If a photo is worth a thousand words, the picture I posted on Instagram earlier this week said "Hey, if you already knew I was an alcoholic, here's the uncomfortable proof that I recently had a relapse, but I'm back on the road to recovery, and if you didn't know I was an alcoholic, well, surprise! This is probably a little awkward for both of us."
Okay, actually that's only forty-eight words, but the point is that a simple photo of a one-month sobriety chip was a lot more than a collection of colored pixels. It was a message of perseverance, of acceptance -- a confession and a statement of hope. It was also what I suppose plenty of people would call an overshare.
As in, TOO MUCH INFORMAAAA-TION. There was a whole Wall Street Journal article a while back on oversharing, with quotes like "What triggers people to reveal too much?" and theories as to why our ability to self-regulate so frequently falls apart on social media:
We often regret our disclosures, feel like an idiot—and then worry even more about what the listener is thinking. We may feel compelled to "fix" the situation, leading to—you guessed it—even more blabbing. It's a cruel downward spiral.
I get what they're saying, I guess, but I don't know if there can be such a thing as a concrete definition of an overshare. Was it too personal -- too revealing, too embarrassing -- to post an image that made my troubles with alcohol public knowledge? Well, not for me it wasn't.
I've learned that a critical part of my recovery is being open and honest about my problems. I write about my setbacks and recovery in my blog, and while I don't spend every day posting Instagram photos that document my process, sharing that one simple image was incredibly powerful. The outpouring of support reminded me that there are hundreds of people in my corner, and I can feel that energy, even through a phone or computer screen. Step 2 in AA talks about "coming to believe that a power greater than ourselves." I am not a spiritual person, but it's not a stretch to believe that the people rooting for me -- friends, family, faceless Internet voices -- are, in fact, a higher power.
Talking online isn't my only outlet, of course. I go to meetings, I see a counselor once a week. But I cannot adequately state how valuable it's been to also share some of my painful secrets online. Even here, in this article. It's true that there are times when I feel an internal cringe, and think, oh god, now so-and-so knows this about me. Then eventually the relief comes: thank god it's out in the open. The shame of hiding my not-so-picture-perfect truth is gone. With the click of a button, I'm unburdened. The exhaustion of protecting my vulnerability is gone. I'm free.
Have you ever shared a difficult confession online? Was it a positive experience?
Image via Linda Sharps