Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

Shame and isolation be damned

This is content I created while on a recent trip to Sonoma, CA. I’m not exactly sure what it is: maybe a prologue, perhaps just what’s inside the jacket cover for the book I am working on.

I’m far less interested in where this will land, if anywhere, than that I have actually gotten started. I’ve been thinking about writing a book for awhile, but I’ve been afraid to take the first step, to write the first tentative words and sentences. Isn’t it ironic that a different kind of shame and isolation have surrounded this work?

I got over that fear by taking a deep breath, saying aloud my invocation I say to the Universe every day and just starting to write.

I‘m sharing it because part of my accountability, my work plan, is to share pieces as they come together. I appreciate critical feedback and thoughts around what you read. Ultimately, this book will only matter if it resonates with others. Thanks, in advance, for your responses. I appreciate them and you.

“Shame and isolation are an insidious combination. And I’ve [rarely met] someone who didn’t wholeheartedly subscribe to it.”

I uttered those sentences when I joined the 4 Sober Chicks on their podcast in 2023. I was referring specifically to the addiction that had lived for so long in my house, but I have come to believe that this feeling, this insidious combination, is not exclusive to addiction. Rather, it is, in so many ways, apparently one of the heartbreaking birth rights of being a human being.

You will come to discover that I am the spouse of a smiling, happy alcoholic in recovery. You will also come to discover that I had my own recovery to trudge through; have my own recoveries that I am trudging through.

“To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in his life except the impulse to simply soldier on.” Geoffrey Chaucer, A Knight’s Tale

The slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk.

Yes, I am intimately acquainted with trudging. And I’m betting you are, too.

This book is a hybrid combination of memoir, winding paths and insight gleaned from walking and talking to others trudging along, plus the invitation to explore the work of (re)Discovering Your Spark so you can move beyond your current state.

Regardless the weight of the burdens you are carrying right now, hear me–believe me–when I say you are not alone.

Shame at what’s weighing you down breeds an almost frenzied desire to isolate. Mustn’t be discovered by everyone else, by anyone else—no one will understand what you’re going through; shame convinces you that you are the only person who has “failed” in this way, fallen down or been dragged down by someone else. Isolation, in turn, feeds fully off the stories you continue telling yourself as the shame piles higher and higher, burying you under its massive, crushing layers.

Can you relate when I say that towards the end of my husband’s alcoholism, I was utterly convinced I was the only person who had ever had a spouse tumble, slowly at first but then picking up extraordinary speed, into the rotting lake of alcoholism? How in the world would I even put words to the life we were living behind closed doors since no one else could possibly comprehend it? 

When I would think about saying something, I imagined myself under water, trying to articulate words that others could understand. Masses of bubbles would surround my face, occluding my ability to even pantomime what was going on. 

My “truth” was that everyone else was casually, happily floating in the water, able to breathe, to chat back and forth, to swim comfortably while I was flailing, feeling the weight, tied like a yoke around my neck, dragging me down.

And so, rather than reach out, rather than explore if anyone else would understand, I made myself as small as I possibly could, I retreated where I could. I tried to control every moment of our lives so that nobody would discover the yoke.

And I continued to sink, shame-filled and isolated.

Until, on February 1, 2017, the Universe gave us the incredible gift of a 14+-hour nosebleed that began a new journey for us, both as individuals and as a couple.

This new journey had plenty of trudging miles to it, but there were also segments of the path that offered the tiniest bits of hope. Crossroads where I met others who not only understood my pantomimes and watery language but who guided me to the surface where I could take a deep breath and slowly begin to express my thoughts and words.

And now I’m sharing this with you because I want to gift you the opportunity to remove your own yoke, to swim to the surface and take a cool, cleansing, life-affirming breath of fresh air. To step out from the shame and isolation you are experiencing. There’s much joy and freedom to be found in simply being honest and open with your situation, whatever it is.

You already know how terrible it feels to be mired in shame and isolation, to trudge the lonely path. Why not give a different approach a try?

Let’s begin, shall we?

Photo credit: Tamara Weets, my friend and incredible photographer. 2009.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Michelle Davis

    “The rotting lake of alcoholism.” That is the truest, ugliest description. I can sink myself right under its foul smelling water. Reflecting on that definition of “trudge” also really makes me think. Aren’t we all trudging at one point or another? Your words are so pleasingly strung together. They sing- even if the song is melancholy. I’m eager to read your words as the tune changes to a more joyful symphony. There will be a lot to ‘listen to’ in between.

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