addicted Minds and VIP Interventions, and a Professional Associate member at Gemini Behavioral Health, Addict2Advocate, The Addictions Academy, Sober Services, and hundreds of small press magazines and newspapers. He is a two-time World Champion and nine time National Champion and State and National Record holder power lifter, a gentle giant who has championed many in his career. His also writes poetry on addiction and Christian subjects, with over 500 published to date.
RevKev’s accomplishments do not stop here, so connect with RevKevon LinkedIn
Writing, and recovery heals the heart