I’m only hurting myself.

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I am reposting this because I just read a blog where a man wrote, “but I’m only hurting myself, really.”

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“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 her 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.

Stolen Identity

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When I first stopped drinking for good, I had no idea what to do with myself. I remember thinking, like right out of a movie script, I don’t know who I am anymore. I didn’t know how to act in a group of friends. I didn’t even know what I liked to do. (Well, I did know, but drinking was no longer an option.)

My identify had been stolen.

I’d had it stolen before. Just a few years out of college, someone took my MasterCard, or more likely, I left it at a bar, and they just picked it up. I reported it missing a few days later, and then got a call from a man who said he was investigating my claim. He began asking me about certain charges I’d made, and since I didn’t have a new statement, I couldn’t be sure if I’d made them or not.

He asked about a charge of $300 at a liquor store. I told him, “No, definitely not my charge.” I didn’t drink liquor at the time, nor could I have afforded to stock it in such quantity.

Then he asked about a charge at the wine store I frequented. “Yes, that was probably my charge,” I said.

“The wine store charge was made after you said your card was stolen,” he said triumphantly.

“Well then it couldn’t have been me,” I answered.

There was a long silence on the phone. I realized he didn’t believe me. He started questioning earlier charges, but without giving me the dates. I was easily confused because it appears the perpetrator frequented the same stores I did. The man’s voice became more and more accusing, and then he explained he would be sending this case to the fraud department for investigation. He clarified that they would be investigating me, not the person who took the card. He reminded me that falsely reporting a stolen credit card was a crime, punishable by jail time.

I got off the phone feeling horrible. I’d been treated like a criminal. I was being accused of falsely reporting a stolen card, then charging thousand of  dollars on it. I probably fit some kind of profile: young woman, frequently late on her credit card payments, and with frequent charges to wine stores.

Liar. Thief.

Drinking is like that too. It steals your identify, and then you have to answer for its crimes. And you feel awful because you would never say such things, argue so loudly, or forget where you parked your car. But you would, under the influence. We all do, under the influence. We become less than honest, even if it’s just about how much we drink.

Once I stopped drinking, it took some time before I no longer felt accused, even subtly, by  the people around me. It took even longer to stop accusing myself.

Back to the fraud investigation: I was questioned about a month later, and it appears the person using the card had taken off across the country on a spending spree. I was then accused of giving the card to one of my thieving, lying friends. It wasn’t until there were charges made in Wyoming while I was getting married in North Carolina that somebody believed me, a little. Later, the perpetrator was linked to several stolen cards, and I was off the hook. The bank sent me a letter of apology. I cancelled the card the same day.

And I stopped enabling that other stealer of my identity, alcohol, a couple of years back.

After the first few wobbly months, it was fun getting to know myself again … to be present with the people around me. I get to find out who I am, no longer under the influence of anything.

Love Yourself First

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A woman I was talking with this evening asked me what I would say to someone who is going through the same struggles I have. After I thought about it for few seconds, I said that I would want them to know that I recovered through self-love. But that seemed so trite, and wasn’t the whole answer. I wasn’t recommending that people go get manicures and take hot baths and plan little getaways. That’s self-care, which is important, but that’s really a sign that you already value yourself.

And because this woman has never struggled with addiction, I tried to clarify by talking about how addiction beats you down over time, making you feel worthless and out of control. You might appear OK on the surface, but your self-esteem takes a plunge every time you try and fail to control your drinking. And when you turn to the one substance that makes you feel better, you reinforce both the addiction and the negative feelings about yourself.

A few hours later, I was reading the blog of a woman who is struggling to quit drinking. She used the words I hear so often: “I hate myself.”

My first reaction was to think emphatically, “Don’t ever allow yourself to think that.”

Why did I react so strongly? My own mind used to be a dumping ground for thoughts like these. What’s different for me now is that I know thoughts have power. And ultimately, I am responsible for what I think.

What’s also changed is that through years of reading both spiritual and scientific books, I know that we live in a vibrational universe, and that like attracts like. What we see in the world is really a reflection of our inner state. Physicists are completely upending the way we thought the world worked. This is good news for us because we are no longer victims of the world, watching helplessly as stuff happens to us, but instead can take our rightful place in the driver’s seat. (I’m going to post a resource link for people who want to believe this but can’t quite get there. Experts can explain this far better than I could, especially in a few paragraphs. Of course, even if you don’t understand it, it still works. I don’t understand gravity, but that’s never stopped me from living by its laws.)

Back to sobriety …

If you think “I hate myself,” and don’t question or change that thought, you will draw toward you more reasons to hate yourself. You are the cause, and the world you see is the effect. So to allow this thought to rule your life will not lead you anywhere good.

So this is what I would say to someone struggling with addiction: LOVE YOURSELF NOW, wherever you are, even if that’s no place any sane person would want to be. Your self-love cannot be conditional. Change first your mind about yourself, then the world will reflect that new self-worth back to you.

Think about it … when friends and family gather around someone who’s addicted, trying to love them into sobriety, it only works if the person ACCEPTS that they have value. That they are worth saving. That’s why recovery is so baffling. You can tell someone all day long that they’re beloved, that they mean the world to you, that you see the perfect light of purity in them. You can beg them to see what you see, but they have to be willing to see it themselves.

So how do you go about loving yourself? A lot of spiritual teachers have you repeat the words, like an affirmation: I love myself. Or I am worth loving. You say the words, whether you mean them or not. Eventually, they will become more and more acceptable to you. The word themselves hold power because they’re true.

And you don’t have to believe in this to try it. It’s the only way to prove to yourself that it works.

Years ago, I read the book, The True Power of Water, by Dr. Masuru Emoto. In it, he shows through his research that crystals of water are changed to beautiful shapes just by having people pray over it. A single word can change the nature of water itself. After reading the book, I decided that if the body is mostly water, maybe my thinking the word Love would have the same effect. I didn’t really believe I would see a difference, but I was willing to try it anyway. Such is the power of desperation.

At first, I would just mentally say the word Love whenever a negative thought about myself arose in my mind. There was no reasoning involved. I just used Love as my mantra to blot out negative self-talk. I also used it when I had angry thoughts about other people or difficult situations. After a while, thinking or saying the word would have an immediate calming effect. It gradually stopped the chaotic, destructive thinking that had dominated my thoughts.

That was a first step in an ongoing process that has led to miraculous results. What I found out, over and over again, was that if I was willing to try to love myself, the universe stepped in to help. Suddenly, I attracted experiences that honored that self-love. Difficult relationships fell away, opening the path for healing and forgiveness. I found my lifetime partner. I treated myself gently when it took years to give up drinking completely.

I still get impatient and angry sometimes, but I can re-center myself with just one word. And I live in an almost constant state of appreciation for myself and the people around me.

You can live this way too.

Start now.

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Stepping Out!

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“You can choose COURAGE or you can choose COMFORT, but you cannot choose BOTH!”

— Brené Brown

This is one of my least favorite quotes by Brené, probably because it’s the one I most need to hear. And if you’ve ever been without comfort for a long period of time, you want to grab on to it with both hands — it might just get away from you.

Regardless, I just started a new blog for anyone interested in spirituality and A Course in Miracles. I can tell that some people here in the blogosphere are really interesting in this kind of thing, and others are really not. Another blog was the answer to keeping the two separate, though they’re completely intertwined for me.

And I’m also stepping way outside my comfort zone, as sobriety teaches you to do. I had an unusual and amazing spiritual experience about 18 years ago, and only a few people know about it. The result was that a doorway opened, allowing me a more direct connection with my spirit guides. I’ll be blogging about that as well … how we become channels of the divine, particularly through journaling. I’ve done readings for friends for years, and will be doing intuitive readings over the phone. I’m not sure how that will work yet … but I’ve been talking it about for over a decade. (Don’t tell my mom.)

So there you have it! My new blog is www.shawna-rae.com, and I currently have zero followers. I can only go upward from here.  💕

Before and After: Breakfast

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Behold: the Breakfast of Champions!

A million small things change when you stop drinking, even for a short period of time. Those small changes add up to seismic changes in your life.

Here’s a typical morning for me, before and after:

Breakfast after drinking: McDonald’s take-out on the way to work to settle stomach. Egg McMuffin and medium Diet Dr. Pepper. Eat while driving and applying make-up. Arrive late, as always.

Breakfast while sober: Fried egg over avocado, Italian herbs, and tomato. Add fresh basil from actual plant, kept alive for weeks on end. Read A Course in Miracles meditation for the day. (upper left) Work from home, for self.

Happy Monday!

💕

Notes from the Universe

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Notes from the Universe are the personalized  daily email from Mike Dooley that I absolute love. They always seem to tie in to what I’ve been thinking about or what I need to hear.
And they’re free!
Here’s my note for today:
About those dreams you have each night, Shawna, that you don’t quite remember… 
Well, those are the ones in which you hold sway over the stars, possessing the keys to the entire Universe, and in which all the angels sing your name in praise. The very same ones in which you summon legions to do your bidding, create worlds to play your games, and unflinchingly orchestrate challenges that are so intense, you completely forget you’re even dreaming. 
And you’re having one right now. 
Now, repeat after me, “I will remember I’m dreaming, I’m perfectly safe and sound, and that rumble in the jungle… is just me.”
Tallyho,
   The Universe

“Love yourself …” — Heather Locklear

TLC "Too Close To Home" ScreeningDoes addiction bring drama into your life? Just ask Heather Locklear. Things appear to be looking up for her, according to her recent quote on Instagram:

“Love yourself…enough to take the actions required for your happiness…enough to cut yourself loose from the drama-filled past…enough to set a high standard for relationships…enough to feed your mind and body in a healthy manner…enough to forgive yourself…enough to move on.”