Men in our society — and especially men who struggle with alcoholism and addiction — are trained to “tough it out” or “man up” or similar archaic nonsense. Because of the subculture surrounding abusive drinking and drug use, men are not allowed to have feelings, get close to people, or open up. Men are told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that they cannot be themselves. It isn’t masculine to have emotions. It’s not manly to have close male friends — we can only have “bros” and “dudes” that we “hang” or “chill” with. We’re not supposed to have close companions with whom we can share our hopes, fears, and dreams. And as far as relationships and significant others go, forget about it. We can’t tell a person who we’re dating that we have fears, or they’ll never see us as manly again.
Thank heavens these ridiculous and destructive attitudes are slowly crumbling. No one wants to date a stoic robot without feelings. No one really wants to date a blubbering mess either. Can’t we find a balance? Wouldn’t that be a better marker for our male fitness? A balance of strong and open-hearted takes more bravery than bottling everything up inside. However, that is one of the most common messages transmitted to men — not only from society but far too often, from man to man. How often have we told a friend to just “suck it up” or “walk it off” when they are hurting? We too easily perpetuate the very societal pressures that are killing us on ourselves and other men. But we can change that.
Be Your True Self Without Fear
There’s nothing wrong with being the strong, silent type. There’s nothing wrong with being whatever kind of man you are. There’s also nothing wrong with having feelings, being close with other people, or allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to experience intimacy. Strength and toughness are great qualities that will serve you well. But they aren’t the only ones you’ll need, nor are they enough on their own. It takes a confident and brave man to be vulnerable and open. We must have trust in the people we open up to. Trust is forged in a similar way as intimacy, and both are beautiful elements of the human experience.
When we keep so much of ourselves inside, when we hide and bury so much of who we honestly are, not only do we die slowly on the inside, but we deprive the people around us of the fullness of our company. Maybe those close to us would benefit greatly from our sharing how we feel or working to become even closer to them. Maybe our closest friend would be honored by our confiding in them — maybe it would even boost their own self-esteem or confidence. Maybe our partner is longing for an open conversation with the real us they see hiding beneath the surface. Maybe opening up to them would make them happy and allow them to feel secure and comfortable with us. We will never know as long as we shy away from intimacy.
That’s the conundrum, isn’t it? The fear of intimacy is what really drives us to keep people at a distance. But we are told it’s simply because “men don’t let people in, men don’t open up to people.” Those corrosive stereotypes are driven by fear. What could make us feel stronger than conquering and facing our fears? That’s truly powerful — to admit a fear and then get with our sponsor and our higher power and face that fear down with 12-Step work and action.
Why Men Need Intimacy
Intimacy between men is not only a misunderstood necessity for men who wish to remain in recovery long-term, it is also a vital and often missing piece of being a whole, healthy man. We need the experience-driven guidance of men who have gone before us. We need honest and open dialogue with our sponsor. We need trusted male companions with whom we can learn and grow and share. If we avoid these things because “that’s just not what men do,” we risk never becoming fully-realized men. We risk never growing to our full potential, never understanding or accepting who we really are, and never getting to share it with a world that just needs us to be our best selves. What a shame to miss out on the fullness of experiencing our lifetime because of an outdated idea of masculinity.
Intimacy with a romantic partner can make us feel even more vulnerable. We want them to only see the best of us — the version of ourselves that we wish we were. So we hide the parts we don’t like and act only how we think they want us to. Soon, they notice that we aren’t being genuine or authentic. They begin to feel as though they’re really alone when they’re with us, and nobody wants to feel like that. One of the biggest fears hidden within the fear of intimacy is the fear that if anybody really gets to know us, they’ll find out we’re not good enough and they’ll leave us. We’d rather live a lie than be alone. But the converse is true — if we open up and strive to be our most authentic self, we stand a good chance of discovering someone who will accept us for who we really are and love us even more for it. In fact, we already see how great this can be with the men who surround us in our recovery community at Jaywalker Lodge. If it works so well here, it can only have good results in our romantic life.
Do the Work
Intimacy, like everything, takes practice and work. And just like most things, the guide for getting started can be found already woven into 12-Step work. As we learn how to be fearless, honest, and open with our sponsor, and as we grow close to the men recovering side-by-side with us at Jaywalker Lodge, we practice intimacy that we can carry into every important relationship in our lives. If we let fear hold us back, we are cutting ourselves off from the fullness and beauty available to us in a life in recovery.
Men are often taught by culture to keep their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles to themselves. This can be even more true for men who suffer from alcoholism and addiction. It isn’t a weakness to ask for help — nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it takes great courage to face your fears and ask for help. And when you do, Jaywalker Lodge will be there. If you are struggling to achieve or maintain long-term sobriety on your own but earnestly want to, don’t hold back anymore. We are men like you, we know your struggle, and we are ready to help.
Call us now at (866) 529-9255.
As Chief Executive Officer Bill provides leadership and manage all day-to-day operations of Jaywalker Lodge, an extended care residential addiction treatment program for adult men.