Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stuck? Maybe This Can Help

This crossed my newsfeed on Facebook this morning, and naturally I shared it with a big "Mmmm Hmmm!" running through my head.

It took me back to what I think is one of the most powerful of the 12 steps, Step Four. When I was in rehab almost four years ago, I can recall the chronic relapsers all admitting this was "the step that takes you back out." It is, in fact, a really tough thing to do--to look at your life, your actions, things you've said and done, things that have happened to you and to assess them HONESTLY. See, we all have a natural tendency to ease our own consciences by excusing behaviors by making up stories or scenarios and convincing ourselves they're true or by trying to push all the blame for our shit onto other people. But at the end of the day, the real question is, did you do this or did you not do this? WHY does not matter in the least. You still did it.

(For me, that was really the first major step towards getting better--that, and accepting the truth that I just can't handle alcohol. I don't have a "stop" button. Period.)

After you own your own story, smudges on the page and all, you can then see where your own actions don't align with your values and examine why you chose to compromise them. For me, I found that a fear of some kind was usually the culprit. Take lying, for example. Some people exaggerate their accomplishments or just make up stuff because they fear people won't think the real them is good enough. Or we lie because we fear some other negative consequence--"so and so will leave me," or "to admit to that is to mean I'm a little sick in the head" or "someone who would do that is selfish," and it can be tough to realize you've been acting out of these fears. Or that sometimes you've been making crap up to keep yourself from facing them head on.

But what I learned in rehab is that even people who'd done some godawful things were still wonderful people. Some kid who'd been a gangbanger and still acted like a punk most of the time was somebody I didn't really care to get to know at first--until one day, a stray dog wandered onto the property and I watched him with the dog. I saw so much love and concern for this helpless creature being expressed by that kid that I saw him with entirely new eyes. I talked with him a few times after that and I realized he was actually okay. He'd just been running with the wrong crowd.

Nobody is a perfect person. So rather than beating up on myself for being a dumbass sometimes, I realized I needed to forgive myself and just STOP doing the things that didn't align with my values. You don't want to be a liar? Don't lie. You think you may have some unresolved emotional issues? Get help. You don't want to be a drunk? Don't drink.

And then self-love and self-esteem will return to you.

Having been to hell and back, see it for what it is: a gift. Forgiving yourself makes it easier to forgive others. Loving yourself makes it easier to love others. You learn that happiness is totally within you and is not a thing someone else can give you or some possession can give you.

You set your mind free.

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