You Are Worth It

It’s my older daughter’s 18th birthday tomorrow. This is proving to be a strange thing to wrap my head around, as I’m forty-one but still feel about thirty and way too young in my mind to be the mother of a proper adult. My daughter also pointed out last night that if she were to have a baby at the same age I had her (twenty-three), I’d be a grandma in five years. Gulp. Gulp. Gulp.

lucyisobel-2

Apart from the fact that when one’s child reaches adulthood it marks a stark reminder of one’s own advancing years (with the ever-present draw of mortality lingering not so far in the distance) this is an occasion that makes me really happy. I’m so proud of my daughter who has grown up to be a well-rounded, beautiful girl, and who, despite having faced challenges along the way, has not followed in her mother’s footsteps and sought solace in mind-altering substances.

If I were to give her one gift on her birthday that she could carry with her throughout the coming decades, it would be sustained self-esteem, to continue to believe in herself and her worth as a human being. Having reduced or zero self-esteem was, for me, the catalyst for so many of the mistakes I made in my life. Being devoid of self-esteem leads to a domino effect of negativity, often with the obvious self-medication of alcohol or other drugs being employed to numb the associated misery.

Having no self-esteem can result in: not chasing the job you really want because you don’t think you’ve got a cat in hell’s chance of getting it; consistently pressing self-destruct in relationships because you’re scared that your partner can’t really love you and will, therefore, ultimately leave you (best to get in first); fail to form close bonds with people generally due to fear of being disliked and rejected; physical self-harm; abusing alcohol and/or illegal drugs; side-stepping further education because what’s the point when you’re stupid and will only fail anyway in everything you try to achieve; being selective and closed in your outlook, never daring to explore beyond your comfort zone; not looking after your health because you don’t think you’re worth it; sleeping with people who you don’t particularly like but who, for just a few moments, can make you feel loved; aiming low always, because it’s safer than having to face failure.

The scary thing about having low self-esteem is that when in the midst of being that way, you often aren’t really aware of it. You don’t realise that the stupid things you keep doing, the repeated cycles of negativity from which you can’t seem to escape, are occurring because you don’t like yourself and don’t think you have the right to be fulfilled and content.

Fully accepting that you are an equal human being, who truly deserves to be as happy as any of the other seven billion people on the planet, is not an easy concept to grasp for many people. It took me years to work out the fact that I was just human, not inherently bad, not flawed to my core and destined to a life of unhappiness because I wasn’t good enough to have anything better. The bad relationships I accepted, the rubbish jobs I worked, the endless alcohol I necked, the days spent starving myself, the suicidal moments of utter despair…those things formed the backbone of my life for a very long time.

Quitting alcohol will not magically make all of those things disappear, but what it did for me was provide me with breathing space to live a little, gain some clarity, not make any giant whacking mistakes and to learn a bit about the person I really am. And with all those small steps came a slow and steady increase in my self-esteem, which in turn led to me taking on bigger and better things, allowing myself to want and seek out relationships with people who I really loved instead of just anyone who was nice to me.

Finding self-esteem has meant that I am now able to be a positive role model for my two daughters, to show them how women can live and be happy and aim high and like the person they are, instead of constantly berating themselves and endlessly punishing their bodies for not being like Cindy Crawford’s; rather than accepting the bare minimum and a life of self-destruction; to grab all the opportunities that are there around us all, each and every day, there for the taking just so long as we have the courage and self-belief to do so.

It just takes a leap of faith and a bit of courage, together with the knowledge that small steps do eventually lead to big things.

(Happy birthday to Isobel xx)

Advertisements

Finding Your Way Out Of The Darkness

During my alcohol-fuelled past life I was so ashamed of my little boozy secret, particularly the lonely drinking and the inability to stop once I’d begun, that I covered up the negativity with a hefty dose of bravado and a tenacious refusal to let my hangovers get in the way of life.

Behind the runs I would force myself to go on the morning after a binge, beneath the smiles at work and the heavy make-up to conceal the facial signs of my hangovers, I was completely beset with  agonising emotional pain and heartache caused by what I perceived as my failure to ‘drink like normal people do.’

I couldn’t admit to myself that I had a problem so I was never going to offload my awful secret to anyone else. And so I continued to drink to help forget about the inner turmoil, and I refused to fully acknowledge what I now recognise as a serious dependency upon alcohol.

At my lowest ebb I could barely look another human being in the eye. I stopped caring about the level of harm I was inflicting on my physical self, and conversely I harboured thoughts pertaining to hurting myself and the pointlessness of my life.

For a long time since becoming free of alcohol I haven’t experienced any real depression or sadness as my life has tended to go from strength to strength ever since I put down the bottle. But I clearly remember the weighty burden of depression and how it made making even the simplest of decisions a frightening and exhausting task of epic proportions.

This is why it can be so incredibly hard to make the choice to stop drinking – the short term relief from the feelings of sadness and depression that can be found in alcohol is so tempting in its false ameliorative quality that to find the strength to rebuff it in your darkest of hours is challenging to say the least. And even if you are aware of the negative repercussions of alcohol, when depressed and consumed by self-loathing it is often the intention to inflict further misery on yourself, as opposed to seeking a way out of your depression and into happiness once again.

The thing with all of the above is that if you can find the motivation to stop drinking whilst feeling so low, fairly soon you will notice a lift in your mood and will gradually witness the rejuvenation of your self-esteem. And when this happens, you will no longer have the intense desire to hurt yourself, rather the opposite will be true; you will want to look after yourself and live a happy existence. In not much time at all, the negative blinkers will fall by the wayside and the world will open up to you as a place filled with possibilities and potential, the restrictive, bleak future that you had mapped out for yourself fading into nothingness.375054853_e59b8191cb_z

It is a hugely difficult and brave thing to take the first step into a new life of which you cannot see or even imagine, but it is only the first few footsteps which you will have to navigate in the darkness; once you have made it so far, the sun will come out and shine up a path right before your eyes – a path which you will truly want to follow.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”