I’m only hurting myself

woman-with-bottle

“I’m only hurting myself.”

These are the words I used to justify drinking. In the sober light of day, and with a clear mind, I can see how twisted and deluded and tragic these words are. And completely untrue. They are the words of a sick mind, overtaken by alcohol. And alcohol will lie. It will train the mind to attack itself, like a cancer of the soul.

If “I’m only hurting myself” is true, then it has to follow that “I don’t matter.” Who cares if I hurt myself? It’s not like I’m the president or in charge of great things. I am just someone who drinks too much, and my life reflects that. Even if I can put up a good front, and my life looks OK from the outside, inside it’s chaos and depression and humiliation and regret. And who wants to save that?

The thought “I don’t matter” means the alcohol’s job is complete. Well almost. Because ultimately it wants you dead.

The thought of death didn’t really rattle me either when I was drinking heavily because it seemed to be a fitting end to what I came to believe was a wasted life. Maybe people would be better off if I died. And it would end the pain of life led by drink once and for all. Just like passing out and never waking up. Tragic, but fitting.

Alcohol causes suicidal thoughts. One-third of people who commit suicide have been drinking.

Alcohol says, “You are worthless.” But ultimately we don’t blame the alcohol. We blame ourselves.

How does that happen?

A young person, say you, goes out with a group of friends. You are a bit shy, unsure of yourself, like everyone is at this difficult age. You want these people to accept you, and think you’re cool. They drink, so you do too. And it works! You become someone else. You are so less inhibited. You tell jokes! You are funny, attractive, and free.

But then one time, you do something really stupid while drinking. Something completely out of character. If you are a young woman, maybe you sleep with someone — someone you had no intention of dating, much less sleeping with. If you’re a man, maybe you start a fight with one of your friends, and it gets really embarrassing, and you yell and cry in front of a group of people.

Or use the scenario of your choice. There are an infinite number of ways to suffer humiliation while drinking.

When you wake up the next day, you still have to go to school. But now, your self-esteem has suffered a horrible blow. You don’t want to see anyone. You’re not sure exactly what happened because you can’t remember, but you know it was bad.

You have just suffered the first of a series of blows that will keep occurring as long as you keep drinking. And your place in the world, what you think about yourself, what you try to believe is true will be devastated in ways both big and small, and they will take a huge toll on how you perceive your worth.

To face this new reality that has been created by alcohol, you have to drink. Then things don’t seem so bad. You can face people again — start anew, you think.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You now have the perfect cycle for accelerating drinking. It is your best friend and your worst enemy.

But right from the start, you blame yourself for feelings and events that alcohol caused. You don’t think, “I drank a substance designed to lower inhibitions, incapacitate, and addict, and that substance took over my brain and caused x, y, and z to happen. I have learned from this. I blame the substance itself and I will never drink again.”

You blame yourself, like most victims of abuse. That is where the real devastation of alcohol lies. It tells you you’re worthless, and you believe it.

But it lies. Because the truth would stop you from drinking. The perfect trap can continue as long as your miserable life can last unless you start to examine your relationship with alcohol and decide you are worth saving.

Because that is the truth. You are worth saving. To feel this for yourself, you have strip away the years of drinking and everything that came with it. You have to forgive yourself and let it go, no matter what the voice of alcohol tells you, and remember you before you took that first drink. There you are … just a kid really. Shy, insecure, and hopeful for a wonderful future, ready for adventure. You have to take this child by the hand and remember that this is the real you. Worth loving. Worth saving. Worth anything you can do to ensure that you will honor that child by saving his life.

I love to read books about people who have gone beyond the thin veil that hides reality from us — people who have had near death experiences that come back completely changed. They assure us that we are magnificent spiritual beings despite any illusion of ourselves as being weak or guilty. Anita Moorjani, who was healed from a devastating cancer diagnosis, says this:

“One of the biggest lessons I learned from nearly dying of cancer is the importance of loving myself unconditionally. In fact, learning to love and accept myself unconditionally is what healed me and brought me back from the brink of death.”

Self love has also been the answer for me. Loving myself enough to save myself — no matter the cost, no matter how many times I have to try — has made all the difference in my quest to stop drinking. I no longer listen to the lies that alcohol still tells me. I listen to the truth — that voice of love and strength that I was born with and can never lose. I let that voice tells me who I am.

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46 thoughts on “I’m only hurting myself

  1. What an amazing post. Thank you. I still can’t believe I got caught by alcohol -that this is MY life. But it is and self compassion is a powerful part of recovery. I hope that I can teach my children better coping mechanisms through self compassion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was caught in that trap for a long time. Neither of my parents drink, and most of my friends from college still drink a lot without slowing down, somehow. So I am surprised as well that I got caught up in it over the years. It’s funny, but no one ever wonders how they got addicted to heroin. They know why — it’s a highly addictive substance. So is alcohol. By shifting the blame to the substance, I am able to see that becoming addicted was not a personal failing. I, like millions of other bright, intelligent, worthy people, became addicted to an addictive substance. Thinking this way allows me to heal and never think of the drink as an innocent substance that I just can’t control because I’m weak or self indulgent.
      Thanks for the feedback. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s such a sly an insidious trap. Perfect trap for shy confused teenagers with low self-esteem and little adult guidance. It makes me so sad for my younger self. You described this aspect of alcohol addiction so well! It also makes me really angry at this society we live in that is awash in their ‘legal drug’ heaven help the man or woman who questions the substance itself (much more logical to my mind) not the ‘flawed alcholic’
    I still need to learn how to love myself unconditionally. As I always do with anything that needs to be fixed in my life I bough a book about the topic. Pema Chödrön ‘the wisdom of no escape, how to love yourself and your world.’ I’m just finishing the other 8 books on my bedside table before I can start reading it☺

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I just looked up Pema Chodron. What an amazing teacher! I am definitely ordering the book. The book that really changed the way I think was “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson. It led me to “A Course in Miracles,” which is my guide for living these days.
      I’m like you with “fixing my life.” I buy a book that tells me how to fix it, especially ones that say “Change ____ in 30 days.”
      As for my younger self, it’s just heartbreaking to think about, especially having watched my own children go through it. I used to think I could stop drinking for them, but until I found the self-compassion to change for myself, I was unable, or unwilling, to stop. I could spend my life wishing I had stopped earlier, but I know that that is completely counter-productive, that all guilt is unwarranted, and that thoughts along these lines are likely to lead to self-destructive behavior. All that matters is today, and today I will love myself enough to stay far away from drinking. ; )

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes i’m so with you on the 30 days thing or if it has ‘easy’ in the title! I’ve got a return to love on audio book and love it. Haven’t bought ‘A Course in Miracles’ yet but it’s on my wishlist.I also couln’t stop for my children. That is the nature of the beast isn’t it? That just leads you deeper into the abyss and shame especially for mothers! All that matters is today. That’s the only way to live now. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, and as Katie Byron said, when asked about the shame of setting a bad drinking example for kids, “Nothing stops you from drinking like a blind drunk.” I guess there is some consolation there in having set a bad example to NOT emulate. ; )
        Seeking recovery is the best remedy, however. Who knows? They may face the same challenges in their own life, and we are setting the example of self-healing.

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  3. This is an amazing post.

    When you realize the true nature of alcohol, its strong addictive qualities (and I don’t mean qualities in a good way) and see through all the illusions, then removing it from your life becomes easier.

    One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people trying to give it up is the way it is promoted as bringing fun, confidence, happiness, social acceptance and an array of other attractions. Not only by the manufacturers, but by just about everyone who uses it.
    The government likes the taxes is creates through alcohol sales too, so they keep up a facade of telling people to drink responsibly, just lip service to health and safety really, whilst at the same time increasing the taxes knowing that it won’t make much difference to alcohol sales.

    If this product was portrayed in the adverts as a highly addictive substance that over your life will probably control you, waste much of your money, possibly ruin your relationships, careers, finances, families, Physical health, mental and emotional health, and just about every other worthwhile thing you have. Then maybe we would have a good chance of curing or preventing much of the damage that alcohol does.

    Sorry if this seems a bit ranty, but its taken me many years to finally see through the illusions, and kill my own demon. I’m one of the lucky ones, it didn’t manage to ruin my family or job, but did bring with it an immense amount of mental anguish over the years, the hidden suffering that so many people have to bear.­

    The more people who read posts like this, and take it on board, the sooner the world will become a better place for them, and others too.

    Kind regards.
    Steve.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. No worries — I appreciate a good rant. ; )

      I also was able to hang on to a family and job, but the depression and mental anguish that you talk about was brutal.

      And I could not agree more about the way alcohol is portrayed. It wasn’t until I quit thinking of alcohol as a friend that I missed but wasn’t allowed to see anymore that I was able to stop romanticizing the relationship.

      I really like the kind of badass recovery that is happening now worldwide. Jason Vale’s book and the book The Naked Mind both helped get me in that frame of mind. I have hope that alcohol will turn out like cigarettes, in that everyone will know what they’re up against when they smoke. There is not nearly the backlash against the alcohol industry and advertising, even though drinking does much more damage.

      Thanks for stopping by, Steve. ; )

      Like

  4. What a masterful and accurate blog! I’m so impressed with your insight. I don’t know if I blame the substance. It was really my salvation at some point. I despised myself at a young age, and the alcohol freed me from those feelings of loathing myself. Of course, it ultimately turned on me, just as you said. I did things that made me loathe myself even more, so I had to drink to feel okay again. I’d love to say that it was loving myself that made me get sober. I’d say, for me, it was simply a desire to LIVE. The self loving is still a progress, not perfection thing. I hate to admit that it took OTHERS to love me to help me see myself as lovable.
    Self help books only go so far. I can recite affirmations until I’m blue in the face, but they go right down the tubes as soon as something happens to change my mood. The ONLY way I have learned to believe my life has meaning is when I’m of service to others or when I achieve something I never thought I could.
    Let’s all give ourselves a pat on the back for making it through the holidays without self medicating. Congratulations, everyone!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember going to one of the first meetings and someone saying “We will love you until you can love yourself.” I think that’s a powerful thought in the beginning. And you’re right — the alcohol does seem to start out as a great friend. It really is a perfect trap.
      Being of service to others (except to my family) is not something I have experienced to a strong degree really, except by being happy myself. Besides publishing, is most of your service work in AA? I have heard so many people say that it is helping other people that keeps them sober. I am sure we’re all meant to be of service — I just haven’t found my niche yet.

      Thank you for your lovely comments. ; )
      xoxo

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      1. Actually, my service work has extended beyond the rooms of AA. Earlier in my sobriety, I sponsored dozens of women. Unfortunately, I often didn’t find that to work for me (with a few GREAT exceptions). I found myself acting as a “therapist,” listening endlessly to women who just needed to rant about something or complain. I ended up feeling a bit used, like I was simply an unpaid ear. I wasn’t really much of a “step Nazi,” so I thought I would be more helpful to their sobriety by simply being a friend. Instead, I’d feel drained at the end of LONG conversations!
        I still sponsor a couple women who actually ADD to my life. I can tell when it’s a healthy relationship because I feel fulfilled, instead of emptied, at the end of the conversation. At this point, I’d really consider myself more of a friend to these women than a sponsor.
        I still reach out to newcomers, and I’m willing to listen to people going through rough patches, but I’m rarely asked to sponsor anymore. Maybe it’s because I go to only two meetings a week now.
        My “service work” is in the community now. I volunteer at a Veterans Administration nursing home once a week. All I do is “be” there for the men and women.Whatever I can do to help: listen to them, visit them, help the blind guys with bingo games, etc. This “work” fills me up beyond anything imaginable. I often say that “being of service” to the veterans helps ME more than I think it helps THEM. Inevitably, when I drive away from being there, I feel such gratitude for how fortunate my life is compared to theirs. Some of these guys are REALLY ill. Most are in wheelchairs and/or have amputated limbs. How can I complain about a sore knee when they don’t have legs?!!!
        I started this volunteer work with the veterans after my husband died. HE was a Vietnam vet. I feel like the volunteering helps me with my grief. Instead of focusing on mourning MY veteran, I’m helpful to LIVE ones.
        There are many, many, many examples of things I’ve gone through SOBER that I never thought I could get through in the “old days.” Each time I get through them, it makes me realize how strong and capable I truly am.
        As YOU stay sober for longer periods of time, I’m certain you’ll find your own niche. That’s a PROMISE!
        BTW, I celebrated TWENTY-NINE YEARS of sobriety on January 4th. Pretty awesome, eh?!!!

        Like

    1. In someone’s memoir (I’ve read so many at this point that I can’t remember whose) a woman wrote that she had dismissed the fact that she rationalized that she didn’t matter that much to her kids, or to anyone really. I remember reading that and thinking “I do that too.” It’s easy to forget that good or bad, you are the center of their worlds for a lot of years.
      Thank you, Elizabeth. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this! Taking care of ourselves and loving ourself runs so deep and has so many facets to it. As well, it goes against every fiber of our being, at least for me it does. I needed this. Thank you precious one. ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Self-love is a huge element in keeping emotional (and physical) sobriety. I always say that stopping drinking is the first real act of self-love, even when we are shrouded in loathing, anger, fears and resentments. There is that small light just eager to burst through. But it’s there. And while I have been sober for a few years now, I can still cloak that self-love in other self-destructive behaviours – overeating, wallowing in self-pity, pounding sugar back, etc. but I know that I am worth more than that. Drinking was about bringing myself into oblivion. To wash the me off of me. But we all have that glow inside and it’s our job to shine. Being in recovery allows me to shine. For all of us to radiate.

    Great post – thanks for this.

    Blessings
    Paul

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Paul!
      I love the light analogy. It’s so true! We are all meant to shine.
      I also am having to give up pounding the sugar. It became my replacement for alcohol, which I am totally fine with, but now it’s time to say goodbye. Day three for (almost) no sugar.
      Where did all this wisdom come from? AA? Your own spirituality? I am always interested in finding like-minded people.
      xoxo

      Like

  7. Brilliant post, but I love everything you write. It’s funny how some of us seem to be in a similar place at a similar time. I commented today that I have read through some old journals and the self hatred and zero esteem is heartbreaking. If I treated anyone else like I did myself I would be arrested for harassment and bullying. In all my angst filled journaling I recounted tales from my youth where I had done something stupid or shameful and I absolutely berated myself for such idiocy. Today all I had for that sad, ashamed person was compassion and caring and I actually started not finished (procrastination is on the list to tackle ha ha) a letter to the sad depressed me congratulating me on surviving a tumultuous childhood, forgiving myself for foolish decisions in my teens and twenties and consoling the me that felt she had ruined her life. Why today I felt such overwhelming compassion for my self and all my stories I don’t know but it was like I found that elusive jigsaw piece that once placed, pulls all the rest of the puzzle together and helps you move on where previously you were stuck.
    Thus post has further clarified for me, and countless other judging from the comments, how we need to lay the blame elsewhere and see what a dreadful spell we have been under. Sorry for the wordy comment, I have left several long winded comments today after my epiphany.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I LOVE THIS COMMENT! It’s so true, what you wrote, and it is exactly what I’ve done to myself, in both small ways and big ways. The most painful thing in the world is seeing your children go through something like this. It makes me so angry, and I think maybe that’s what’s needed to finally beat this thing. I can’t stand what it does to people anymore. And you can’t see it clearly when you’re in it. It’s such a slow descent that you are only dimly aware that you are sinking.
      I love the letter idea — it reminds of that inner child work that people talk about. You just want to go back and stop judging yourself so harshly. I’ve had that similar epiphany when I remember things that in reality were not that big of a deal, but in my mind were the end of the world.
      I’ve heard putting a baby picture of yourself up where you can see it is a good way to begin to have compassion for yourself. I know Brene Brown also has an online class that I took with the same ideas.
      I’m so happy you and I are coming out of that dreadful spell. I feel like picketing a liquor store! ; )
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comment. It means the world to me.
      xoxo,
      Shawna

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s a crazy thing…we do blame ourselves for drinking an addictive substance, for being morally weak, and yet we were never taught just how devastating this drink could be.
    I never asked to be addicted to alcohol, and had no idea that I could be addicted to it when I started drinking!
    I am so thankful I finally could stop the horrible abuse I was doing to myself.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Me too. And you’re right — you hear about “street” drugs and what terrible things can happen, but alcohol is seen as a rite of passage. I was dreaming about it last night! And trying to explain all of the damage wrought by an evening of partying. (It was a college dream. Why do I get those so often??)
      I wasn’t one of those people who drank too much from the start — I developed the habit over time, and the alcohol did it’s work. When it sneaks up on you like that, it’s even harder to put a finger on as the cause of depression, anxiety, nervous energy, etc.
      Wendy, I am glad we’re no longer under the influence. ; )
      xoxo,
      Shawna

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I am just finally getting around to actually letting the alcohol go, so this post and comments are a little out of my range just now. I’m a fetus, here, but this resonates. It is exactly what I have been doing in preparation for claiming my life back. Thank you for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hang in there, Carrie Ann! I tended to side the alcohol most of the times I tried to quit. I would think “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.” I always had one foot holding the door open just in case. I hope you are a quicker learner than I am. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What an outstanding post this is. And the commentary on it proves it and enhances it.

    Self-love is so important. And you make that clear. I used that excuse “I’m only hurting myself” way too often. I moved away from home, to isolate and make sure I “only hurt myself”.

    But that’s never true. I’m never only hurting myself. When, in sobriety, i’d talk to family, my absence alone gave them cause to worry. It hurt them, deeply. The phone calls from the hospital etc.

    Thank you for exposing one of my biggest rationalizations as yet another tool of my alcoholic thinking to keep me drinking. Write on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Mark. Half the time, I am writing to reinforce my own scattered thoughts, and somehow it works.
      I used the “I am only hurting myself” excuse for so long, and just discounted other people’s feelings, especially my parents. I would think, “Oh, they worry too much, or “That’s not really any of their business.” It must have been so hard for them to watch.
      Needless to say, I hurt my children as well. Living well now and loving myself is the best way for me to correct that. If they happen to find themselves in the same situation one day, I wouldn’t want them to waste their time feeling guilty. Guilt, in my case, only greased the wheel of the alcohol cycle. And it doesn’t help the situation, where self love does so much to reverse it.
      As always, thank you again for your comments. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Susanne. I started out by reading posts too (Mrs. D Is Going Without), and now it is really important to my sobriety. I am not much of an online community type of person, but I am amazed at the “friends” I have found on sober blogs. I feel more accountable to them than I ever did to “real” people in my life … not sure why that is. ; )
      Hang in there!
      xoxo,
      Shawna

      Like

    2. January 7 is Day 9 for me! And I am not going to any kind of group meetings or anything so I love that this community exists! 🙂 We got this! I feel amazing right now; can’t imagine wanting to jeopardize that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Carrie Ann, congrats on NINE DAYS of sobriety! Those first 30 days are the HARDEST. Good on you for getting through nine days!!!
        I would like to encourage you to find some sort of support group or meetings that you like to go to. I found womens meetings to be just like this blog: helpful and loving. There is a great community here, and Shawna is a fabulous part of it–but we’re not always here to help out. When/if those cravings hit you, where will you go? I hope you find a “closed mouthed friend” for those tough first few days.
        Even though I always considered myself independent and not needing ANYONE, I needed the support of 12 step meetings to get through the first year. I still need them and love them!
        Hang in there, my sister in recovery. You’ve joined the most loving community in the world!!!!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It looks like we’re on sort of the same wellness journey. I love all the healthy info on your site. And the fox — I saw the first one in the wild in my life coming out of our lake a few weeks ago. So cool. ; )
      xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it was like a homecoming, visiting your page. A place of understanding. I am always so grateful to connect to those sharing the depths of their experiences. Thats funny you mention the fox ~ I was going to post those captures today. Magnificent creatures they are!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Homecoming is the perfect word and I know exactly what you mean. Don’t laugh, but in a former life, I was a homecoming queen. (hahahahaha!) There is a whole lot of irony there, by the way. It reminds me of a Frazier episode where Frazier runs into the homecoming queen from his high school, and she’s loud, drunk, and yells at her kids.
        Off to find an exotic dessert, even though I am on a sugarless binge. It’s my reward for surviving until Martin Luther King day.

        Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing to me. ; )

        Liked by 1 person

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