Love in Recovery

5 Feb

I always believed that I was waiting for the courage to love in a relationship when I was really waiting for the courage to truly love myself. I am very good at tricking myself into believing I treat myself well. I am good at this because I know no other yard stick of self-love to hold it up against to measure other than my state of addictions where there was little or no love at all. I have no frame of reference of what healthy self-love entails, but I will get there.

It all makes sense. The chaos, striving, and self-sabotaging has a root and it is a root that I buried deeper into the earth. Out of sight, out of mind. But what is put into darkness must always come to light. Briere (2002) has done some great work on research on trauma and it’s long lasting effect on children, one of them state that children who experience abuse and neglect are likely to have “insecure attachment styles in adulthood” (p.3).  In retrospect I can self-identify that I was categorized as “Fearful”, which is characterized by “a high need for interpersonal acceptance and affirmation and, yet, avoidance of intimacy” (Briere, 2002, p.3).  I came across this in my Addictions course where I used myself for a paper on….addiction. It explained why I felt like I had to strive, achieve and prove that I was worthy to the outside world. I pushed myself to the realm of fatigue regularly to be fit, to volunteer, to show everyone that I had heart and that I was worthy of loving. I worked incredibly hard to convey my transformation especially after tarnishing it with years of uncontrolled drinking, promiscuity, and self-loathing. I needed to know that I could be loved. No, I needed other people to know that I could be loved and I naively hoped that then I would be able to light a fire from the spark that I reflected and be able to keep myself warm with my own self-love.

It’s like asking what came first the chicken or the egg? Outward acceptance and love or inward? Well, this seems like an obvious answer. You need inward love above all else and anything self-love based upon the measure of love spooned out to you by outside audience will forever be dependent upon that love and attention coming in. Yet, if you look at a child who needs to thrive, they need the outside love, the acceptance, and the safety otherwise they will fall into the attachment trap. Don’t get me wrong, I was loved immensely by my mother and father as a child but there love didn’t keep me safe from the sexual abuse they could not see. I still struggle with maintaining the balance of accepting compliments for the work that I do and making sure that I don’t take too much from it. I sometimes have outright denied any great feelings from work that I have done and gained recognition for because I am scared of tipping the scales in favour of my old fearful attachment style.

So here I am, creeping up on two years of sobriety and wondering why I still haven’t been able to love myself. When I was 6 months sober I started a relationship, and for any of you fellow addicts whom have watched Sandra Bullocks “28 Days” or know some basic rules of getting sober, this is a no-no. It was incredibly hard for me to let down my boundaries and to even admit that I loved this person because I felt like it gave them power over me. I was the Fearful attachment girl, I needed outside validation but intimacy terrified me. I received acceptance for who I was and the past that I carried and that made me feel better but still, something was missing. I realize now that I was like Bambi, wobbling on my love legs and when I stepped into a relationship, I forgot I was learning how to walk on my own two legs. I started to receive love from my partner and stopped on my journey of self-love. I figured that if my big issue was intimacy, I was conquering that and would be able to stare back at the wasteland of my past give a salute and carry forward like a brave soldier.

I have made leaps and bounds over the past two years, I can be honest like this with the outside world and not worry about being judged. Sometimes I feel like a bleeding heart because I am so open about my vulnerabilities and unafraid to feel but… I have been waiting my whole life to be real and I want to do it the best I can.

Here’s to wobbly love legs and epiphanies.

 

Helen K

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