A Deep, Dark Secret
I did it. I finally confessed my deep, dark secret.
When I committed the shameful act years ago I immediately swore to myself that I would never tell a soul what I had done. I buried it and tried to forget it.
But over the years the secret has weighed on me. I did a pretty good job of forgetting for a while, but it found ways of surfacing and lately I wasn’t able to push it back down.
It got to the point that I was unable to focus on other things. I was in a constant bad mood. And every time I remembered why I was in a bad mood that feeling of dread would engulf me. I had to confess.
But when? How much longer could I hold off?
And then I listened to a recent episode of Armchair Expert. Host Dax Shepard was 16 years sober when he recently started abusing pain medication. In the episode, Shepard confessed to his audience about the lies he was telling his loved ones for months. Like me, he was living with a deep, dark secret. And Shepherd had a message for his listeners:
“The only thing I would hope people would hear is that, at least in my case, the outcome wasn’t anything like I feared it would be, and the secrets are so much more painful than whatever the fallout from owning my secrets was.”
I could not go on living with this secret. I had to confess. Like, immediately.
First I told my husband. We share everything with each other but I’ve always been too humiliated to bring this up. I also knew that once I told him, I would have to then confess to my friend Amy, the person I had wronged all those years ago.
Saying the thing out loud, even to my husband, was extremely difficult. First I told him I was struggling with something, and then I started to cry. Of course this worried him. I tried my best to preface it by saying that nothing was wrong and everything was okay, but I still couldn’t get the words out. I wish there was a better way of confessing so as not to panic Sam, but speaking the truth out loud to another person made my secret no longer a secret. I was terrified of the consequences.
I waited until the next day to call Amy. My heart was racing and I couldn’t believe I was actually going to tell her the truth after all these years.
I was already crying so I did the same thing I did with Sam and prefaced it by saying nothing was wrong. She asked if SHE had done something wrong.
I laughed guiltily. As if.
I took a deep breath and finally said the thing out loud:
“Do you remember a few years ago when you texted me and asked if I had seen your adderall?”
“Well the night before, when I was drunk, I took your bottle. I stole it.”
“And that wasn’t the first offense. Over the years I probably stole one or two pills from you like 20 times.”
And there it was. My gross, scumbag secret. I never thought of myself as an addict, but stealing my friend’s pills numerous times sure seems like an addict move.
On a scale of 1 to 10 - 1 being Amy hangs up the phone and never speaks to me again, 10 being Amy is the most understanding and loving human being on the planet - Amy reacted with an 11.
“Oh, Honey. I’m so sorry this has been weighing you down all these years. It’s okay. It’s totally fine.”
Amy proceeded to tell me how proud she was of me for how far I’ve come and how our 20s are a rough time (I was in my 30s) and how if she didn’t have a prescription, she could imagine herself in a similar position and then she laughed and said, “I probably didn’t need to be taking them, anyway.”
It wasn’t just the secret all these years I didn’t want people to know. It was that I didn’t want people to find out who I really was.
But confessing made me realize that one act doesn’t define my identity. I’m not a derelict addict who sneaks pills. I’m just a person who was struggling. I was unhappy in many ways and didn’t have the tools or support to handle things in a healthy way.
The moral of this story is not that holding on to a deep, dark secret is more harmful than the secret itself - although that’s true, too. The moral of this story is that when you surround yourself with people who lift you up, who encourage personal growth, who see your faults and love you anyway - you can find the courage to be honest and forthcoming because you will feel safe.
Admitting I had done something wrong was scary, but lying to my loved ones felt impossible. By surrounding myself with people like Sam and Amy I want to be a better person every day.
So find your people. Admit your wrongs. And free yourself from the weight of deep, dark secrets.