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Archive for the ‘compassion’ Category

This past weekend my fiancee’s teenage sister came to stay with us. She’s hit a bit of a crisis stage in her life and needed to get away from the craziness of home (we live about 2 hours away). I went and picked her up on Friday and got her talking a bit about what was going on. Turns out her crisis stems from many things that ring true with what I went through as a teen and in my early twenties (though, thank the heavens, she has stayed away from chemicals and hasn’t developed food issues). We talked for the entire ride back to the house. I relayed to her what has happened to me and what little advice I can pass along to her. I also made sure that she knew I am eternally here for her no matter what is going on and that she always has a place with her brother and I.

We spent the weekend hanging around the apartment, mostly just her and I, watching netflix. We didn’t spend much time the rest of the weekend talking about anything “serious.” The goal was to give the poor girl some normalcy.

Saturday night I had the realization that I wanted to give her something to take back home with her to remind her that I am here for her and thinking of her. A treasured necklace I have from my grandma popped into my head but I quickly decided against it. I wore that necklace for nearly 3 years, during some of the darkest days I went through, and it was a source of comfort. Partly because it was my grandma’s but mostly because it was a mustard seed and the bible verse that goes along with it (“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed… nothing will be impossible for you”) helped me hold on when I couldn’t find any other reasons to keep going.

But I couldn’t let it go. The necklace had done so much for me when I needed it and I haven’t worn it for a couple years since things have been better. I knew she would understand the symbolism and I knew she would appreciate the gift… but I struggled with knowing that I was giving away my grandma’s necklace, that something so important to me won’t be mine anymore, and that she may or may not even wear it (or she may lose it).

In the end I gave her the necklace just before she left earlier today. I decided that the necklace had worked its magic for me and now it was time to pay it forward. It was time for someone else to take what they can from it and hopefully someday she can pay it forward to someone else.

I’m not really sure of the point of this post… I’m not sure there’s a grand “recovery lesson” in here, but what I do know is that it made me feel really good to give her the necklace. It was another piece of giving away what I’ve gotten to help others who are struggling. And it was another testament to my ability to let the past be the past. I’ve held onto the necklace because of all the good it brought to me when I needed it. But the truth is, I don’t need it anymore. I have found hope in day-to-day life, so why hold onto it when it could do some good for someone else?

I don’t know. It just seemed like the right thing to do. And if there’s absolutely no other meaning to her, at least I know that she appreciates that I took the time to be with her this weekend and give her something that means a lot to me.; at least I know that she knows I care about her. That makes it worth it. Definitely.

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For years I struggled with chronic self-loathing. The inner voice that
narrated my life in my head was constantly saying horrid things to me to
make sure I never thought to highly of myself. I don’t know where this
voice came from; it had been there for as long as I can remember.
Perhaps puberty and the awareness that others look at and judge me
brought it on. Perhaps the rampant perfectionism that I’ve had since I
was little spawned it. Who knows. Whatever it was, it was always there
and was always ready to say nasty things.

I’ve always been told how important “positive self talk” is in
recovery. Every treatment program I’ve been in, every therapist
psychiatrist and dietitian I’ve see says the same, but I never
realized its importance until I started trying to improve (rather than
destroy) my life. That insidious voice always sabotaged any successes I
had by telling me that it wasn’t good enough and made my mistakes
100-fold worse by showing me how, once again, I had let everyone down.
In recovery it has always been important for me to celebrate every
victory and to learn from every mistake, so that inner dialogue was
doing me absolutely no good. If I am by nature a disgraceful human being
and I can’t ever change that, then why should I even try?

So, timidly, I began to talk back to that voice. At first it still beat
me back down into submission, but I kept chipping away at it. Even when
I didn’t believe what I was saying, I still talked back to it… hell, I
continue to talk back to it even today when it gets loud. And do you
know what I’ve found? I found that the voice rarely made any sense…
the conclusions it draws based on whatever premises it finds are
completely and utterly off-base.  The invalid conclusions my inner voice
was reaching drove my reason/logic filed brain crazy (remember:
philosophy major here)! And what was worse was that for as long as I
could remember I was subscribing to the things this voice said without
question! Thus, to shut it up I had to start questioning it and
challenging what it was saying to me.

When we stifle that negative voice we find it easier to be gentle with
ourselves and to move forward. Self-loathing kept me in my addictions
because I didn’t want to face what a terrible person I was. So, as
long as the addictions kept me believing that I was the scum of the
earth then I couldn’t break free. But when we muffle that voice as
much as possible our addictions have much less power over us.

After a while I became much more adept at countering the negative inner
voice that kept me trapped. That isn’t to say that I was ever able to
slay the proverbial inner dragon, but I’ve brought it down to the size
of a small lizard. Today it doesn’t dictate how I feel about myself…
it tells me I’m fat and ugly; I remind it that I am normal-sized and
(at worst) average looking. It tells me I can’t do anything right; I
remind it that there are plenty of things I do right and that just
because I messed up this time doesn’t mean I won’t get it right when
I try again. When it reminds me of all the bad things I did during my
drug use and in the eating disorder, I forcefully tell it that I was
sick at the time and that I can’t change what I did in the past but I
can change how I will act in the future.

Initially there was a nearly around-the-clock debate going on in my
head as to how I should view myself. For almost every action that
negative voice had something to say and I had to talk back to it. Today
the debate has turned into a discussion and that negative voice loses
almost every time.

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