Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Power of a Secret

This is a story that I submitted to CBC’s Canada Writes defining moments. I thought I would share it here as well......

I once had a secret that was so shameful it almost destroyed my health trying to hide it.

I was always on guard, protecting the secret that would surely hurt my family if it saw the light of day. Ever alert, I changed the subject when a conversation got a little too close for comfort. I had ready-made answers in case I was caught off guard with a question. I tried to avoid socializing whenever possible.

There’s a saying that you’re only as sick as your secrets. Mine led me into a bout of depression, gave me high blood pressure, and caused chest pains that sent me to the emergency room.

My secret was changing me. The positive person that I once was had become a hopeless shell of my former self.

Needing to get better, I took a trip. In a new city, in a room full of strangers, I shared my secret. For the first time, I said out loud, “My name is Rose and I am the mother of an addict.”

The sobs came fast and furious until I could no longer speak. With gentle encouragement, I finished my story. Heading home, I felt freer than I had in a long time.  I continued going to support groups.

Over time, I became empowered. I wanted to use my story to help others, but I was gripped by a lifelong fear of public speaking and what others would think of my family if they knew the truth.

I decided that I was just going to do it because no amount of stigma would ever hurt as much as watching my son slowly kill himself with his addiction, knowing that I was powerless.

I was invited to speak to a sociology class at UPEI. I was terrified! I was prepared for the fact that I might pass out in front of the class or not be able to speak at all because of the fear that I had.
Before I went up to the front of the class, I said a little prayer, “Dear God, please let the words that I want to say, and the words that they need to hear, be the words that come out of my mouth.”

I stood at the podium. I looked into the eyes of the students. I felt a calm come over me like I had never experienced before. I was not nervous at all. I knew with every ounce of my being that this was what I was meant to be doing. That defining moment changed my life.

Since then, I’ve spoken publicly many times about our son’s addiction, including interviews with CBC. I also started a blog and write letters to the editor, among other things.

My shameful secret has been replaced by a desire to make a difference for Islanders battling addiction and their families. Through this journey, I have found peace; my son has found recovery; and our family enjoys life again, one day at a time.  

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