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.