Learning to Love Yourself in Sobriety
Today is Valentine’s Day and that used to mean wayyyy too much to me. I loathed this day. It felt like the entire world was loud on purpose. The day insisted on reminding me just how single, unlovable, and unworthy I’d become. So I drank.
I mean, I ALWAYS drank, but on February 14th, I really went to town. That’s the sad thing about us drinkers. We’re easily convinced that the world is designed in any sort of way with us in mind.
So I not only hated Valentine’s Day, but took it personally.
Fuck you, Hallmark! I’m drowning my sorrows in Angry Orchid and chain smoking out my window while listening to sappy music and doing some unhealthy social media sluething of former love interests.
For the lonely hearts among you…
I realize there are scores of human beings who do not notice and/or care that Valentine’s Day is a thing that exists.
But if you’re not among these scrappy souls, I want to say a few things to you:
- It’s just a day, like every other day and it will be over soon.
- Alcohol will make whatever you’re feeling worse.
- You are not going to feel this way forever.
In retrospect, I know that I piled on the pity-party vibes big time on February 14th because I was constantly looking for validation outside of myself. I believed that validation came in the form of somebody else loving me in ways I could not do for myself.
And that’s a bad feeling.
So I did what I always did with bad feelings – drowned them.
Do the work.
If you’ve managed to stop drinking for any period of time but haven’t (for whatever reason) got going on the emotional work of sobriety, triggering days can be rough.
I get it.
But in the immortal words of Mama RuPaul, “If you can’t learn to love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Learning to love yourself can feel like a comically impossible task. I don’t know if we ever, truly get there 100%. But you can come pretty darn close.
It’s not easy (I think we all know that).
I tried (and failed) to force it. Oh, let me count the ways! Let’s see, I tried daily affirmations a la Stuart Smalley. Reference below for the under 35 crowd:
I did elaborate visualization exercises, tried writing down all my irrational thoughts and setting them on fire (yes, that’s a thing), and bought every new age Oprah-recommended book on the market.
See these things were meant to be neat little ways I could bypass the difficult task of truly facing myself. I was going to practice these spirit-inducing, happy tricks, then sit back and wait for the warm and fuzzies to take over.
You’ll be shocked to hear that it didn’t work.
These are fine maintenance tasks for some, but they’re not going to pull you from the wreckage.
Your first act of self-love.
Whether you’re new to sobriety, been on the path awhile, or just struggling with the whole self-love thing, the first thing you should do, in my humble opinion, is prioritize the uncomfortable emotional work of sobriety.
It’s going to suck sometimes. You are going to resist it.
Whether it’s step work coupled with counseling, or just counseling, making the bold decision to dig your heels in and do this work is the most powerful way to give yourself love.
Getting sober is the first step. You can’t really do much until you get alcohol out of the way. But it’s not, by itself, going to help you love yourself.
It’s breaking down in front of a sponsor, or allowing yourself to sit with your anger, to understand it, and not run away from it no matter how bad it feels. And you do it because you know that if you don’t, you’ll never get anywhere.
Trial by fire.
It’s saying, I care enough about myself and my life to go through this.
It’s choosing to have the difficult conversations, to ask forgiveness, and to take the radical step of forgiving yourself and meaning it.
You’re a little phoenix.
The great thing about this process is that you come out the other side reborn. You bury the person you were and become the person you are now going to be.
And that’s mostly what self-love has been for me. It’s not looking in the mirror and thinking, “Oh my god you gorgeous babe!” Neither is it feeling comfortable with the fleshy bits and a stubborn mummy tummy.
I don’t usually, and I’m not.
But it’s about giving a shit. Coming to peace with the past and deciding you’re worth making a future for. It’s escaping the self-absorbed mental state of addiction and learning to be of service to others.
To feel fulfilled by you what you can do for others, not defined by what they “should” do for you.
It’s the ability to say, “I’m not perfect, but I am good.”
Get you some of that kind of love.
The funny thing is, once I started dealing with my demons, I actually realized I had way more love in my life than I previously thought.
I had AMAZING friends that tried to support me in ways I never reciprocated. In my drinking days, I couldn’t fully appreciate it. And even though I lost most of those friendships, I look back now and realize that I had a lot of love and people rooting for me.
And I’m grateful for that.
I’ve been able to reconnect with my family and actually nurture positive relationships with them. There were people who didn’t know me from Adam, but showed me kindness anyways.
When you start noticing those kinds of things, the world changes.
There’s a quote by Khalil Gibran that has always stuck with me:
And God said “Love your enemy,” and I obeyed him and loved myself.
For me, and maybe you as well, that’s what it boiled down to.
Realizing that I was my own biggest obstacle, critic, and abuser. Choosing to forgive that part of myself and accept her role in my story was a game changer.
I don’t have a magic bullet answer for how you get there. Everyone’s path is different, but I know it starts with asking for and accepting help, and then doing the work assigned to you (interpret that how you like).
So on this Valentine’s Day, I want to wish everyone in the Soberish community an abundance of self-acceptance, peace with your past, and a hopeful eye towards the future.
I am 10 days sober and I read your posts daily. They help to keep me on track. I love your honesty and your words. Thank you!
Oh wow thank you so much!! Congrats on getting past that first week. It’s a huge accomplishment!