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Self-Love

madam-butterfly-beautiful-woman-long-hair-56620 

What is it and how does one achieve it? 

Depending on the person, self-love can mean a variety of things: For those who have been abused, It could be setting boundaries; burying denial in order to reveal the truth, seeking help instead of harboring secrets, and throwing away the cracked distorted image in the mirror of lies that holds one captive.  With a bit of courage and determination, as one begins to apply these actions a gradual metamorphosis starts to occur:  The crusty casing that scarred the soul commences to flake away in barely noticeable increments; one layer at a time, making way for the self- respect that was pilfered by another without knowledge or consent.  The race is on. Coming down the stretch and jockeying for position, self-respect moves ahead, clearing the way for self-love.  And it is a photo finish, leaving yesterday’s scars buried in the dust.

Low self -esteem is yet another culprit that robs one of the ability to acquire and practice self-love:  I’m not good enough, she is prettier, he is smarter, my gums show when I smile, I’m too fat, who wants to hear what I have to say?  This contrast and comparison game can be self-inflicted or learned.  Unreasonable expectations filter down through parents who love us and want the best for us, through teachers who compare us to older siblings, and even by a Society that values intelligence and beauty over heart and soul. Even if these unrelenting messages were hammered into our consciousness by others, we began to believe them internalize them, and over time, exacerbate them.  The best recipe for acquiring self-love due to low self-esteem is to get a new cookbook. Throw out the stale, rancid ingredients that tainted your soul and replace them with fresh new concoctions:  Add that tablespoon of poise to that cup of confidence, throw in a teaspoon each of faith, pride, and courage.  Fold in an abundant supply of risk.  Then sit back and watch a masterpiece as it rises to the occasion.

Two other types of personalities that cannot be left out of the equation are the perfectionist and the co-dependent.  The former is so busy trying to live up to his own, as well as others’ expectations that there is little time for self-love.  This constant striving to never make a mistake, be the best, and succeed at all costs, is not only draining but often conceals a fear that to fail is a death knell.  Perfectionists are intimidating because they usually expect perfectionism from everyone else. Contrary to appearances, perfectionist rarely see themselves as successful; like those suffering from low self- esteem, they never feel quite good enough. Perhaps the portal to self-love for these marathon contenders can be found somewhere in the middle of the race where self- acceptance and a willingness to just be human offers relief.

Like the perfectionist, the co-dependents have neither the time nor the inclination, to engage in self-love.  They are dedicated to lavishing all their love and energy on friends, family, the kindred spirits of friends and family, and anyone, and everyone else they meet.  Before they realize it, patching broken hearts and stitching frayed relationships morphs into a lifelong occupation that leaves them exhausted and resentful.  The only hope for this exhausted seamstress, or tailor, is to shred the crumpled pattern, toss away the needle and thread and seek out that empty fitting room labeled me.

Most of us fall into one, two, or all these categories. And while none of these remedies, are easy, or come with a guarantee, self-love is the byproduct of practice, practice, practice.

 

 

 

 

H.O.W.

photo of woman looking upwards
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For those of us who got sober in AA, not only are we familiar with the above acronym, but we did, and continue, to ascribe to the tenets of its wisdom.  It became a prerequisite for our recovery journey and remains the iron-clad handrail that keeps us from falling back into the abyss of our disease.

H=Honesty

O=Open mindedness

W=Willingness.

When I first heard that referenced in relation to getting sober, I thought, no problem.  I’m honest.  Never stole anything, except maybe time. Time from my family, my job, and my friends.  And, occasionally, I guess I robbed them of their trust and peace of mind.  But is that what they meant?

And I have always been open-minded. I didn’t care what other people did, or didn’t do if they gave me the same consideration and kept their nose out of my business.  Isn’t that being open-minded?  I won’t judge you, so you damn well better not judge me. I figured that gave me a free pass to do whatever I wanted without attracting your attention or condemnation.

Willingness.  Well, that was a given.  After all, I walked through those doors of AA on my own, didn’t I?  “But don’t tell me what to do or try to make me a part of your group think tank.  Just let me sit back in the corner and I will decide what I need and what I don’t.  I’ll figure it all out, thank you.”

After a few months of stagnating in my own stubbornness, the earplugs fell out and I began to observe the program through a sharper, unobstructed lens.  I decided I needed to redefine my first impression of H.O.W with just a tiny tweak.  Because I had marginal signs of dyslexia, I decided to approach it backward.  That turned out to be the first good decision I had made in a long time.

 Once I fine-tuned my version of H.O.W, I began to see with greater clarity.

Willingness required more than simply walking through the door, lugging around that know it all attitude that had become my logo. It meant participating:  taking suggestions, sharing, getting a sponsor, and parking that attitude outside the rooms of AA.

 Open-Mindedness:  Being open meant I would have to let go of preconceived ideas about the disease of alcoholism, embrace new ideas from strangers who didn’t necessarily think like me, be willing to adjust my own opinions, allowing for the fact that new information often changes the circumstances and another adjustment in my thinking  may be required.  And most important, though it would take a lot of practice; I had to learn to place principals before personalities if I was to benefit from the hard-learned lessons of others.

 Honesty:  I soon found that the cash register honesty that I so readily ascribed to was just the tip of the iceberg.  No one ever told me that people-pleasing rated right up there, at the top of the list, under the headline dishonesty. Or, that telling everyone what they wanted to hear, often just to keep out of trouble, was another offender.  And how about laughing at inappropriate jokes, when deep down, I felt that I was somehow compromising myself, but was too afraid of offending someone to speak out? 

 Sponsorship was the vehicle that maneuvered me through this web of confusion.  Once I learned that I was in a safe environment, where I could let down my guard and dispense with the old defense mechanisms, I discovered a brand-new template that I soon learned to navigate.  Now, when I feel a pang of jealousy, I can admit it without thinking it makes me a bad person.  Or, when I am feeling low, I no longer must camouflage it behind a phony smile. 

 Self -honesty is a far cry from cash register honesty.  It attacks self -delusion and rips the cover from denial.   It requires self-monitoring and is a lifetime pursuit.

 H.O.W., whether worked backward or forward, is the acronym that will always set me straight.

 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Tom R shares.

So, I quit drinking. No big deal, I thought. You’ve already quit twenty-seven times. This’ll be a piece of cake. And then it dawned on me. I’d quit that many times but only for a week tops, and sometimes even the next day. I threw my last half-fifth of Jim Beam into the woods behind my house, only this time I took the cap off, remembering the 10 ℉ January morning when I went back into the briars to retrieve one with a cap on.

I had it bad.

During the summer of 1964, my seventeen-year-old cousin asked his twelve-year-old kinsman if he wanted to go to a party. I was elated and said, “Oh hell yes” and away we went up the hill to Memorial Park in the westernmost part of Martins Ferry, Ohio. As soon as I got out of his junky VW, some senior offered me a beer called “Blatz”. I graciously took and downed half of it in maybe two gulps. I loved the taste of it and never turned back. After five more of those I was, what the older boys called, “Blatzed” and my benefactor put me in the car and dropped me off at home right smack dab in front my Bible-banging, die-hard Baptist and Suffragette-sympathizing Mother.

Off and on for the next six years, Mom and I fought about my “entertainment problem” until six years later when she threw me out of her house. It was time. I worked as a coal miner and truck driver for the next forty years and continued with my “merriment” until October 1st, 2018 when I admitted to myself –and my wife and kids, who already knew—that I was an alcoholic. I went through the detox at home because I didn’t want this torture on my medical records. Never been so sick in all my life. At one point I thought if I’d slip into a coma for a few days it’d all feel better. Then, on October 10th, 2018 I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and felt better. My sponsor said I should start a journal.

I think I just did.

 

 

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Thoughts on fear and serenity

 

Fear

 

Fear picks us up

and

fondles us

in the grasp of its seduction;

fear feigns concern

enticing us to oust our faith,

participate-

be the link in faith’s abduction.

Emboldened

by

surrender,

fear shoves us to our knees

then

showers us with problems

compiling them with ease.

Fear grips a little harder

paves every path we tread,

it chokes our days in clouds of gray

then

tucks us into bed.

 

bare feet boy child couch
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Serenity

 

An aura of serenity

rooted somewhere,

yet undefined

buries itself in the terra cotta of my soul;

even as a summer squall

bows the branches of the mighty oak,

twisting and turning the leaves inside out-

warning of a coming storm,

I remain at peace.

The threat of doom

clinging to the periphery of yesterday’s fear

has subsided;

a whisper, barely audible,

a vision, drained of all color,

an enemy retreating.

My soul seizes this extraordinary moment

lest it be peeled from my core

leaving me naked in its wake;

I romance it,

attempt to enhance it,

but am smart enough

not to question it

for fear, it may resurrect.

photo of a person on boat during golden hour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journaling-Earmarking Recovery

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(Paging through Entries))

 

yesterday’s journal

provides a beacon of light

the portal opens

 

                                                                            Page One

From my vantage point at the bottom of the trail, the goal rivals Mt Everest.  Mary’s ascension into heaven was certainly more plausible than my ever realizing the halfway point.  That stupid slogan I keep hearing around the tables, (you’ll be truly amazed before you are halfway through) keeps ringing in my ears. AA has a phrase or slogan to fit every situation imaginable.  And even though I may be taking this one out of context, it sure fits my frame of mind today.  The path is full of twists and turns, and who knows what other obstacles, as it wends its way into the unknown.  Those who have gone before me insist that the rewards along the journey, far outweigh any scrapes or slips I might encounter along the way.  Dare I believe them?

Several months later

Beginning to understand the importance of journaling.  As I flip through several pages, I can literally see a changed perspective that must have been lurking beneath my inability to reflect on the positive.  But, here on these pages, it jumps out at me in a beautiful bold font that spells progress.

The one year mark

Wow!  Can’t believe I’ve been documenting this awesome experience for over a year.  Page after page of blended successes, disappointments, and mini-failures.  Mini, simply because they didn’t take me back out.  Tear stained entries that led to frantic calls to my sponsor, just a page behind a smiling emoji that commits to memory a joyous recollection that begged to be penned.

Moving forward

Now the real work begins.  Hope I’m ready.  Finally, comfortable with the program, trust my sponsor, and am ready to work the steps.  Fear and uncertainty be gone.  I refuse to be discouraged.  The proof is in the rooms of AA.  My life will continue to improve as long as I am willing to move forward.  God knows, I never want to go through that first year of sobriety again.

Journal number three

But who’s counting?   My life is a wonderful conglomeration of gifted treasures, blundering missteps, serendipities moments, heartfelt experiences, lessons learned, and divine intervention.  And lest I ever forget, it is readily available at the turn of a page.  My journal, my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Just Let Go

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Ever heard this little piece of advice?  I’ve heard it over, and over again, and continue to hear it every time I am struggling with a problem I can’t resolve.  Just let go.  Just let go.  It’s like an echo reverberating in a canyon that repeatedly bounces off the walls of my resistance, refusing to be silenced.

 But, just because I hear It, that doesn’t mean I can apply it.  After all, like most alcoholics and addicts, I am a remedial learner. Yes, I understand the concept when I am able to look at it from a cerebral perspective.  But, if my emotions are all tangled up in whatever it is, forget it.  It’s like being strangled by the snarled, twisted roots of a giant tree, as they creep their way across the surface of my sanity. I can’t see the exit sign.  I become a  prisoner to the problem that holds me captive.

 How do I let go of someone or something that I happen to be so deeply invested in?  Would I be abandoning a loved one?  Or running from a situation whose only solution is written in the indelible ink that spells out my pseudonym; the fixer.

 And when should I do it?  Once I’m backed into a corner?   After the problem has beaten me to a pulp and I am struggling to my feet, hoping round thirteen will be the magic number;  deaf to the bell that has already announced my defeat?

 For me, letting go, always conjured up a vision of Tarzan making his way through the jungle, swinging in perfect rhythm, from vine to vine, hand over hand, safe in the knowledge that his mode of travel would never come to an abrupt end because he always had that next vine to hold on to.

 Then one day, when I was really grappling with an issue that was driving me mad, and I was reflecting on that jungle scenario, I asked myself, where is my vine?   And while I was pondering that mystery,  I happened to glance down at the latest issue of one of my favorite magazines laying on the coffee table.  It was flipped open to an article titled, Implementing your Faith. It was not an article that I would normally be drawn to as I am not exactly religious.  I do, however, have a Spiritual connection to something greater than myself.  And in the course of reading that brief article, I came to the realization that I was experiencing what some refer to as a God moment.

That was it, the lightbulb finally went off, and I was nearly blinded by its simplicity. Tarzan never truly let go without grabbing hold of his lifeline.  And we are never urged to simply let go;  but rather to let go and let God.  Difficult as that may be, today when I have given that problem my all, and I am forced to let go, like Tarzan, I instinctively reach for my lifeline and invite God in to resolve the matter.  And before I know it, I am in sync with my buddy, Tarzan, flying through life’s jungle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening the Toolbox

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I was handed a toolbox to build a new life

A gift freely given to alleviate strife,

It contained all I needed to repair and reclaim

A flickering spirit in search of a flame.

 

How many tools do you have in your toolbox?  Is it time to add a few more?                              

In the beginning, I depended on just three essentials to lay my foundation:

Meetings, sponsorship, and the twelve steps.

 The meetings were the brick and mortar that gave me a sure footing in order to navigate the peaks and valleys that stretched ahead.  They provided a temporary shelter that housed a support system, where my equilibrium could be restored.  Inside the rooms of AA, reconstruction was soon underway.  Old ideas and beliefs that tethered me to my distorted view about the disease of alcoholism were swiftly replaced by new concepts, ones that promised hope instead of damnation.  I learned that recovery, once I put the drink down, would be a choice available even to me.  All I had to do was keep coming back and listen to folks who shared with me, the heartache of their addiction, and more importantly, the miracle of their recovery.

 After several months of trying to determine whether or not I was indeed an alcoholic, I felt I was missing something. Even though I wasn’t drinking, I was becoming stagnant.  Time to pick up another tool.  I needed something, or someone, to erect the scaffolding so I wouldn’t slip.

And low and behold, I looked around the rooms and found a sponsor.  She became the cement that held me together during my transition.  And in my case, it was it was a slow one.

Some days she was a hammer driving it all home, and other days a screwdriver, either dismantling the rusty hinges of negativity or securing the positive nuts and bolts of the program.

 In order to get to the next level, every structure requires a staircase.  In recovery, that ascension is determined by working the twelve steps of alcoholics anonymous.  Little did I realize that when I added them to my toolbox that they would be my forever go to in sobriety.  The steps were the key that unlocked the portal to a life that offered me peace, serenity, and above all the ability to face life on life’s terms without alcohol. 

 Now, I am neither a carpenter nor a builder, but somewhere along my thirty- one -year path to what I hope is quality sobriety,  I have managed to pack into that toolbox everything I need to construct a solid abode.  I’ve added daily meditations, The Big Book, service work, and an overstuffed portfolio of slogans.  My toolbox is bulging at the seams.

 What’s in your toolbox?