Pema Chodron writes, in When Things Fall Apart, “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.“
My goal is to stop harming myself. Which means taking a good, hard look at who I really am. That can’t be done while marinating in alcohol, but I tried! I read oh so many spiritual books like this while drinking. I’d play the sophisticated intellectual, journaling and ruminating, while sipping (fine, chugging) wine.
Then I took the first step and broke up with alcohol, the most toxic relationship I ever had (and ladies, that’s saying something). I had to. I couldn’t see anything clearly. A surreal life, seen through a hazy veil.
Then I gave myself the gift of not pressuring myself too much to change things instantly, to just mother myself. I am a compassionate parent; I would literally tell myself to pretend I was one of my kids and treat myself with the same care. Just not drinking is a really good start and it’s ok to be proud of that. I took time away from kids to take long baths and go to yoga and eat bags of candy. They were annoyed, but I told them I needed to take care of myself and stay sober. Enough of playing martyr in the day, and drunk at night.
I was like a baby foal, wobbly and uncertain. That’s pretty uncomfortable for a controlling bossy pants. But I didn’t force myself to be a high functioning saint. I took a lot of naps and “wasted” a lot of time. I needed to adjust.
I also regularly attended recovery meetings, which put me right in the middle of people not drinking, or trying.
I forgave myself.
Then, gently, I started getting honest about which of my thoughts and actions were toxic to me AND those that I could be proud of.
A tricky one was (still is) getting my self-esteem from external sources. Like, someone would praise me and I’d feel good about myself. Until someone else criticized or rejected me. And then I’d loathe myself. It’s getting better. Because I’m shining a light in the dark corners and that alone makes them less scary, takes away their power. Now when I’m struggling I just face it. Head on. I’m not fearless, but I’m not going to wait for my internal faults and external triggers to ambush me.
Gentleness and honesty help me love me, even in the moments other people aren’t that into me. It gets better all the time. And today, that’s more than enough.