This week I am celebrating one year of sobriety. ONE YEAR! It seems crazy that only one year ago I was in a very different place in my life. In some ways, I feel like it was yesterday. There are some feelings and memories that are so fresh, it doesn’t take much to remember them. In other ways, it seems like a lifetime ago. There are some feelings and memories that have been laid to rest, and I feel so disconnected from them.
I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned in the last year in REAL recovery. I’ve been in “recovery” before. I went to a drug treatment center when I was 16. I went to my religious organization’s version of 12 step programs on and off for 3 years. More on than off. And yet, in all of this time, I can recognize I was not in REAL recovery. I knew deep inside that I was longing for something different, something that I wasn’t getting. But I didn’t know what it was. It took some courageous experiences to get to my first 12 step meeting and to embark upon this healing journey.
It’s been hard. And scary. Incredible and frightening. I’ve recognized how much of my life has been driven by fear. I was afraid of this journey and it’s one of the many reasons why it took me so long to get here. I wish I could go back and tell myself how important this journey will be. When I walked into my first 12 step meeting, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I want to go back in time and tell myself so many things. I decided I would write myself a letter. This is the letter I wish I would have had one year ago. So here it goes:
You are embarking on a crazy journey. I’ve compiled a list of things you will learn along the way. Embrace these points and you will heal. Slowly, ever so slowly. But it will happen.
1. It’s going to be HARD. Really hard. Probably the hardest thing you’ve done in your life. You are going to change and grow and the people around you aren’t going to like it. Your change and growth requires something different from them. It might require that they look at their own unhealed parts of themselves. It might bring up fear of abandonment. It will bring up feelings they might not want to look at. The people closest to you will resist your changes. It will change the dynamic of each of your relationships. Stay with it. It’s worth it.
2. Every single relationship you have will change. Some will be for the good. Some people will grow along side you. Some relationships will heal and grow into something you never imagined. Some relationships will deepen and become richer. Other relationships you will find aren’t worth the energy it will take. You will find that in some relationships you bring your representative. You aren’t willing to bring your true self. Those are the relationships that will start to fizzle out over time.
3. You will learn that grieving is a constant in your life. You will learn that you grieve over large and small things in your every day life. You will learn that you grieve expectations you have of yourself and others. You will grieve for the loss of how you hoped things would be. You will grieve over lost friendships. You will grieve for the little girl who lives inside of you. You will grieve for all the ways you have been hurt by others and you will start to grieve for the ways you are learning that you have hurt others. You will grieve for the loss of your children’s innocence. You will grieve for lost hopes and dreams. You will grieve parts of yourself. Stay with this grief, it will heal you.
4. The sooner you learn that connecting with yourself is the key in inner peace, the sooner you can start this healing journey.
Your first REAL step is to turn inward.
If you don’t feel like you have anything to offer the world, go inward. Not inward in a hiding way, but inward in an exploratory way. Go inward, DEEP inward. Breathe. Open and discover your true self sitting quietly inside.
Your true value and worth won’t ever come in gaining approval, losing weight, being “better”. Your true value will come in meeting yourself. Finding your way to her will bring you healing you never dreamed possible. When you are lost, you are really longing to meet yourself. Nothing will satisfy that need. When you are feeling lonely, isolated, resentful, angry, or any other negative emotion it’s a gentle reminder to go back to that place within.
5.You are going to experience a new level of darkness that you’ve never experienced. It will be important to stay with it, experience it fully. It won’t go away until you do. Its the way you will experience the very center of yourself. You will need to experience every part of yourself to get there.
“Let it hurt, Let it heal, Let it go”
is a mantra you will come to love. Until you let it hurt, completely, you can’t heal. Healing takes time and you will feel this stage will last forever. It won’t. But there will be many, many dark days. Stay with it.
6. You’ve developed lots of ways you chose to numb what you feel. You run, divert, distract, over consume, over do, point fingers, create drama, fight, push away. You do these things so that you don’t have to carry hurt, anger, or sadness. You do these things so that you don’t have to feel the full joy that some feelings bring. You numb because you are scared. Scared to feel. Fear has driven your life and most of your life choices. You are afraid of yourself. You are afraid of your own feelings. But these feelings need to come out. You can chose to speak to them or they will claw their way out in other forms. Speaking to them seems scary, but try it. Giving yourself a voice is liberating.
7. You will find people along your path who will inspire you to be a more authentic version of yourself. You will find people who you will strive to be like. You will want what they have. You will see them walking the walk and talking the talk. This will help you take pieces of their recovery into your own. There will be others along your journey who are talking the talk but not walking the walk. You will learn from them as well. You will learn ideas, beliefs and behaviors you don’t want in your journey. Every person on your path gives value to your recovery.
8. The more you seek, the more you will find. Truth seekers find truth. You are a truth seeker and you will find truth. Some of these truths will be spoken differently than you’ve ever heard them. You will find truth in spoken word, in written word, and in physical ways. You will learn to recognize truth in any form. Each step along the way will lead you to more truths. Don’t stop.
9.You have what it takes. You’ve had it all along. You will doubt yourself many times along this journey. Love yourself through this doubt. When you chose everything other than love, you are running away from your own magnificence. You run because you don’t feel it is something you are worthy of possessing. Love yourself to know that no matter the outcome, you are enough.
10.I love you. Genuinely and completely. As you are, right in this moment. I love every part of you. I love the little girl who lives inside you who has wanted her voice to be heard. I love the bratty teenager who wants to rebel against anything and everything. I love the logical you who likes to use reason and not emotion to solve problems. I love the critical you. I love the caretaker in you, the one who puts everyone else’s needs before her own. I love every part of you, especially the parts that you don’t want me to love. There is nothing you can say or do that will make me love you more or less. YOU as you are, are enough, complete, and worthwhile