I was planning on writing a blog today about why we should all learn to be a little kinder to ourselves, a thought that came to mind as I was getting dressed this morning in front of the mirror. Perusing my reflection, my gaze automatically fell on my caesarean scar, my (getting smaller but still there) love handles on my hips, my knobbly knees which I have always hated and my non-six pack stomach.
I acknowledge that I am no Elle Macpherson but then who is (apart from Elle herself of course)? But I’m ok considering I have had two children, the last one being only fourteen months ago, I am thirty seven years old (not ancient but certainly no spring chicken anymore), very busy, exceptionally sleep-deprived and recently recovered from a long-standing dependence on alcohol.
And yet it is so entrenched in my conscience to seek out the negatives in myself and ignore the good bits, that when analyzing my physical appearance I am, it would seem, incapable of giving myself a break. I simply do not notice the good bits – are there any?
When I logged onto Soberistas.com at lunchtime I read a comment from someone who is desperately trying to get out of the vicious cycle of binge-drinking and the associated self-hatred. There it was again – someone who sounds, for all intents and purposes, to be an attractive and pleasant person and yet hates herself inside and frequently attempts to rub out the awfulness with too much wine.
‘I so want what you have got Lucy….how did you do it? I’ve tried AA but not much luck. I know I need to want it myself and make the first steps but I struggle getting through a day :-(….I’m a 38 year old single mum and my mum and dad said yesterday how pretty I am and I’ve got an ok figure but why do I hate myself inside? Want to get out of this black hole and enjoy life again…..any advice PLEASE xx’
This blog post then has become my answer to Clara who left the above comment for me on Soberistas.com this morning.
Liking yourself, and eventually learning to love yourself, takes a lot of work. I think our culture is partly to blame as we, as a society, have a habit of disapproving of those who ‘fancy themselves’ a bit too much, whilst the adverts and media imagery which are blasted at our every sense in almost all walks of life depict only one ideal of perfection. It can feel like an uphill struggle to fend off the attack of ‘what we should be.’
Over the last couple of years I have transformed from a very insecure, emotionally unstable and mentally fragile person into someone who is pretty confident and likes herself, not thoroughly but enough. I still (as referred to above) despise my knees and that caesarean scar is taking some getting used to, but I know deep down that I am ok and I try my best to be the best that I can be – which is all any of us can do.
I am in absolutely no doubt that excessively consuming alcohol destroys a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Drinking a lot and feeling good about the person you are just do not go together, and so the only way to escape the trap of self-destruction and self-hatred is to cut out alcohol altogether. It is the alcohol that is at the root cause of how you feel.
Lucky is a funny word to use for coming close to death as a result of booze, but in some ways I do perceive my rock-bottom moment of waking up in hospital as a stroke of luck – it scared me sufficiently to ensure that I never wanted alcohol to pass my lips again as long as I live. However, for those who drink dangerous amounts but have not experienced a frightening wake-up call as I did, stopping drinking (and staying stopped) requires something akin to adopting blind faith in what people who you probably don’t even know, are telling you to be true, and doing so in a climate in which alcohol is prevalent and widely revered.
For you, the person who wrote the comment above, and for anyone else who is in a similar situation, my advice would be to put all your faith in the notion that life becomes easier in every way when you don’t drink; the rough patches will still crop up but your ability to cope with them will be so much stronger, and most importantly you will begin to piece together your self-belief once again, something which is impossible to do when you are drinking heavily on a regular basis.
Give yourself a break; recognise that the best route out of the black hole you have sunk deep inside of is to not drink alcohol TODAY. Believe it, focus on it, make not drinking your absolute priority. And remember that with each passing sober day, you are repairing yourself from the inside out and learning the essential art of liking yourself. And once you like yourself, you will be armed with all the ammunition you’ll ever need to remain sober and happy long-term.
It may feel like an insurmountable climb that lies ahead but, as Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Just get today out of the way, and tomorrow will be easier.
Good luck x