I had the great fortune of seeing Brené Brown give a lecture last night. If you haven’t seen her TED talk on vulnerability, drop everything you’re doing and watch it now. I watched that talk for the first time in the first week of my sobriety.
One of the things I took away from last night is an understanding of why the steps work. She talks a lot about how to live wholeheartedly. People who live wholeheartedly have:
- a strong sense of worthiness and belonging
- the courage to be imperfect
- compassion for themselves as well as others
- the ability to connect deeply with others, which requires being authentic and real
- vulnerability, an openness to what life offers without expecting a guarantee
For those of us born without the manual, 12-step programs are the blueprint of how to get these. I didn’t know how to connect with anyone, so how could I ever feel like I belonged? I spent a good deal of my life trying to be perfect, and as a result judged myself and others mercilessly. If I’m trying to be perfect, I’m not being honest. And vulnerability, well I was incapable of being vulnerable because I always had a laundry list of expectations.
My husband came with me to the lecture, and we both left inspired to be more vulnerable. Nevertheless, we got in a fight about sex last night. I think at the crux of it is that we both have an expectation, and are afraid to give unless we are able to get what we want. We’re both alcoholics. There is a sex inventory for a reason. There is a fair amount of wreckage for us in this department. I feel used, he feels rejected and there we are desperately trying to coerce, bully, shame each other into fulfilling expectations. It’s painful.
Arguments exhaust me. We were in bed talking ourselves into a black hole of misery, and I was quickly losing consciousness. So, I decided to act instead. It’s weird because writing this is bringing up some shame for me. It shouldn’t be a big deal to have sex with your husband. But it is. I guess I just reached the point where I saw that the thinking wasn’t working. The program has taught me that the only remedy for thinking is acting. I set my agenda, my desire to be right, my need to be understood and my past hurts aside and attempted to make him feel loved.
That’s vulnerability. To give of yourself without knowing what you’ll get back. Before I’m going to be vulnerable, I have the feeling of wanting to crawl out of my own skin. Usually that discomfort is what sends me into action. I think previously I just drank and ate it away. Now that I am sober and trying to avoid numbing out with food, I’m unable to sit in that discomfort for long. I just can’t do it. So I act, and things get better. I’ve also found it to be true that the worse I’m feeling beforehand, the bigger the payoff is on the other side. My goal is to keep trying to lean into those feelings and experiences. I want to walk through and come out stronger, so that one day I can help someone else do the same.