Ive got a story to share with my LPSG family, and I hope its one that reminds you all of the positive change that the joint efforts of the people at this wonderful corner of the web can help bring about. Grab a soda---this is a bit long. One of the reasons I hang around here is as a personal experiment in openness. Ive always been notoriously secretivejovial, compassionate, and giving but also very good at keeping a lot of myself hidden from view. Growing up in an alcoholic family taught me a number of behaviors like that, so having a public persona that concealed the reality of things was a natural way of life for us. This ability to compartmentalize my life (work, family, friends, school, relationships) has spared me having to explain myself now and then but has sabotaged my ability to develop true, lasting, deep relationships, particularly romantic ones. This year, however, Im making a change. In my time here at LPSG, Ive struggled to be completely honest and candid, even when it has made me feel incredibly exposed to do so, and while there have certainly been times Ive felt betrayed or judged over it, the overall experience has been positive, giving me the strength to begin tearing down some of those walls in my personal life. Ive posted things here that no one else in my life knows about, and while thats been immensely uncomfortable for me, it has also been exhilarating, and that has allowed me to starting a process for positive change in my personal life as well. For example, in recent weeks I had been playing with the idea of telling a close family member about my struggle with alcoholism. (A couple of my friends here have already heard this story and the support and encouragement I received from them has made the journey easier for me. Thanks guys! :hug My niece and I have always been close. I was a late arrival to the family, and so I grew up with my nephews and nieces (some of whom are older than I) as my peer group--they are more like my siblings than my actual brothers and sister are. This niece and I are close in age and have always shared a lot in common, including a regular commiseration over the devastation that alcoholism has wrought in our family tree. Her father (my brother) and her two siblings are all nearly lost to it, so it is of particular significance in her daily life. Yet, with all weve shared and all that we know of one another that others do not, she had no idea that I was nearly swallowed up by alcohol abuse myself several years back (almost 17 years sober now). One big reason why Ive considered sharing my own recovery process with her is that she has had a particularly terrible year and could potentially benefit from knowing that we all have our moments when we need help. She suffered a miscarriage this summer, and it has really thrown her for a loop. Looking for ways to blame herself, shes wondering if she did something wrong or could have prevented it and is now dealing with panic attacks and is on medication to control them. She has begun seeing a psychiatrist to try to begin dealing with the problem and shes just terrified. She tries to defuse her worries by joking that shes crazy but I think that does more harm than good. At any rate, I thought it might do her good to know that even the strongest among us can (and have) benefited from the help of a counselor, so I resolved to tell her my tale. Wed set up to have lunch together and I was going to tell her then, but she had a flat tire at work, suffered another panic attack, and had to go home to bed. (Taking a scary peek here into the Paranoid Mind of Steveyes, I know its silly, but my mind immediately leapt to the feeling that Id already been judged and rejected, even before Id unveiled the terrible truththat somehow she had known what I was going to say and was discarding me for being flawed. Logically, I knew better, but that feeling was hard to dismiss for a few minutes.) So we rescheduled for the weekend as I struggled not to chicken out. We went for a long walk and shared the whole mess, and let me tell you it was one of the most liberating experiences Ive ever had. Im still, two weeks later, feeling the euphoria of it all. Im not sure if and when Ill tell anyone else (because, lets face it, many would judge me for it, either out of trying to take an interpersonal shortcut and write me off as flawed or because they dont understand that by going through a real recovery process and making a positive change in ourselves, we become stronger, better, more fully realized people--and really, I fucking DARE the average, lazy, self-satisfied person to presume to tell me otherwise). But if I never tell another living soul in my personal, face-to-face circle, I hope that this one revelation did some good for someone else (it did for me). She says it has made her feel better about her own struggles and given her a new willingness to give therapy a try. I highly recommend unburdening yourself of those dark secrets. Anyway, I wanted to share this story to thank those here who have provided me with encouragement over the course of my tenure here and as an example of how a patient ear, kind words of support, and a willingness to share our own stories and details (even when its painful to do so) can have positive repercussions for other members. (So, remind me again why we sometimes end up attacking and belittling one another? ) Thanks guys! You're the best!