Practicing vulnerability runs counter to our "terminally hip and fatally cool" self-image. Our instincts still tell us to hide any hint of frailty for fear that others will take advantage of us. It takes a conscious decision to drop the defenses that once kept us safe. We choose to share our pain with others, taking risks in defiance of diseased thinking and deeply rooted behavior.
Our willingness to trust the process increases over time. We may confide some of our darkest secrets to new friends in recovery even before we write an inventory. We notice that practicing vulnerability brings us closer to others.
Although legend has it that a member once shared their inventory with a taxi driver, we'd be hard-pressed to find someone who unloaded their Fifth Step on someone besides their sponsor. By the time we get to Step Five, we've grown to rely on our sponsor for good guidance and have learned to trust that what we share will be held in confidence. Perhaps most importantly, our sponsors don't judge us or condemn our behavior—we do enough of that ourselves. Rather, sponsors try to help us work through our shame and embarrassment and move into acceptance.
We reflect on how we've opened up over time and realize the benefits of practicing vulnerability. Experience emboldens us to meet our fears head-on. We're free to be real and raw and vulnerable in meetings. We come to realize the walls we built to keep us safe kept us imprisoned. We aspire to build our relationships on a foundation of trust, honesty, and openness.
When we share from our hearts, others meet us there. Our sponsees, friends, and partners open up to us, and the value of vulnerability is reinforced. Experience confirms that we can feel vulnerable without shutting down. As one addict put it, "Vulnerability is like a super- strength adhesive. It bonds us together like nothing else."