Some of you reading this may be familiar with AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and the 12 Step program. If you’re not, the 12 Step program was created by Bill Wilson and the Oxford group in 1938 to help individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. It has essentially become the building blocks of sobriety.
You may be wondering why I’m mentioning alcoholism as someone who’s been sober my whole life, so I want to tell you a little more about my story, and how I ended up here. Through AA, and through those I’ve loved dearly suffering from addiction, I discovered ACOA: Adult Children Of Alcoholics. Although my search started from wanting to support someone I love, it opened up a door to finally allowing me to explore who I am deep down and heal some of my, very open, wounds.
In January of this year, as I sat on my therapist’s couch during marriage counseling, I had a complete breakdown – and realization. For almost my entire life, I’ve been doing what everyone else said I should do. I’ve been feeling how everyone else said I should feel. My feelings throughout my childhood were constantly invalidated, causing me to fear expressing my actual emotions and desires even well into my adulthood. Especially in my early 20’s, I became someone that I truly didn’t even know (or like). I engaged in behavior that was so far against my morals and values, and continued to get myself into situations and relationships that were extremely unhealthy. I then realized that in order to keep myself “safe”, I needed to mold into the person that someone else needed me to be at that time. I desperately craved normalcy, a family, love, and to be heard. But the only way that I felt I could get that, was by becoming a person that wasn’t actually me.
I tried to convince myself of so many things. Have you ever heard someone say that they “believe their own lies”? I genuinely thought that I could trick myself into believing that I was truly happy, or that I felt a certain way if I just tried hard enough. If I projected this happiness, this family, and this love hard enough..maybe I would actually feel it. And trust me when I tell you: I wanted to. I wanted so badly to feel what everyone else said I should feel in a heterosexual marriage. In fact, I felt extremely ashamed, ungrateful, and guilty for NOT feeling that way. I had everything that people seemingly would want, why was I so unhappy? And as I sat next to my then-husband on that couch, I realized just that: it was what other people wanted. Not what I did. In that moment, I knew that I had become someone to fit into someone else’s life, and not to compliment my own. I made excuses for things that were really important to me, ignored red flags, disregarded my own political beliefs, morals, and feelings about basic human rights for the sole purpose of wanting to be loved and to have a family; to “show the world” that I was happy. But in doing that, I really wasn’t being honest to anyone – or myself.
When I started my divorce process in March, I was also starting the process of truly embracing who I am; promising to never hide parts of myself for the sake of protecting others again.
Since then, I have worked endlessly on becoming a better version of myself, while learning to accept myself for who I really am – which includes what I believe, and what I allow in my life.
Step 8 in the big book is to make a list of all the persons we have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all. While I’ll spare you my (very long) list of people I’ve harmed, I think it’s important to recognize that I understand and take full responsibility for the hurt that I have caused – especially over the last 8 years of my life. I know that in finding myself, I also ruined other people’s lives, and I feel immense regret for that. If I could go back in time and know then what I know now, I would have done things very differently.
Step 9 in the big book is to make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Although I am unable to make amends to some people/previous “family” who have cut off all contact with me, I am including them in this writing. This may seem like a general apology, but my true hope is that by reading this and seeing me now living by my true principles, you will understand.
The first person that I need to make amends to is myself. A bit unorthodox for the 12 Step program, but it’s important that I recognize how I did not align my choices in life with what I really believed, which ultimately caused me a lot of hurt. I lied to myself for years about what I actually felt because I didn’t want to be rejected or abandoned. I just wanted to fit in so badly. I thought at that time I wanted that beautiful family, white picket-fence life that everyone around me put on a pedestal. I kept my mouth shut during conversations when I should have spoken up. I went to religious gatherings/events that made me want to gauge my eyeballs out, just to make someone else and their family “love me”. But were they loving ME at my core? My beliefs? My traumas, or my quirks? No. They were all loving this version of myself that I created for safety. For fitting in. For literally everyone else BUT ME.
I then projected that version of me to over 150,000 people. I spoke words to you, in hopes that I would believe them myself. In all honesty, I didn’t want to get more hate online than I already had been getting for years. So I tried to do absolutely everything in my power to avoid that. So again, I stopped speaking when I should have opened my mouth. I shared things that at the time I really didn’t believe, with the intent of appearing happy and fulfilled. So my second amend is to those of you who followed me: especially from 2018-2021. If you’re still here, you’re probably witnessing a different Manders. While some people are truly happy for me (and I appreciate it) I know there are a lot of you who are confused or angry. Unfortunately, I’ve learned over the years as I’ve grown a following, if I say too much or too little – it doesn’t matter. People will hate me, say things that aren’t true, and believe things that are out of my control. I quite literally almost stayed in a relationship for the sole purpose of being afraid of “what people would think” if it failed.
And that’s how I got here.
I don’t feel that I owe anyone an “explanation” for my life choices right now, but I do feel that I owe apologies for my past. For not living true to myself, and for trying way too long to uphold an image of myself for fear of what others would think if they knew the truth.
Step one in ACOA is saying the words:
“We admitted we were powerless over others and our lives have become unmanageable”
I didn’t want to come out now and say I wasn’t straight because I knew the rumors and untrue accusations that would follow.
I didn’t want to publicly admit that something I thought I wanted, turned out to be not at all what I wanted once I was in it.
And even when I was long out of it, I was still holding on so tightly to the idea that I could change the beliefs of others. I wanted to control the narrative again, in hopes that I wouldn’t be painted as a decietful/spiteful person.
And ultimately, this constant seeking of trying to change everyone’s beliefs about me truly made my life unmanageable.
It’s been 7 months since my marriage ended, reading and hearing things about me that are wildly untrue, and I’m done defending myself. Becuase I’ve realized it doesn’t matter “how” I tell someone something, I truly am powerless over what they will think about it or how they will react. So if me telling you this now makes you think differently of me, or makes you think that I did something I didn’t – that is your belief and I can only hold space in my heart for what I know is true.
And what’s true, is that I’m finally embracing the truest, most authentic ME and I’ve never been happier.
So in honor of National Coming Out Day, Bruce and I made this video to invite you into my heart to see firsthand me breaking down the walls of who I once thought I was, into finally accepting the woman I’ve always been.
The new Manders
Be more predictable
Be less political
Not too original
Keep to tradition, but stay individual
Dirty but washable
Winning but stoppable
All that I’m hearing is you wanna
Make the impossible possible
Is this what you’d all prefer?
Would you like me better if I was still her?
Did she make your mouths water? Ugh
I know the part I’ve played beforeDemi Lovato – Eat Me
I know the shit that I’ve ignored
I know the girl that you adored
She’s dead, it’s time to fucking mourn
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
Dinner’s served, it’s on the floor
I can’t spoon-feed you anymore
You’ll have to eat me as I am