As it turns out, my worst fear was not realized. In fact, courage led to things getting easier, rather than harder. Was it difficult, sure, but as the initial reactions faded, life started to take less energy, and I was able to move on.
If that all seems vague, it is. Allow me to explain.A while back I wrote a piece about driving a stick shift. In it, for those of you who don’t want to take the time to read through another of my posts, I talked about the difficulties of talking to those about whom one cares most when it comes to our deepest shame. I didn’t want to talk to my family because of my fears that they would react negatively.
Nearly a year ago, I started talking to my family about my situation, my struggle with homosexuality, and sex addiction. The conversations were not easy to have. Some of the time I was able to just start talking about it, other times, I would pull up the blog, and let them read the page on why I’m writing all of this. In both types of situations, I was afraid of what was going to happen. I knew that my family loved me, but I didn’t want to test how far that went.
I think the biggest thing that nudged me toward talking to my family was that my therapist mentioned that not only was I using a large amount of energy to keep up the facade that I had built, but that facade kept one of my best sources of support from knowing that I was in need of support. I wasn’t just not asking for help, I was hiding my wounds. As many recoil at the sight of blood, I feared emotional revulsion at the unveiling of my struggle.
My fears were not realized. My family did not disown me, they did not pull away. While some of them did remove me from the pedestal I was on, they just put me on a different one. (apparently people think that fighting a struggle like mine is a mark of strength to have not given up long ago.)
My family had been praying for me before I told them about my experiences, but now they can pray with greater precision. I believe firmly that specific prayers garner specific answers, and now that the issue has been aired, they can pray with greater specificity.
Since I’ve told my family, things have not gotten miraculously easier. It’s still been a struggle over the last year, but some things have changed. When my siblings ask how I’m doing, I can say, I had a relapse two days ago, so I’m still a bit shaky. Just being able to say that, to have that level of authenticity with my siblings is amazing. When my parents go to the temple, I don’t have to come up with an excuse for why I can’t go with them. (or simply avoid any contact with them at all that day, like I did once)
Some of the conversations were very hard, but they were part of the process toward dismantling the DMZ that I had carefully constructed to keep my several lives from intersecting. Just as my therapist claims, “the truth shall make you free, but it’s gonna hurt like hell first.” Sometimes it seemed to hurt more than at others. One of the things that kept the pain bearable was that I knew that truth was the guiding factor in what I was doing. That, combined with a healthy dose of compassion for everyone involved, made it much easier to deal with the bumps along the way.
Now that I’ve been able to become a more authentic version of myself, I’ve been able to share not only my story, but some of the more universal things I’ve learned in my journey. While in most circles I can get away with talking about any topic because I have a penchant for knowing a little bit about everything. In my family, there is no longer any reason to wonder why I know as much as I do about shame, addiction, psychology and all the rest. I can share the books I read with my family, and they in turn can share their thoughts on them with me.
I know that my experience will not be shared by all of the guys out there who have the courage to talk to their families. Not everyone will have a family that will say, “We’re with you all the way.” Some will have parents who for whatever reason will be hostile. Have the courage anyway. While truth is often painful, it is the only option for getting where we want to be.
If you’re thinking about taking that courageous step, but need someone to offer some reassurance, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to be the one cheering you on.