Friday, July 15, 2011

Little Light of Mine

I am amazed at the power of voice.

Think about your darkest secret, the thing that makes you most ashamed.  Now imagine yourself at a podium, speaking about it to a room full of people.  Thousands of people.  Your tiny voice reaching tens of thousands of ears. 

Or think about your proudest moment, something you have overcome or accomplished in your life, and imagine the same podium, the same thousands of eyes and ears fixed on you.

My most shameful secrets and my proudest moments are one and the same.  As time goes on, I'm beginning to understand how our darkest times, our biggest obstacles, can lead to our greatest triumphs.

What I love about blogging is that you don't need validation, experience or approval to put your voice out into the world.  You don't need a publisher, or an established audience, or an agent.  All you need is a computer screen and your voice.

When I started this blog, I was lighting a tiny flame, a little tea light, and setting it adrift on the vast ocean.  I knew the odds that anyone would notice it were slim.  But I also knew that if one person was drawn to my little light, my voice, that would be enough.

Writing openly about my addiction and recovery is the scariest and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I could never have imagined, in my darkest hour, full of secrets and shame, that one day I would be broadcasting my pain to the world.   More importantly, though, I could never have imagined the healing, empathy and peace sharing my voice would bring. 

Every single time I have opened my heart, used the power of voice to reach out, gifts have come my way.  People emerge from the dark unknown to share their own experience, strength and hope, tell their own stories of pain and recovery.  Together our little lights spark a mighty flame, creating a roaring fire for all the world to see.

The light chases away the shame, you see; it drives the shadows of fear, isolation and guilt away.  They can't take purchase, because together we are a force to be reckoned with; a megaphone of hope. 

I am humbled to be an honoree for the BlogHer Voices of the Year for my post, Look.   I didn't know I was nominated, that a good friend had submitted this post for consideration.  When I got the email yesterday saying it was one of 20 honorees in the Life category, I cried tears of gratitude.  And joy.  I get itchy talking about recognition or accomplishment. More often than not I'm on the other side of this, wishing it was my voice that had been recognized, feeling that little twinge of jealousy that I wasn't picked.  And I know, too, that it is all arbitrary; that there are thousands - tens of thousands - amazing voices out there that deserve to be honored, and my voice is just one tiny drop in a sea of talent.

I'm talking about it here, though, because that post is about the worst, most shameful, day of my life.  It happened in 2007, about two months before I finally got sober.  As I lay curled on a stretcher in an emergency room, desperate, sick and forgotten, I wished that I would finally slip away. I couldn't imagine life without alcohol, and I certainly couldn't imagine I would ever overcome the shame and fear I felt that day.

And here I am, only four years later, looking back on that horrible day and feeling gratitude in my heart.  Not because it is recognized as a Voice of the Year, but because I know, now, about the power of voice.  I was stuck, alone, and I had clamped my heart and my mouth shut, determined that nobody could ever, ever know the depths of my worthlessness, my weaknesses, my shame. 

All that changed when I let go of pride and fear, opened my mouth, shared my pain and asked for help.  The power of voice saved my life.

If you are riddled with fear and shame, if your dark secrets are eroding your spirit, your sanity and your soul, there is hope.  Use your voice, light your own little tea light, open your heart.  It doesn't have to be at a podium, or on a blog; the size of the audience doesn't matter.   One is enough. 

Start telling your truth, ask for help.  I promise you that your fears of discovery, of being shunned or discarded, are only one piece of a broader picture, an unknown future that is full of grace and hope. 

Find one safe person, and start talking.

Use your voice.  Your little light could start a mighty flame.


  1. Several months ago, I blogged about my relationship with my family, specifically, my mother. I had walked around with it for so long, and putting it out there had such a lifting feeling. Even better, when I shared the post with extended family and friends, I recieved an outpouring of support that continues to validate to this day. Talking about it really has done so much to heal me and move me forward in my life.

  2. This is so true. I had secrets. Not drinking secrets but money ones. They ate away at me, harmed relationships because I was so afraid and ashamed to talk about it that I just closed up. Finally, I found people I trusted enough to talk about it with, the people I trusted enough to ask for help. It was like the world opened back up again, and nothing was as horrible as I had thought. It was and is a beautiful thing.

  3. Just read the post, How wonderful that you are being recognized for all you do and that wonderful post. Keep doing it Ellie, I love being in your light!!

    Thinking of you!!

  4. well deserved. very very well deserved.

  5. Ellie,

    You so deserve this for all you have given to others. Enjoy it!


  6. Ellie,

    I read this yesterday, and it was exactly what I needed. I did Step 5 this afternoon, and I was really nervous. You helped me. Thank you.

    :) Leslie

  7. Ellie: Congrat's on the nomination and recognition of the power of your blog's. While I don't disagree with your heading "The Power of Voice" I would probably said "The Power of the Internet" as it has enabled your voice to reach some many of us..and we are gratful.

    Maple Leaf

  8. Whoohooo, it's awesome to see the prgress in you life. Opening up is frightening, it is more our style to brush it all under the rug and let it fester. I'm so proud of you and in awe of your sharing!!!
    Well deserved Ellie.

  9. congrats, my friend. it's so deserved.

  10. Congratulations on your nomination - well deserved! "Look" was one of the first things I read when I started reading your blog and it made me cry, because that could easily be me. You are changing lives, Ellie.

  11. You deserve all this and more. Love to you!