I have always been so guarded with every aspect of myself. Just the prospect of being exposed and having someone see the rawest, most honest version of me has been painful and terrifying to think about.

My earliest memories are associated with the desperate need to be accepted by everyone at any cost, by any means necessary. I worried that if I chose to expose my deepest secrets to the world, people might decide they didn’t like me anymore. Or they might laugh at me, make fun of me, talk about me, or draw their own conclusions about me. The thought of being this vulnerable made every nerve and fiber of my being tingle with anxiety and panic.

My only job as a compulsive overeater is to carry the message to the addict who still suffers. I remember thinking when I first came into program that I would never tell anyone I was involved in a Twelve Step program. In my mind, there was such a stigma attached, and it would potentially affect how someone thought about me. How people thought about me, whether I knew them or not, whether I liked them or not, was my gauge for how I thought about myself.

As I progressed through our program, I told a few people whom I trust unreservedly about my joining OA. In time, I found myself being a little looser with my language. My fears wondered what I was doing. Was I trying to sabotage my progress? Was I trying to garner some sort of distorted approval from people? Or was I trying to destroy my reputation and respectability?

In reality, taking off the masks that I struggled to keep on for so long actually gave me a level of courage I had never experienced. Giving myself permission to take off the secrecy masks gave me such power, such trust in myself, that I didn’t recognize myself at first. It has taken my involvement in my program to a whole new level. Those masks I wore weighed me down. The darkness of being behind them pressed down on my spirit. I desperately needed the light; I needed to unmask and squint my eyes in the brightness of the day.

Telling my story in its entirety helped me discover something magical. It helped guide me down the path to discover who I truly am. The story I used to tell myself was one of negativity, sadness, and guilt. In giving away my truths, in honesty and vulnerability, I have discovered who I am and who I want to be. I have discovered that I do not need to protect myself from my story anymore.

This discovery is so much stronger and more powerful than any amount of secret I have ever kept. What a gift.

— Mary D

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