By Rose Lockinger
Like many addicts, I was not a fan of myself, in fact I hated myself when I first got sober.g. I don’t know if there was ever a time when I liked myself, at best I spent years tolerating the person I had become. After years of addiction though it was not that I just did not like myself anymore I loathed myself. In treatment for the first time in a long time I had to face and feel my feelings.
I had a long laundry list of traits I felt needed improvement or frankly that I despised; I didn’t like my body, I had an especially vitriolic hatred for my thighs, my lackluster accomplishments, or list of expectations I had failed to meet, my lengthy list of failures, my red hair, or pale skin. Insecure and socially awkward I carried with me this feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin on a regular basis. I enviously watched other as they seemed to float through life always knowing what to do, and how to handle situations, while I watched overwhelmed at times by the simplest decisions. It was exhausting, and it left me full of anxiety and fear of my life and any changes that occurred. It was soul draining.
When I got into recovery it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me. Now I could get my life back. I could live normally and be happy. In many ways, this was true, right from the beginning. It surprised me how quickly I was able to start piecing things back together. Like a piece of broken pottery I was glueing my life back together. Unfortunately, my self-esteem and confidence seemed shattered beyond repair.
My Lack Of Self-Acceptance Was Driving Me And Everyone Else Crazy
While I felt good about my sobriety and life was getting better, my issues with myself seemed to be getting worse. Now that I was able to feel again, everything got under my skin. At times it felt like I would never reach a point of contentment much less peace. It was hard for me to accept that even though on the outside my life was great and it had vastly improved since I got sober. On the inside I was finally having to accept the fact that maybe I actually did deserve a good life and that maybe just maybe I myself was a good person. The problem was that if I was a good person then I had to accept that I was worth something. I could no longer escape into the role I knew well of failure.
Because I viewed myself in such a negative light, my attitude toward others began to suffer. I was short-tempered and as critical of others as I was of myself.
How The Twelve Step Program Changed The Way I Felt About Who I Was
What I needed at this moment was an intervention. My sponsor did this. She reminded me of how hard I had been working reminded me that right now I was going through “growing pains” and that as long as I kept focusing on my recovery, things would get better. And they have. Over time, I began to experience increasing self-acceptance, and I began to really love me. Those early months were just me trying to deal with myself clean and sober. I no longer had drugs or alcohol to mask my feelings, or to distract me. I had suddenly been hit with reality, and I was feeling the consequences of years of using and treating myself badly.
As I progressed in my recovery, things eased up. Here are some of the actions I took that helped me finally feel that love and acceptance and get some peace in my life.
Meetings And Support
I attended a lot of meetings, especially early on. Meetings where my escape. In a meeting I had peace of mind. The million thoughts that swirled around in my head were quiet for that hour. Most people that attended were sincere in their pursuit of recovery and sobriety, not to say there were not the naysayers or the court ordered there were those, too. It wasn’t just the fact that I could share frankly and honestly about the way I was feeling or what was going on in my life. It was that while listening to others I got a vacation from myself, and what was going on in my life. I also to hear what other people did with their feelings or how they handled facing life. Probably the best part was realizing that I was not alone! Meetings are a great way to get support, and give it, too. Meetings help you avoid isolation and loneliness, and offer encouragement and reality checks when you are getting off track.
Working With A Sponsor
My sponsor had a lot of suggestions for helping me increase my self-love and acceptance. She talked to me about “esteemable acts” and good self-care. I had always assumed that the way I felt about myself was largely dependent on how others felt about me. This wasn’t the case, however. I learned that how I treated myself had a way bigger impact than I realized. Who knew? I never really understood how powerful my own actions were when it came to the way I felt about myself.
She gave me some suggestions on self-care that really helped. Like affirmations yeah I was thinking are you kidding me you want me to tell myself cheesy one liners and that is supposed to make me feel better about myself-Seriously! But you know it really helped and soon I started to realize it was actually working. Make a list and say them everyday out loud while looking in the mirror. When I took time each day to treat myself with kindness, compassion and care, my self-esteem grew. I did these things daily, regardless of how I was feeling about myself.
Working The Steps
Stepwork is a big piece of the puzzle. Working each of the steps brought me closer to acceptance. Learning how to let go, doing an inventory, looking at my defects and making my amends were all instrumental.
What It’s Like Today
I haven’t exactly achieved perfect self-love or acceptance, but I’ve come a long way. One of the many benefits of my increased self-love can be seen in the way I treat others. I accept others for who they are, because I can accept and love myself. I don’t stand in judgement of myself. I have a patience and understanding that I never thought would be possible. Let’s be clear though that is not always the case. I have my days but now I have the ability to accept responsibility for my actions and start over when I make a mistake. Making an amends if it’s needed.
Today I take care of myself and this reflects in my actions and the words I speak to others and myself. With this I have developed a trust again in myself. I know that I have the ability to make the right choice or decision. This makes me more confident and decisive, which helps me in all areas of my life. .
What are esteemable acts? My sponsor taught me that when I do the next right thing, even when it’s uncomfortable, it helps me increase my self-esteem. The other thing is that when I follow through with what I say I will do. I am accountable for my life. Sometimes it just comes down to doing little things. Like making my bed in the morning or paying a bill on time. Putting money in my savings account, keeping my appointments and keeping my word. When I handle my personal affairs, it makes me feel better about myself. When I do the little things, it builds up my confidence to do the big things, like confronting a person who isn’t treating me well, or telling someone the truth even when I know it means hurt feelings or that the other person may get upset with me. As long as it’s done correctly and considerately on my end. This helps me not fall into the trap of self berating which leads to low self esteem.
A lot of times, people underestimate their own ability to improve the way they feel about themselves. It’s common for addicts to rely on outside sources for our self-esteem and confidence, whether it be via substances, people or outside things like money or attention. But, it truly is all about how you feel inside, and you have the power to change that with the help of the 12 steps and recovery.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.