In high school, I had a few emotionally traumatizing events that caused me to slowly but surely close off my heart to others. I lost a lot of self-confidence and fully blamed myself for the negative experiences I had with some of my “friends.” After experiencing rejection, betrayal, and abandonment, I figured that something had to be wrong with me. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt like I was inherently hard to love.
On top of that, I felt like the black sheep in my family due to my constant mood swings, irritability, and crazy hormones that made me “hard to be around”…according to the people that were supposed to love me the most. If only I knew that I was suffering from untreated anxiety and mild depression. Maybe I would’ve put more effort into seeking the help I needed, instead of slipping into isolation and self-hatred.
So I did what many others do when they have untreated mental health issues and a void in their heart that they need to fill…I drank. I abused substances with the intention of becoming a different version of myself, one that I thought was the “better” version of myself. How silly of me. I wish I could go back and tell that girl that the divine light inside of you shines so brightly, and it never goes out. You don’t need to drink to be funnier, cooler, happier, and easier to be around. You just need to take care of yourself and be exactly who you are. I didn’t know that then, but I’m glad I know it now.
For nearly 10 years, my heart was very much closed off. I was bitter, resentful, and untrusting. My social anxiety was through the roof. I couldn’t be around people and enjoy myself unless I was drinking. I genuinely believed that I was unlikable and “didn’t need” to connect with others, because they would only hurt me in the end. I want to wrap my arms around that girl. I want to tell her that all of the negative stories you tell yourself are LIES.
Over the past several months, I’ve been doing acts of self-love daily. Sometimes, that means writing a list of 10 things that I love about myself. Or I’ll look at myself in the mirror and say, “I love you.” Or I’ll do a yoga session and feel immense gratitude for my body and all of the things it can do. But self-love isn’t always easy. It also means pushing yourself to do things that are uncomfortable that you’ll thank yourself for later. The real transformation began when I took the plunge and cut off some toxic friends, and then pushed myself to make new ones.
After building up the courage to put myself out there and foster new friendships (100% sober, might I add), I started to realize that I actually do have good qualities. I’m actually pretty funny. I’m a good listener. I’m relatable. I’m empathetic. I’m sensitive. I’m kind. I’m genuine. I’m ME…and nobody else is. By being authentically who I am, I bring unique and important gifts to the table. All of the sudden, I went from somebody who was terrified to show people who I was, to being excited to show people who I was. I learned to love myself first, and then I became able to hold space for others. I filled up my own cup, and now I want to spill it out all over the place! I genuinely want sisterhood. I want connection. I want to be vulnerable. That’s extremely new for me.
I went to a chakra cleansing meditation a couple weeks ago. The instructor read my energy and told me that my heart was “wide open.” I feel that on a spiritual level. When your heart is closed for 10 years, you know when it’s finally cracked open and have light shining through. Ever since I started healing my heart, I simply don’t like the feeling of being drunk anymore. I don’t see the point of it. Why would I want my soul to slip away so I can become somebody that I’m not? Why would I want to not be present in the moment? Why would I want to be anywhere other than right here, right now?
This might seem controversial, but AA didn’t solve my drinking problem. I didn’t “vibe” with calling myself an alcoholic and telling myself that I’m a hopeless addict with no control over my life who will never get better, only worse. I knew there was more to it than that. I knew there was a lot of gunk underneath the surface of my problem that needed to be cleared out. Once I focused on healing, the appeal of getting drunk started to dwindle. I would have a glass of wine or two and not feel that dying urge to keep slipping further and further into oblivion. I wanted to pull back and keep being here now. I put the glass down and I stopped. I put the bottle away, instead of cracking open a second and a third.
Once that same scenario repeated itself a few times, I thought that maybe substance abuse is more than just black and white. Maybe it’s more complex than people think. Maybe labeling yourself as an addict for all eternity isn’t the way to go. Maybe we all just need to heal.