Shame and vulnerability


I visited a friend today, one of the mums that I used to drink with at play-dates. It’s all the rage now, play-dates sozzled in wine. This seems to be socially acceptable… in the circles I moved in at least. Since I got sober I’ve realised that my circles may have been limited to people that like to get plastered all the time, addicts like hanging out with other addicts, who would have thought? We used to crack open the Prosecco after the school run on a Friday and thought nothing of drinking the night away.

This is the friend that inadvertently helped me reach my rock bottom moment so in a way she sort of saved my life. This may sound melodramatic but I wholeheartedly believe it to be true. Our friendship was for the most part based on the mutual love of getting drunk. I knew in my heart of hearts that the dynamic would change and that the friendship would probably just fizzle out on it’s own. The thing is I didn’t want her to feel as though I was rejecting her because she is addicted to booze. I also wanted to keep channels of communication open so that if she ever felt like talking to someone about her problem she can talk to me. I never had anyone to talk to in real life because I don’t know anyone that is in recovery from addiction.

Back to my friend… She asked me to go around for coffee today. The atmosphere was strained and I didn’t really feel like we connected. She kept asking me if I’m STILL not drinking and also seemed quite uninterested in my answers as she kept looking at her phone.

She started telling me about an incident where she got really drunk and was talking about ‘the switch’. I think most folks with a drink problem will instantly know what ‘the switch’ means. That’s where something clicks in your brain and you aren’t there anymore, usually this is where things go south and you black out. I was saying that I had experienced it many times when she replied under her breath…”I know, at least I was never as bad as you. I mean I’ve been bad but never THAT bad.”

And there it was. The shame. I felt like I was punched in the stomach. The blood drained from my face and my heart sank right into my feet. The fucking intense shame that I thought I had dealt with in the last year just morphed into little fire ants scratching and scurrying around my skull. I was gobsmacked, she thought I was worse than her!?

I made an excuse and left very quickly. I cried all the way home.

After I calmed down I realised that she is obviously in really deep denial and is looking to justify herself by calling me out as the delinquent alcoholic.

Brene Brown calls shame the most powerful master emotion; she says it’s down to the fear that we are not good enough.

The shame is what keeps us stuck in our addiction and I recognise that my friend was trying to protect herself by calling me the one with the problem. I was in deep denial too and hated hanging out with people that threatened my lifestyle. People that didn’t drink enough or didn’t drink like I did made me feel shame about how I drank, because my conscience knew I was self-harming with alcohol.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” ~Brené Brown

Who drank the most is actually irrelevant. There is always someone worse off than us when it comes to alcohol; this is the trouble with the stinky man on park bench alcoholic stereotype. The one who stops is the alcoholic while the one who carries on drinking to oblivion just likes to have a good time…until they are the stinky man on a park bench.

Well, I’m calling bullshit on all of that. I’m also calling bullshit on the shame I felt today, fuck that. I’m not drinking anymore and that is something to be proud of.

As for my friend, my door will be open if she ever wants to talk. I’m going to look after myself and keep clear. Like Byron Katie says “Staying in my own business is a full-time job.”


47 thoughts on “Shame and vulnerability

  1. That sounds like a real nasty encounter, with your friend, and with her projected shame. I am happy to read that you found way to deal. Shame can be so destructive. I experience it often, eventhough it gets less.
    What your friend does is projecting her own shame on others. It is actually an addict trait (which I have practised for years too) to call the kettle black(er). This is how we (i!) keep / kept ourself / myself free of blame; as long as there is somebody worse than I do not have to change. They don’t change either do they? Blahblahblahblah. To me it sounds like your friend feels threatened by your sobriety and wants to hurt you over that. Or, more precise: the addict within feels threatened and wants to hurt you….
    I am happy you found a way to deal with this. Cool, not? Be sober and deal? Instead of drink and hurt. 🙂
    Here are some vids from John Bradshaw on the subject of shame. I personally find him very errr, judgemental in his way of speaking but if you can see through that, what he says on how it works is very informative. Hope it brings you something.

    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very proud of you for rising above it. We’ve all judged ourselves on others and said we weren’t as bad, just normally in our brain not out loud! 🙂 I don’t blame you for having your feelings hurt. Friendships are like waves, they ebb and flow. Seems like now is the time for some distance.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I had pretty much the same experience, friend of 25 years stopped calling after just 4 months of me getting sober. It really hurt but I had to admit that drinking was pretty much all we had in common. I tried to hang on to the friendship, but I just kept getting knocked back and to be honest her drama was too painful to be around. I feel so lucky to be out of all of that, so grateful today to be sober Sx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Awww sweets, I’m sorry you had to deal with that. It sure does sting, doesn’t it? It’s like a verbal slap in the face, grrr. I think that we will always run into those types of people or situations. I know several and it’s a lot easier for them to point their fingers instead of clapping their hands. Boo on them. We’re awesome 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Love… “calling that bullshit!! You should be proud… You are one of my favorite reads. Day 3 here and shit, being clear and looking after just me… damn right a full time job.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Yeah well she made it easy not to meet with her again, didn’t she?

    Listen…..your true friends won’t care if you drink because who you are is enough for them. They are friends with the real you and they will support you but they also genuinely Like The Real You that you’ve been drowning in alcohol. They also won’t punch you in the stomach or spear your heart with reminders of every time you made an ass of yourself or blacked out in the effort to build themselves up.

    But a drinking buddy? Well….that’s another story as you found out today.

    See it as an opportunity to work on that compassion and empathy. If you want to stay sober, you’re going to need it. Trust me, we can’t stay sober without it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, I agree with you you that it’s an opportuntity for me to work on compassion. My feelings got hurt but I have to remember that she must be hurting a lot to say something like that in the way she said it. Thank you for stopping by. xxx


  7. wow. It’s late for me and I have so much to say about this post. I feel anger at your friend but actually it’s at all the (friends- not so much) people in my life that I have let use me, make me feel second rate, less then, etc. etc. to enable themselves to justify themselves. What I need to remind myself of is that (normally) it’s not meant maliciously. It’s from denial and not a need to hurt you or me. Thats kind of a by product of their denial. So as hard as it is, in most of these nasty instances I will pray for them. They need it. My shame (what is left of it) needs it as a healing balm. I’m not sure shame ever truly goes away- it seems to lurk under all the gained confidence. Waiting to bring you back to someone you never were. To a place only what you were told by others or your misguided mind. Thank you for bringing shame to the light Hurrah.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Elisabeth. Yes I really felt like I was back where I was last year. So insecure and ashamed of who I am. Its was mortifying. I think I went back there in my mind but I rebounded quickly which means I have made some progress but i think its true what you say these lessons will keep coming along until you you have dealt with it all and I dont know if one lifetime is enough. xxx

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah. One book I found really quite amazing at both shining light on shame and self-judgment as well as releasing it — I don’t know how she does it but it’s sort of shocking — is May Cause Miracles by Gabby Bernstein. Need to go through it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ooh, ouch! That was a harsh one, I’m sorry you had to go through that. It’s admirable that you have the compassion to see the suffering and addicted thoughts that were behind this behaviour despite its horrible effect on you. By feeling the shame that must have been quietly bubbling inside you’ve at least got some up and out, sort of like throwing up but for your mind. You know there’s no judgement or shame necessary here too – just support x

    It is such a laughable concept this idea that the ones who escape from the alcohol trap are the ‘losers’. It takes courage, tenacity, honesty and strength to face life in the raw. What does it take to simply open the next bottle when things get difficult? We’ve all been there and we know it’s just taking the ‘easy’ way out.

    I hope you’re feeling better now, big hugs to you today xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much, yes I’ve actually rebounded quickly wich means I have made some progress in dealing with difficult emotions. Last year this time I would have dealt with something like this by downing two bottles of red and crying my eyes out. Progress not perfection as they say. And yes it takes much badassery (dont know if thats a word but I’ve read it somewhere) to be sober. There really isn’t much courage involved in opening a bottle and chucking it down your throat. x

      Liked by 4 people

  9. I actually just started reading _The Gifts of Imperfection_. Your trip through shame and out the other side sounds right and normal. Not that it doesn’t suck. (I had used to think that my hang-ups are things other than shame, because I don’t experience it under some of the common conditions, but now I see that yes it’s all over in there — most prominently around whether the right, cool (potential) clients think I’m awesome (or not).) You handled it awesomely! Michael Singer talks about welcoming his triggered moments (and he also talks some about the physical cues, like Brown does) as opportunities to evolve and find stillness. I get to that about one time in 100 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love Brene Brown’s books.Welcoming stress into my life is defintiely something to strive for. I think Byron Katie also talks about that. She says that we should welcome stressfull thoughts becasue they are there to wake us up. #goals yo!


  10. I have been guilty of this – albeit mentally rather than verbally. I have often kidded myself that I wasn’t “as bad” as one of my friends (who I honestly ADORE by the way) as she appeared to drink more than me, and often fell over and couldn’t remember getting home etc etc. I always told myself that I was in control (HA!) and not “that bad”. I never said this to her mind you, and I never would, but I have thought it. I realise now that that’s a ridiculous thing to think (let alone say!) and with my sober head on, I know I was totally projecting and trying to make myself feel better about my increasingly heavy consumption. If I went on a night out, the thought of being “the drunkest” terrified me. It still does. My BFF got married and I was “best man”, and the next morning someone said to me, “you were hammered last night”. My stomach still sinks when I think about that, and it was 5 years ago. It’s like the thought of anyone thinking (realising) that I could ever be out of control petrifies me.

    I have previously prided myself on my “massive achievements” of Dryathlons to raise money etc, and always thought “well I can’t have a problem then if I can stay off it for ages, ESPECIALLY when my mate can’t stay off it for more than a day or 2”. HOW ridiculous. As Rachel Black says in Sober is the New Black, nothing screams addicted like trying to prove you’re not.

    I’m rambling – sorry – but I totally get that what your friend said has made you feel really shitty. It would seriously mortify me. But with the obvious caveat that I don’t know her, I really think that her comment was more to make herself feel better than to make you feel bad : ) xx

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for your honesty. Yes we’ve all done it, me included in fact this friend I am talking about WAS the person I thought was worse than me! This is the crux of the problem because as long as we are comparing we are missing the opportunity to stop before we reach the park bench. I’ve also been able to abstain and thought that that meant that I couldnt possibly be an alcoholic. I also thought that as long as I didnt drink every day that that meant I was fine. Then in the last year the addiction ramped up and my withdrawls made it really difficult to deny the issue.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It seems as though that is the name of the game when it comes to drinking. We are all happy to get pissed together and then secretly comparing ourselves with our fellow addicts to see how we stack up. I also did it, ironically this friend I wrote the post about WAS the friend that I thought was worse than me. That came back to bit me on the ass didn’t it. Lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I just love your line “The one who stops is the alcoholic while the one who carries on drinking to oblivion just likes to have a good time…until they are the stinky man on a park bench.” After these past two years of being in this blogging universe, (one year lurking, one year writing) I will never look cross-eyed at someone who has stopped drinking….doesn’t mean they are a full blown alcoholic, just means that they are strong enough to stop damaging themselves!!! It’s the rest who are weak.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, I can’t take credit for the quote…I think Alan car said something to a similar effect in his book, the stinky man on park bench is my little two cents worth… I agree that it shouldn’t need to mean the worst, it can just be a positive lifestyle choice! Why oh why do we have to justify NOT drinking a poison?


  12. Wow, hurrah. Sticky situation you were in. I’ve been in similar ones with colleagues. Functions at bars. “Have a round!” No thanks and move on.

    Occasionally (not often in my case) I get someone who obsesses over my not drinking. I always have to remind myself, or have my sponsor remind me that if someone obsesses over my drinking it is their problem, not mine.

    Best part about this post is that you’re there to help her! If she ever wants help, she knows where to find it.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve been exactly where you were, crying over lost friendships (crying, by the way, is an awesome and necessary way of relieving stress!), but I’ve also been where your ‘friend’ was. I used to love running down drinkers who were ‘worse’ than me. I was horrible!
    The main thing to remember is that the ‘worse’ you were, the more amazing your achievement is now! You can’t blame yourself for the addiction, but you sure as hell can congratulate yourself for knocking it on the head! You rock! SM xxx


    • I do enjoy a good cry every now and then:) Yes we all have someone that is worse, and ironically I thought this friend was my ‘someone’:) Thank you I am getting better at not being so fucking apologetic about all of it. Who am I trying to appease? xxx


  14. I truly believe that this experience says so much more about your friend than you. How many times did we compare ourselves to others to try to convince ourselves that we didn’t have a problem? “I’m not homeless and drinking out of a paper bag on a park bench, I’m not THAT bad!” It sounds a lot like she may need to have a conversation with herself about her own drinking at some point.

    You however, are doing amazing things with your life and while you may feel shame from time to time, like we all do, please know how proud I and so many others, are of you and your journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Good bounce back. Shame is a bitch. I still suffer with it, in deep ways. Not so much about drinking (although I get moments where I say “what the hell were you thinking??”) but about other stuff. BUT, having said that, yes, people naturally will compare themselves to others to bolster their ego-ist idea that they aren’t “that bad”. The lowest of the low can say at least they aren’t dead. And that’s about it, yes? I don’t know, but I like how you turned it around. And clearly it seems your old drinking buddy is trying to get at something…maybe something within and needed a “mirror” of sorts.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Paul, I laughed at the ‘at least they arent dead yet’ comment. Think its time for me to cut my losses with this particular friendship. My intentions were good but I ain’t mother Theresa and I need to protect myself and my sobriety now. xxx


  16. Yes, I have two friends like this. Both don’t like it that I don’t drink anymore and both make me feel like the one with the problem. The thing is our problem is gone, theirs is not and they feel uncomfortable. They know we know it too. You have nothing to be ashamed about and everything to be proud of. I think your friend might decide to stop drinking one day. I hope mine do too, one got badly injured on a big night out and I worry about her a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I do worry about this one, she is very far down the rabbit hole.But I think I need to withdraw here a bit and focus on myself and perhaps try to make some new sober friends. (Where do I find them is the million dollar question)


  17. In Craig Nakken’s book he refers to the personality of your friend as ‘shame based’. Basically that kind of person grows up being shamed by a parent or close loved one. In order to cope they deny their own problem and focus on someone’s else’s. Making that other person feel as though they are far worse than themselves relieves them of any guilt. You got hurt because you allowed yourself to believe what your friend said. As Byron Katie says (and I thank you daily for introducing me to her!) it is only our thoughts that can hurt us. You are far better than that my friend. I would say that this friendship has had its day. Move on and learn from it. At the end of the day it is all we can really do isn’t it! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jenna, thank you for your kind words. I agree this friendship has had its day. Massive lesson learned here. I thought I was being nice to keep this sham of a friendship going so that she can come to me if she needed to talk. That’s actually quite egotistical of me thinking or even presuming she would want to. Thinking that I could save her. To be perfectly honest we were never that close anyway, the only thing that bonded us was the love of alcohol. This whole experience has just brought me back to keeping in my own damn business. xxx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s