Welp, here we are again. 🙂
I’ve made it another year in recovery — welcome to wrapping up year number eight!
This is the fourth post I’ve written on the anniversary of the day I decided to choose a path that would change my life in ways I didn’t even realize. Each year I go back and read the previous ones (I’ve linked them at the bottom of this post) and wonder how I can write something different from the year before.
This year I think it’s important to emphasize the importance of self.
Before diving into that, I want to emphasize that recovery is an ongoing process. There are simply parts of me biologically and emotionally that will always want to run, hide, and escape life the easiest way I know how — with any substance or compulsive action that will remove me from it as quickly as possible. It’s true that with time and work things get easier, but they’re never completely “fixed.”
Recovery is not a linear progression. I’ve had great periods of success and I’ve had times when I’ve slipped into escaping reality with other damaging behaviors such as overexercising and food manipulation. You can’t stop using drugs and expect to get better without some introspection, acceptance, and willingness to change. There are always new lessons to learn and new hurdles to face and it’s always a choice between two paths. I do not take that for granted.
As a chronic people-pleaser, I would often put others before myself. I have a long history of overcommitting myself, saying yes when I didn’t want to, and losing myself in the process.
I spent so many of my younger years trying to be what others wanted me to be that I easily lost who I actually was. I gave myself no chance to develop my own likes, dislikes, and anything in between. If you wanted me to like cars, I liked cars. If you thought I was smart, I decided to finish college in three years. If you thought I was pretty, I obsessed over ways to maintain that image at all times.
Turns out I don’t like cars (except Corvette Stingrays). I am smart, but it wasn’t until recovery that I learned there are more ways to be smart than a GPA (and I am definitely not smart in all of them). I spend 3/4 of my life now in workout clothes, a ponytail, and only mascara.
I didn’t give myself permission to be my own person because I felt like my own person wasn’t good enough. If I was myself and you didn’t like me, then I believed I wasn’t really worth anything and that thought terrified me. I had a better chance of existing as the image of what you wanted me to be.
What I learned in recovery was that you have to choose you. Every day you have to choose you. You have to learn how to respect and value yourself as an individual. You have to learn that not everyone will like you and that’s fine because we are all so dynamically different. It’s literally impossible for every person to be compatible, romantically or otherwise.
Once that pressure was removed, I was able to explore who I was and wanted to be as a person. It took years and it’s always an ongoing process, but being able to define who I was as a person was a liberating and empowering feeling.
The person I am today is not the person I was eight years ago.
Eight years ago I was small, sad, and broken.
Today I’ve started two businesses and am succeeding in them because I know who I am. I know what I stand for, and more importantly, how to stand. I’m not continuously searching for approval from others for validation or paralyzed at the thought of making a decision. I do not do this perfectly, as those close to me can attest, but I’ve come a far way and it gets easier with practice.
One thing that was always missing from the work I did in recovery was myself. Whether it was an amends list or people I’ve harmed, I never considered myself important enough to include. The truth is that I, and we, should be at the top of all of our lists.
You are worth taking care of. You are worth apologizing to if you’ve let yourself take a backseat. It’s never too late to learn to put yourself first and make decisions that are in your best interests.
Take some time today to remember how important you are.
My clean date is May 20, 2010.