Recovery Asks Us to Become Vulnerable
In our addiction to drugs or alcohol, we were dishonest with the people who love us the most. We locked away our true selves. We did everything we could to prove to the world that we had it all together. We knew our lives were falling apart. But, we were simply unwilling to run the risk of getting honest and vulnerable. We were afraid of what might happen if we admitted to others (and to ourselves) that we needed help.
The first big step we made in our recovery was an earnest admission of our situation. We were honest with ourselves and we were truthful with others. We reached out for help and became willing to get treatment. Little did we know this was only the beginning of an ongoing need for vulnerability in sobriety. Our lives depend on it.
What is Vulnerability?
At first glance, the definition of the word “vulnerable” does nothing to encourage us to put ourselves in a position of vulnerability. Literally, it means “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” and “open to attack or damage.” It’s no wonder the common response to this experience is a big, “No thank you!”
However; vulnerability is an integral aspect of recovery. It is important to recognize this now and begin practicing it in your daily life. In order to reap the many benefits of a sober lifestyle, you simply must be authentic with others to the best of your ability.
Vulnerability is trust in action. We allow ourselves to be raw, uncensored, and open about our personal truths, thoughts, experiences, and fears. We engage in honest, healthy communication. In doing so, we let people get to know the real us. This gives us the opportunity to forge positive, loving relationships.
No longer can we afford to hide who we really are. Addiction is a disease that drives us to isolate from others. In order to experience the fruits of recovery, we simply must practice vulnerability.
Examples of Vulnerability
Sure, with vulnerability comes risk. You may be met with rejection. You might be betrayed by someone you trust. You could have a negative experience with a person you choose to be vulnerable with.
But, as the old saying goes, “Great risks reap great rewards.” Recovery offers the opportunity to form sacred bonds with people who will accompany you on your spiritual 12-Step journey. This includes friends and family members, romantic partners, your sponsor, and your sober support circle.
These relationships have the potential to bring you great joy, companionship, and social support. But, they will not be won without a spirit of openness toward vulnerability. Being vulnerable promotes true intimacy. You cannot experience the full fruits of a relationship unless you are willing to take a risk that you might get hurt.
Here are a few examples of vulnerability:
- Choosing to be completely open and honest with your sponsor at all times
- Sharing in meetings about what is really going on inside
- Making new, sober friends and allowing them to get to know the real you
- Reaching out and asking for help when you need it
- Asking questions when you don’t understand certain aspects of recovery
- Sharing thoughts you may be having about using drugs or alcohol
- Asking someone to stay with you until cravings pass when they arise
- Asking a recovering friend to attend events with where you might be triggered
- Sharing openly about painful feelings
- Being completely transparent on your Fourth Step
These practices may not feel comfortable at first. After months or years of living a guarded life, it may take some time to get used to being so raw. Just remember, recovery is about progress not perfection.
Common Myths About Vulnerability
Becoming vulnerable is scary for most people new to the recovery process. This is very common. Usually, people avoid vulnerability because they believe one of the following myths:
Myth # 1 Vulnerability is a Sign of Weakness
Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes great courage to be authentic with other people. It also requires incredible strength to demonstrate humility and reach out for help. If you ever encounter anyone who rejects you for being vulnerable, it has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you.
Myth # 2 People Will Judge Me if I Demonstrate Vulnerability
Those who are sincerely working a program of recovery have made the choice to practice vulnerability in their own lives. They share honestly in meetings. They are transparent with their sponsor. They reach out to other recovering people and ask for help when they need it. Look for these people. They will respect your willingness to be vulnerable with them and they will do what they can to offer support.
Myth # 3 I Should Be Able to Solve My Own Problems By Myself
Recovery is a “we thing,” NOT a “me thing.” I can’t, but WE can. Everyone (including people who are not living a sober lifestyle) benefits from the support of other people. We are better human beings when we work together with other human beings.
It is easy to get caught up in the trap that we are supposed to be able to handle things on our own. However; countless research studies have shown that isolation can be detrimental to our health. We thrive when we utilize the resources available to us. These resources almost always come in the form of other people. You don’t have to do recovery alone.
How Can Vulnerability Benefit Us in Recovery?
Ongoing, continuous sobriety is contingent upon your willingness to engage in healthy relationships. In these relationships, vulnerability is a must.
Here are just a few ways you will benefit from being vulnerable in your relationships with others:
- You will be offered solutions you could not come up with on your own
- You will feel more connected to the human experience
- You will experience joy in your recovery
- You will get a boost in your confidence when you find that people accept the real you
- You will enjoy real companionship, true intimacy, and healthy relationships
- You will experience a deep sense of personal freedom
- You will have social support
- You will promote your own spiritual health
- You will benefit from working the 12 Steps with a sponsor
- You will be the recipient of compassion, which helps you heal
- You won’t have to fight your battles alone
The list of benefits derived from vulnerability goes on and on. Make the commitment to yourself that you are going to put forth a sincere effort to be authentic in your relationships with others. Reach out for help when you need it. Share honestly about where you are at in your recovery.
It may be uncomfortable at first. But, we believe that with time, you will learn that vulnerability reaps great rewards when you are willing to take the risk.