Thinking back to when I was deep in addiction and trauma is really painful. I hated myself. I thought God either didn’t love me or didn’t exist, or maybe my rebellious streak just wanted to believe that because it made the pain of my choices easier to live with. No matter what was causing it though, I really didn’t love me. I didn’t believe anyone could love me. I had a firm belief that I wasn’t worthy of love. I wasn’t lovable. I remember that very first prayer when I was dive bombing into rock bottom: “God, please help me. Please, help me”. I realized in that moment that God had been there all along. I felt an overwhelming love that was indescribable. How on earth could I be worthy of such a feeling? I was two days away from being excommunicated from His church. I had lost my eternal marriage. I was losing my family, most of my friends and my desire to even live. How on earth could God possibly still love me?
It took some processing and an amazing therapist that I started seeing shortly thereafter to help me see that my shame was hiding God’s love from me. I have my agency and I can choose whether or not I choose to live my life in accordance with what I believe to be right, but I can’t choose the consequences of those actions. However, I never realized before that God’s love was not something I earned with those choices. It was not something that was given to me when I was living according to my beliefs and it was not something that was taken away as a tool of manipulation when I didn’t live according to my beliefs as my shame would like me to believe. That was the day that God’s love became a never-empty well of love in my life. A well I could draw from when my shame crept in. A well that could quench my thirst for love, validation, connection, intimacy, friendship, companionship and any other part of my life that was lacking.
The hard part was taking that love one step further and learning to love myself the way God loved me in that infinite way. This is still a work-in-progress for me, but it’s getting easier. I have lived all my life believing that God has commanded us to love EVERYONE and to treat them kindly too. I don’t remember how the inspiration came, but one day I KNEW that the word “everyone” included me. Oh, boy. I was NOT kind to myself. I would make a minor mistake and immediately begin calling myself names, shaming myself, speaking incredibly negatively in my head to myself and generally just being awful. It’s no wonder I lived so much of my life in shame and felt unlovable. We all have an inner child and mine was living cowering in the corner. Why would I believe someone could love me when I couldn’t even love myself? I realized then that the most important thing I could do in my recovery was to change the way I spoke in my mind by first recognizing when I was speaking negatively to myself in my mind. Secondly, I came up with a pre-chosen list of negative things I say to myself and their positive opposites. This is important! In the moment when I’m feeling emotional or frustrated with myself it’s hard to come up with a positive plan of action! WRITE THEM DOWN and keep them in your purse, wallet, scriptures, ICE Box (I’ll make a post about this later), or on your mirror. Keep it somewhere easy to find, easy to remember, and easy to get to. The final and continual step is to practice, practice, PRACTICE! At first it felt so weird and unnatural to do this. The more I did it, the I accepted the positive talk as truth and eventually I didn’t even need my cheat sheet.
I’m not perfect at these principles, but I can confirm that they have changed my life. I no longer live in the negativity inside my head. I LOVE MYSELF – not because I’m perfect, not because I no longer struggle, but because I am worth it. I hope this process helps you as much as it has helped me.