Archive for the ‘Self-Esteem’ Tag

Beautiful   2 comments

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“Baby Steps” – Self-Esteem (Re-Post)   5 comments

“Baby Steps” a Lesson in Self-Esteem

After some recent interactions I feel that this is a good time to revisit this concept. It is such a struggle for so many. I actually heard someone say “I don’t feel worthy of getting better.” How much clearer can this epidemic be expressed?

I Hope and pray that your are encouraged and inspired to fight the good fight and take those first challenging “Baby Steps” of reclaiming your self-esteem.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome and ENCOURAGED

One Breath, One Step, One Day at a Time!

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Self-Esteem is probably one of the most important yet difficult issues faced by any human being whether you are challenged with a mental illness or substance abuse or not. This is even truer for those that are traveling along this journey of Recovery battling these issues.

It has been my experience that Self-Esteem is so difficult for some of us that we avoid even talking about the issue completely, including ways to work to improve it. I believe that we do this because we are fully aware of the minimal amount of esteem that we have for ourselves. This low-self-esteem is a great obstacle in our recovery.

We will often sabotage our potential and possibility of success, by not fully investing ourselves and thus not giving our very best effort. Why? We do this because we are “Sure” that we are going to fail again. If we are honest with ourselves, then we often unconsciously and at times consciously choose to fail rather than succeed. I believe that we do so for a couple of different reasons.

1. Though it is painful, failure is actually comfortable and familiar. Though it hurts, we know where we are and what is going to happen next.

It is sad but true but, many of us, despite the pain and suffering we will often choose to remain in a state dysfunction out of comfort and familiarity.  On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to succeed, then there is a whole new world of unknowns that we must navigate. Once we start experiencing even the smallest of victories, then we are faced with all new expectations of success placed on us by ourselves and by others. Here again, we had rather fail now rather than fail later and let ourselves or more importantly (to us at the time) someone else.

2. Through our past and experiences, we have grown to believe, “I don’t deserve to be successful and happy”

For many of us we initially heard the negative messages from others, parents, teachers, others kids at school, etc. Messages like: “You’re good for nothing”, ”You’ll never amount to anything”, “I don’t even know why you try”, “ All you are is a screw-up”. These “tapes” have played in our heads for so long that we grow to believe that we really are “worthless” and do not deserve to have anything good happen in our lives. When something does happen to our benefit, we attribute it to “luck” or to the actions to someone else and refuse to accept any personal recognition or satisfaction for the effort which we put forth in order to reach that point of success, no matter how great or how small.

 3. We have developed a since of learned helplessness.

Similarly, we grow to accept and take on these same negative messages and thus believe that we truly are not capable of succeeding.  Therefore, when faced with an opportunity for success, we either consciously or unconsciously sabotage it, insuring that we fail. There by strengthening our belief in our helplessness. I believe that this is where the concept of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes in.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is at the beginning, a false belief about a situation which evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. Thus the individual will cite the actual course of events as proof that he/she was right from the very beginning

Much of what I have shared thus for is not new to any of you, in fact my guess is that as many of you have read, you have said to yourself, “Oh, that is why I do that”. Well now that we have a little bit of an idea, of how we got to where we are, and why we have stayed here, lets look at some ways to get moving in the right direction.

Most, if not all of us, have been hindered at least to some degree by before mentioned learned helplessness. There is one good thing about learned helplessness… it is LEARNED. If it is learned, then it can be unlearned and something new, different, better can be learned in its place.  We can learn “hopefulness”.  Hopefulness essentially is the opposite of helplessness.

Hopefulness is “Believing, despite what I see in my circumstances, I am capable and worthy of being successful.”

Of course, getting to that point is much easier said than done. Many of us have been hopeless and helpless for so long, we struggle with even the possibility of hope.

Self-Esteem has to be build from the ground up and learning to walking in it really is a step by step process. Let me borrow from a life experience and lesson that we have ALL learned from.

When a child learns to walk, he/she does not turn 10-months old and just start walking independently. There are MANY smaller steps that have occurred over the months leading up to day.  He/she rolled over, scooted, crawled, pulled up to stand, etc. He/she took one “baby step” after another until he/she got to the point of taking those first steps. Even then, once he/she starts walking, there are going to be falls, bumps, and bruises.  Does the child give up? NO. He/she cries for a bit, but then gets up and tries again. Slowly but surely, he/she gets better and better, more stable, and ultimately more and more confident.

We must translate these same “baby steps” into our recovery. As we start out, we slowly put one foot in front of the other, a little wobbly at first and reaching out and relying on our support systems to a degree. We begin with simple say day to day challenges: getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, going to support groups or meetings. If faced with more difficult decisions we seek counsel from among our peers and support. As we grow more confident and stable in making these simple day to day decisions and solving problems, we gradually start taking on more difficult ones. Again, we are becoming more and more confident in the process. Just as with the child learning to walk, we are learning that there is hope, we can be successful and it really is not as scary a place as we thought that it was. We have learned to be hopeful, seeing ourselves and our circumstances from a optimistic perspective, seeing the good that our lives can be and how we can be an asset to those around us.

I want to leave you with a few practical exercises to help as you begin “crawling” in your self-esteem:

  1.  List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  2.  List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  3. Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  4. Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be  “worse off” than you.

As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 “We have to walk before we can run!”

There is Hope, You are NOT Alone!   5 comments

Posted October 4, 2011 by Hope in Recovery in Hope

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Trauma   3 comments

PREFACE: Please be aware that some may find this article triggering. Read with caution and PLEASE stop reading and seek out support at any point that it becomes overwhelming. It WILL be emotion inducing and some what challenging. However, I believe that you will be glad that you did so.

                 This article is definitely more enlightening, but I do hope that by the end you are encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope and most importantly EMPOWERED to believe in yourself and the strength that resides within.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                     YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

There can be absolutely no denying the impact that trauma has on mental illness and substance abuse. In fact, I would guess that a significant number of readers of this very article, have been touched by some kind of trauma or another. In fact, I would be bold enough to day, that if you personally have not been touched by trauma, every one of us has some one close to us that has.

Well, let’s start with a simple definition of trauma:

  • A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  • An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  • An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
  • Extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

Trauma is also defined by DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as:

an event in which a person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to physical integrity of oneself or others

Trauma can be the result of experiences that are private in nature such as:

  • sexual assault
  • domestic violence
  • Rejection / Abandonment
  • child abuse/neglect
  • witnessing interpersonal violence
  • Victim of Crime (assault, robbery, etc)

Trauma can also be the result of experiences that are more public in nature such as:

  • War
  • Natural Disasters
  • Terrorism
  • Automobile or other Accident

That being said we have ALL experienced some kind of trauma or another. However, it is the personal/private trauma that we think of most and typically has the most psychological effect.

 A Few Facts about Trauma

In mental health and substance abuse service settings

  • As many as 80% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals have experienced physical or sexual abuse, most of them as children.
  • The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%)or Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were abused as children.
  • Up to two-thirds of both men and women in substance abuse treatment report childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 90% of alcoholic women were sexually abused as children or suffered severe violence at the hands of a parent.

In childhood and adolescence

  • 82% of young people in inpatient and residential treatment programs have histories of trauma.
  • Violence is a significant causal factor in 10-25% of all developmental disabilities.

In the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems

  • 80% of women in prison and jail have been victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  • In one study, 92% of incarcerated girls reported sexual, physical or severe emotional abuse.
  • Boys who experience or witness violence are 1,000 times more likely to commit violence than those who do not.

From The Damaging Consequences of Violence and Trauma, 2004, compiled by Ann Jennings, PhD.

Trauma, especially when left untreated can have a severe and negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Trauma has been linked to…

  • Hallucinations
  • Disassociation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • disturbances in mood/self-esteem,
  • Delusions
  • Self-Injury
  • Hostility
  • Flashbacks /Nightmares
  • Assaultiveness
  • Impaired interpersonal  Relationships
  • substance abuse

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OK, enough of the textbook info. What about where the rubber hits the road. In the lives of REAL people not numbers and statistics.  The truth is, traumatic experiences can literally be devastating! A single experience can be disturbing enough on the functioning of an adult, how more injurious is repeated or multiple traumas to the psyche of a child. This is my personal theory, not supported by any research that I know of:

“Trauma is the number one leading cause of poor self-esteem.”

 It reaches in to the deepest places of the individual psyche, pulls it out, rips it to pieces, stomps on it and then hands it back. All that is left is mess and the individually is usually unable to even recognize her/him-self after the fact.  All one is left with is pain, anger, fear, and self-doubt. At this point it feels like there is absolutely no hope at all.

My friends, look around, this sounds paradoxical, but if you are at the bottom, then that is a GOOD thing.

It is a good thing, because if you are at the bottom then there is only one direction to go and that is UP!

My personal “traumatic” experiences are rather minimal, but I have known and helped many through very intense and overwhelming experiences.  I do NOT claim to be a trauma expert, but want to offer some encouragement and insights for helping those that have these experiences to fully overcome them; even it is a “baby step” at a time.

So, where to begin? The first step and most important step is recognizing that you do not have to be a “victim” of the trauma in your past. Simply having survived and come out of it at least somewhat functional, you have proven the strength of your character. Despite how powerless you feel now, you are stronger than you believe at this point in time.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                      YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

I once heard it said something like this: “The mark of an individual is not what he/she has accomplished, who he/she was in the community, how much money he/she made, but what adversity had he/she overcame!

Let me say it a little differently:  “Your past has shaped your view of yourself and the world around, but it does not define who you are now, or your destiny.

The first and hardest part of coping with trauma is separating ourselves from it! We must find a way to start rebuilding our “self” from the inside out. Here are a few practical steps from my article on self-esteem. (Click the link to open the article – will not close this one).

  • List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  • List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  •  Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  •  Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be “worse off” than you.

 As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 Next and likely just as difficult and I know more painful…. We MUST get in touch with the depths of the emotions associated with our traumatic experiences.

 **WARNING**

Do NOT try this at home!

Do NOT attempt to do this ALONE!

As long as we continue to hide from, cover-up, stuff and self-medicate the feelings associated with our trauma, we will continue to suffer just like we were in the midst of the event over and over again. It is like a never ending flashback of pain and suffering. However, when we face them head and push our way through them, yes it is going to be VERY painful, and we want to quit and give-up. We say to ourselves and even to those around us, “It’s not worth it”. But hang in there. The pain is severe, but if you will endure, then you can break the power and control that those strong emotions have had on you leading to ongoing suffering. Now is the time to be totally honest with yourself and the PROFESSIONAL that is helping you. There is no such thing as wrong or inappropriate emotions. Every feeling that you feel related to your experiences is valid and need to be expressed, processed and released!

You will NEVER forget, but with time and work, those memories will not be painful and debilitating. You are on a long and treacherous journey, much like climbing a steep mountain with nothing but a cliff on one side and falling rocks on the other. But if you can hang on and keep pushing yourself, when you get to the top, the view is worth it. When you finally start feeling like you are getting “ahead” of your past, you will simply be amazed of how STRONG you will feel. The beauty and confidence that have been hidden by pain and fear.

Be patient with yourself, you did to get to this point in your life overnight and unfortunately overcoming it does not happen quickly nor easily either. But, celebrate and reward yourself for small victories and accomplishments along the way. Every obstacle that is overcome, makes you stronger and more prepared to overcome the next. Soon, instead of “making mountains out of mole hills”, you will be “making mole hills out of mountains!”

In closing let me close with one final recommendation

Each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

We have to LIVE in the present looking forward with hope for the future. I urge you my friends star LIVING and take your life and destiny back from the traumatic events and perpetrators that have haunted you for TOO LONG!

 YOU ARE WORHT IT!

Your past may have set you going down a certain path, but you are still the one in the driver’s seat!

 The scars of yesterday are the badge of honor and strength of today and the proof of potential for tomorrow.

Write Your Own Story!   4 comments

Most of us have heard the old saying, “He who angers you, controls you.” I contend that anger is not the only emotion that we can let others to control us. These emotional ties come from many sources: past abuse or trauma, abandonment/rejection, unfaithfulness. Other sources include current disturbing behaviors such as substance abuse, violence run away, etc. They control us because we choose to have our lives driven by our emotional reactions to the behaviors of others. Lets discuss these two very different scenarios.

First lets look at control from the past. Please consider the following example;

A young man feels and believes he was abandoned and rejected by his birth mother. Despite being raised by a loving and caring step-mother, he never gets over the feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and bitterness. As a result of these feelings, he grows to believes that he is not worthy of being loved or wanted. So all of his relationships are either short lived because as soon as things start getting “too close”, whether consciously or not, he sabotages the relationship and pushes others away. This is not true just in romantic relationships, it can also be true in platonic relationships as well. If this is not what he does then he finds the “sickest” or neediest girl that he can and goes to work making her dependent on him. Why? If she need him to take care of her, she won’t leave, and thus abandon/reject him. (So he believes anyway).

 So what is the driving force behind these behaviors?

 His behavior is controlled by his unresolved issues from his mother. Thus, I would say that because he allows these beliefs and emotions to continue to shape and direct his life, he chooses to give the control of his life, the pen of his story, back to his mother, rather she wants it or not.

 When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

 Now, lets look at the other scenario, current disturbing behaviors of others that control our emotions and behaviors. As mentioned above, there are a number of behaviors that may contribute to this type of reaction: substance abuse, anger, violence, criminal behavior, run away, manipulation, etc. We have all been in this situation to some degree or another.

 Here again, lets look at another example:

 A young lady is in a relationship with an alcoholic/addict that disappears on binges for days at a time. She sits at home, crying and worrying that he is OK. When he does finally come home, she nurses him through coming down and withdrawal and then does everything that she can to clean up after him. If he misses work, she calls the boss and tells him he is sick. She keeps the secret hidden, yet she is miserable, lonely, depressed and hates every minute of it.

So here again, why? Similarly, she believes that is what a “good wife” does; “no one else would love me and want to be with me.” Whatever the case she continues to let his behaviors and her emotional response. This is especially difficult when the individual is not a spouse or even a parent, but your child.

To a degree, you feel responsible, you blame yourself, you ask yourself over and over, “What did I do wrong?” The truth is, for most of us, we did nothing wrong. Our loved ones/children have made their own choices. Despite all of our efforts now an in the past, we have no control over their choices and behaviors.

On the other hand, when we allow ourselves to be consumed by worry and attempts to “save them from themselves.” then we are giving them that exact control over our lives. We allow their behaviors and our emotional response to them to consume our very being.

We all know exactly what I am talking about; it is classic “codependency”. Sometimes we are aware of it and are even willing to acknowledge it, but we have been this way so long, we don’t know any other way to live. We have completely lost our identity as an individual because we are so enmeshed with our addicted loved one.

I hear you saying, “thanks for pointing out all that is wrong with me. That was really encouraging.” I truly understand, but what is the first step of solving a problem or fixing something is wrong? We have to recognize that what we have been doing to this point is number one not changing the other person, and number two and most importantly we are unhappy and in fact, miserable.

That brings me to the good news or bad news depending on your point of view, some recommendations on how to change this cycle and reclaim our emotions and behaviors. Here why I say it could be considered bad news: It is NOT going to be easy, and it WILL take a lot of work. So if you are ready to take the challenge and start living YOUR life again, then keep reading, if not good luck.

When we continue to look back and let issues from the past control our emotions and behaviors then we are surrendering control over our destiny back to the person or persons that hurt us to begin with. I once said it like this: we had no control over the abuse in the past, but now we hand them the bat.

Whether, it is the current or past, we must find a way, to do the hardest, but most important thing: “LET GO”.

 We must accept that there is nothing that we can do to change the events of the past. Holding on to the pain, anger, and any other related negative emotions only hinders our ability to move forward and meet our full potential. I know that this is a painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The same is true in regards to letting go of the expectation that we can change the dysfunctional and negative behaviors of our loved ones. Our worrying about them, nagging, yelling, threatening does not effect positive change, in fact many of these behaviors lead to exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

 The very best thing that we can do is express our love and concern for our loved one and then pray believing that the Heavenly Father will keep is eye and hand upon them. We can not go on protecting them from the consequences of their choices and behavior. When we do so, we simply enable the behavior to continue.

 Just like overcoming the past, and moving on, I know this is a difficult and painful process and we can’t just let go and walk away that easy. Take your time, surround yourself with support. If possible being involved in some kind of counseling is also a good idea. This may be individual or a group of others with similar experiences.

 The next step is probably just about as difficult, we must start reclaiming our own identity. For many of us we have been so entangled in the past or the behaviors of others that we have lost even the ability to recognize who we even are without that to define us.

 Start simply, set aside some time with just you, paper and pen or your computer.

  • List all the current roles that “define” you (mother, father,son, sister, teacher, friend, etc).

  • List your values? (What is important to you? – faith honesty, kindness, family, friends, etc.)

  • List the character traits that either define you now, or that you would like to do so. (strong, independent, hopeful, etc.)

  • List your strengths. (What are you good at?)

  • List your weaknesses. (What do you need to work on?)

  • What are your goals? (Where are you going, what do you want to do with your life?

  • Finally, write out a narrative that would describe you as person. Start with the list from above and describe your personality, your likes/dislikes, strengths weaknesses and most importantly where are YOU going in future?

Now, each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I can love and support others, but they must choose their own path. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

I feel like this article has been a little disjointed, but I hope and pray that it helps you to let go and start living your own life again.

Thanks for reading!

R2R

 

So You Think You Know Me….   4 comments

The Paradox of Masks

“Society is a masked ball, where every one hides his real character,and reveals it by hiding” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all wear a mask from time to time, many of us more than one and to tell the truth some of us live in them.  I consider the afore mentioned quote, “Society is a masked ball….” I envision people all standing around talking, but each is holding a masquerade mask covering his/her face. Then as someone leaves one group to visit with a different group, they change masks before they get to the next group.

 Even the great Apostle Paul said the following, “I have become all things to all people” in 1 Corinthians 9:22.

It is actually natural and healthy to adapt and conceal our parts personality to a degree when we are interacting in different situations or settings.  We all have different roles that we play. We  are a father/mother, a husband/wife, son/daughter,  supervisor/employee, teacher/student, a friend, etc. In each of these roles, we portray a little different version of ourselves than we do with the others. This adaption is normal and expected. I was recently discussing the concept of masks with some other travelers on the “Road” and the idea came to me that in these situations, it is more like having a veil that only partially hides the face; we partially conceal our true personality rather than covering it entirely.

However, many of have taken that next step and we wear a various masks, thus hiding our true personality entirely.

The question that must be asked is, “Why?” Why do we feel it is a necessity to wear masks and hide who we really are from others?

There are many different answers to this question; we will focus on the one that fits more than any other.

Life experiences have taught that others can not be trusted. If others are allowed “too close”, then they will disappoint and hurt us.

What kind of hurts have we experienced? These include: abuse, neglect, rejection, abandonment, just to name a few.

I know in my life personally, I felt abandoned and rejected by my mother. So in order to feel loved and accepted, I would enter a group and look around at the attitudes, behaviors and personalities of others in the group and I would proverbially, paint my mask to be similar to theirs.

The mask that I wore more than any other was the mask of caretaker and hero. Everyone of my “romantic” relationships up until I met my now wife of 15 years, were very co-dependent and dysfunctional. I figured that I wasn’t good enough for the “normal” girls. So I found subconsciously I sought out someone that needed to be “fixed” or “taken care of” as much as I needed to be needed.

Along my way on this journey, I have met MANY others that due to whatever reason, they have taken on the same types of behaviors. We have become people pleasers and co-dependent, seeking to insure that EVERYONE else is happy even when doing so makes us miserable on the inside.

This is no surprise to anyone, but if we live our lives hiding behind a mask, we will never be happy or find peace. We go from place to place and group to group always making sure that we are wearing the “right” mask for the occasion. Then we find ourselves in a crisis when we encounter people from different groups simultaneously. For example you out to dinner with your significant other, and “one of the guys” form the office comes up to you and tells you an off color joke that you know that your date is going to find offensive. What do you do? Which mask to you reveal?

Although I know it’s unfair I reveal myself one mask at a time” Stephen Dunn

 “It’s a terrible thing to be alone — yes it is — it is — but don’t lower your mask until you have another mask prepared beneath –as terrible as you like –but a mask.”Katherine Mansfield

There comes a point that as much as he hate it as unhappy as we are wearing masks, we get to the point that we no longer know how to live without them. We do not know how to interact and relate with others in any other way. We wear s certain mask for so long that we “become” the mask that we wear, yet we despise every moment of it, and start hating ourselves for getting to that point. We are miserable within our own skin and consciousness and have no idea what to do about it. This misery has led to many of the self-destructive habits and behaviors that led to us being on this journey; substance abuse, self-harming, eating disorders, suicide attempts and ideation, etc.

“Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.”  William Somerset Maugham

 “He who wears a mask cannot see within himself.” Anonymous

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. …You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” Jim Morrison

We have gotten to the point that we have completely lost knowing who we really are because all we see is the mask. We have even tried to “look inside” and we don’t know “who we are” anymore. Our personality has become so enmeshed with our mask, we do not know which are which and what emotions are real and which are the result of wearing the mask. Eventually, we get to the point that we stop feeling completely.

So, no what? Seems like the picture that I have painted to this point looks pretty grey and dreary, BUT there is hope! One day at a time, one step at a time we can RECLAIM our emotions, our behavior and ultimately our personality!

First of all you MUST learn to believe in ourselves again, and that often entails rebuilding our self-esteem.  Here is an except from a previous post “Baby Steps – Self-Esteem”

Self-Esteem has to be built from the ground up and learning to walking in it really is a step by step process. Let me borrow from a life experience and lesson that we have ALL learned from.

When a child learns to walk, he/she does not turn 10-months old and just start walking independently. There are MANY smaller steps that have occurred over the months leading up to day.  He/she rolled over, scooted, crawled, pulled up to stand, etc. He/she took one “baby step” after another until he/she got to the point of taking those first steps. Even then, once he/she starts walking, there are going to be falls, bumps, and bruises.  Does the child give up? NO. He/she cries for a bit, but then gets up and tries again. Slowly but surely, he/she gets better and better, more stable, and ultimately more and more confident.

We must translate these same “baby steps” into our recovery. As we start out, we slowly put one foot in front of the other, a little wobbly at first and reaching out and relying on our support systems to a degree. We begin with simple say day to day challenges: getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, going to support groups or meetings. If faced with more difficult decisions we seek counsel from among our peers and support. As we grow more confident and stable in making these simple day to day decisions and solving problems, we gradually start taking on more difficult ones. Again, we are becoming more and more confident in the process. Just as with the child learning to walk, we are learning that there is hope, we can be successful and it really is not as scary a place as we thought that it was. We have learned to be hopeful, seeing ourselves and our circumstances from a optimistic perspective, seeing the good that our lives can be and how we can be an asset to those around us.

I want to leave you with a few practical exercises to help as you begin “crawling” in your self-esteem:

  1.  List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  2.  List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  3. Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  4. Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be  “worse off” than you.

As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

Of course that is just the FIRST step, and as we all know that is a definite chore in and of itself. The good news is that as we are working on our self esteem, we become more and aware of our aware, comfortably and happy with our REAL personality. As we do so, then how do we get out from behind the mask and start revealing this “new person”.

Similarly, to building our self-esteem, we MUST take BABY steps. We start by taking little risk in trusted and safe relationships.

You and a group of friends are going to the movies and they are discussing what to go see, SPEAK UP! Jump into the discussion and share your opinion. Very low risk, but you’re giving yourself and your wants/needs a voice.

Slowly, over time take bigger and bigger risks in your relationships.

I know this sounds paradoxically TOO simple, yet at the time very difficult. The techniques are rather simple, the application “not so much”. I know from experience that working through the emotions related to this issue can be very painful. But I ask you, would you rather suffer the pain of dealing with the issues that got you to where you are, or do you want to continue to suffer in the misery of nothingness hidden behind a mask.

I hope pray that you choose to BELIEVE in the good that is within and the good in others.

When you hide behind a mask, it is like taking a priceless jewel and hiding its beauty from those desiring to admire it. You steal a little piece of the beauty out of the world.

So as was so appropriately stated my Jim Morrison, “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.”

Be Free,           Be Beautiful,                Be Happy!

Out of the Darkness a Light Arises   1 comment

I hope that you all will be as encouraged as I was when I read this message from a friend and fellow traveler on the “Road to Recovery”. Thanks for sharing it with us Tiffany!

My testimony, hope it encourages someone today, I’m a believer who struggled with alcohol and codependency. The insanity of my life before recovery, I was already born into an addictive family. Now this part of my story is important because this is how it began and why I chose the path I did. My dad was codependent and based his life on addictive behaviors on alcohol, drugs, money and woman. My mom was really heavy into drugs and alcohol as well. That is where I come in, my dad was married and had a family with someone and my mom was his nanny, I was the creation of their chaos. When I was two my mom was so messed up on drugs that she had abandoned me, she left me unattended for three weeks, remember my age only two. The only reason I am alive today from that period of time was a neighbor lady that heard me crying, she called someone and told them they haven’t seen anyone in that house for at least three weeks, she then called the police, I was sitting there in the corner soiled diaper, blanket and in the cross legged position, with barely any energy to move, still not sure how I had enough energy to cry. They ended up putting me in the hospital for dehydration, they were wondering how I was still alive, and the only thing I know sure was God himself. They ended finding my dad for he was already moved on with another family somewhere in Medford, Wisconsin and he came to pick me up. He was moved in with another family so I gained a stepmother and a brother and sister whom my dad had adopted. And at the age of two my mother neglected me to the point my legs were stuck in a sitting position, I didn’t learn how to walk until age three, that is what can happen to a child if they are not taken care of and what drugs can do to a person. I later found out that the reason I was stuck in this position is because I was sexually abused by my father, a lot of men that my mom partied with and my grandpa, this was the position I would sit after it happened to me being scared. Through this time my dad had spent time on his business and was very much absent in my life. His new addiction had become working and money. While he was busy with that he sent me to private school so we would look like we had the perfect family on the outside and the inside. My dad had the money the perfect family, the luxury vehicles he had everything from what people could see, at least that’s what it looked like from the outside. On the inside it was far from perfect. While my father was gone with business my stepmother was a very sad and angry woman. She was physically and verbally abusive to me for many years of my life until I was fifteen. During these years, I was going to private school and I knew then and there I was not like everyone else. I never seem to feel like I belonged anywhere no matter what I did. I was top in cheerleading and I was the track star, yet still never felt like I belonged, from the outside it seemed like I had it all together but on the inside I was dying and felt very lost. No matter how many people were around I felt very alone always. As I mentioned before my stepmother was very much emotionally and severely physically abusive to me on a daily basis, I never knew what the day was going to bring. Finally one day my brother had had enough of the abuse he was involved as well, she had bashed both of our heads together before school, he then told school about it that morning and the police were called and we were put in a foster home. I was so lost I felt guilt feeling it was my entire fault, rejected by my dad and wondering what was next. I stayed in a foster home for about two weeks, then my mother, yes my birth mother was informed and she asked the county to give me to her. So they sent me to Red Wing to go live with her. She took me in because she knew that the child support checks would be huge. She also was remarried at the time and they both used drugs and drink together, that is where all the child support went to, their drugs and alcohol. Everyday was a mystery as to what mood she was in and wondering if I could just run and hide, she would have parties always at the house and she was also emotionally and physically abusive to me as well. The words that killed the most daily were the words she told me that I was a mistake and I ruined her life, she always told me how ugly I was and would never amount to nothing. You can imagine what that had done to my already broken image of myself. I felt more rejected than ever by my own mother and was always wondering what was wrong with me, I went to school in Red Wing for a very short time, again a time where I didn’t feel like I belonged, this was the point in my life where I didn’t even know where life was bringing me anymore, I was lost and rejected by my father and my mother for the second time, this point of my life I just tried giving up. The school could tell something was going on at the home, they took me into the office, I knew the drill ask questions, try not to answer without having fear in my voice of what would happen if they sent me back home. From that moment on they called police and the county had me removed from the home, and then later on the county had declared my mother unfit and they legally emancipated me from her. Once the county has custody over you they can place you wherever they want, so at age sixteen I was tossed from here to there crisis centers, more foster homes, just really anywhere they had a spot for me, this went on for two years until I was eighteen. I had no sense of self, no meaning to life, still lost and wondering what to do next. Well I started drinking and then people started liking me I finally felt like I fit in, people actually liked me and they had something in common with me they liked to drink as much as I did. I at the time lived in Rochester, Minnesota and hung out with the wrong crowd, finally had gotten my own place and of course me being the people pleaser, here was this small town girl hanging out with thugs and drug dealers, not knowing the danger I was getting myself into. At that moment all I cared about was having people that accepted me, and getting drunk and having fun, for once in my life I was actually having fun and people loved me, at least so I thought. There was always parties and people I didn’t know at my house, but I didn’t care they brought over the drinks and all was well. This all stopped when my friends boyfriend came over with two of his boys, I can still picture it to this day, they knocked on the door sounded very angry, they packed guns under their jacket and told us to be still while they just stood with their guns revealed to us, they were stranding there and handled their business with her boyfriend in the other room, I’m guessing he ripped them off. I have never sat still in my life I had no idea if they were going to kill us right at the spot or let us go after they were done, I never experienced anything like this so I didn’t know what it all partook of. Well by the grace of God I’m still here. From that day on I no longer let anyone in my apartment that I didn’t know and I stopped partying for awhile and during that time I lost my apartment because of everything that went on there, because when you’re drinking you don’t really care about anything or anyone else around you. I became homeless lived in a shelter for quite some time and then found a friend that needed a roommate, and then the drinking began again. When I drink I could never have just one I always had to drink to become numb I didn’t want to feel any feelings or remember how rejected I felt. The number the better, I at that point didn’t care at that moment if I lived or if my life was taken, I was pretty hopeless. Well at age nineteen with all the partying I did, I met someone that told me he loved me and of course I believed him, I fell in love, well so I thought and we decided that we were so in love, well during this time me and my roommate had partied our way out of that apartment as well, so I ended up out of desperation calling my mother, yes I put myself back in that situation, I had no other choice, but this is just the beginning of my nightmare that I didn’t realize was going to happen. Well me and this guy that we were so in love ended up moving in with my mom. This is when my mom finally tried to be my friend and bought me alcohol whenever I needed it and this also was the time when I found out the true colors of this man, he became verbally, physically and sexually abusive to me. My mom knew that he was physically abusive she heard and saw it and she didn’t care, she actually told me its all that I will ever deserve, can you believe that I believed her. She bought the marriage license for him and told me we were going to get married through the courts, I was scared what was I going to do say no. I was married to this man for three years, we moved into our own place and that is when I was shut away from the world for three years, no phone, no social life if I took too long to bring the garbage out I would get severe punishment. We would get along for awhile when would drink than he would get very angry and out of control, that is when it got really bad, I would just drink more so I wouldn’t have to feel pain or emotion I literally everyday tried to numb any feelings that I would have. I ended up having a son with him, while I was pregnant he would throw full beer cans at my stomach, try and throw me down the stairs, cheat on my in front of me, there was never a time when I wasn’t scared and when I had my son Dante it was no better. He would just abuse me in front of my son and continue to drink and it got to a point when my son was crying in the bathtub and he told him to make him stop crying and he then came into the bathroom and stuck my sons head under the water, he said if I cried or said anything I would get it, so I had to sit there and watch him put my sons head under water afraid if he was going to live or die and I was crying so hard trying not to make a sound just wanting to lift him out and comfort him. Can you imagine the guilt I carried around having to watch that and what I was putting my child through because of this, it finally came to an end after the third year, he tried to take my life by strangulation and I finally got some courage ran out the door and called the police. They came and arrested him. It was just me and my son alone. I had no job he didn’t let me work, I was so lost. This is where I became the person I swore I never would be. After we got divorced I would start drinking until I couldn’t drink anymore when my son was asleep. My drinking got to the point where I ended up leaving my son at home by himself while he was sleeping so I could go drink, how selfish was I. this was my breaking point, I looked back on my life and saw what I had to go through without two parents and a stable environment and it was then I made the biggest decision of my life for my sons sake. I gave my son Dante up for adoption when he was two so he could have the life and family I never had and everything that I couldn’t offer him. This happened I felt like I failed as a person, a mother, a daughter I was just living in allot of self blame for everything that had happened in my life. My life was still a mystery and I still kept messing up. After the adoption, you guessed it I started drinking like a fish I was becoming a regular at the bars in red wing, dj.s knew what songs to play when I already got there, I just wanted to numb myself once again and didn’t care about what happened to me, I had no self dignity anymore, I gave myself away and kept getting drunk, it finally started to consume to a point where I couldn’t function unless I had alcohol in my system. I continually accepted anyone who accepted me and gave myself away because I had no self worth or dignity anymore and at that time in my mind that is all I deserved. And of course because of my codependency I met a man about a year after I was divorced, he seemed like the normal guy, super nice at first treated me like a princess bought me lots of things, I had never received anything like this before, it was amazing for the moment. We decided that we would get married and so we made wedding plans we partied together always, so we thought we had tons in common, little did I know that’s all we had in common besides the point he finally treated me like a human being he made me feel loved. He began to become emotionally abusive and when he was drinking he would sometime force himself on me even when I would say no, I had to just lay there and cry. Eventually I ended up pregnant and we had son together, things seemed to be getting better, wedding was on the way, he was treating me a little better, but it just got to be a breaking point when I couldn’t take the emotional stuff anymore. Money and things were not enough for me to be happy he couldn’t buy my happiness anymore. I ended up leaving and he decided to tell me I will never make it on my own and that nobody would ever want me after he was done. Well he made the not making it, again I was a stay at home mom, he wouldn’t let me work, so after I left, lost the apartment, he just kept filling my head with negativity, he used my abusive past against me and knew that family in Anthony’s life was important to me, so he made me believe that if I give him full custody of Anthony would be the best thing for him, and at that moment and time he had me so much emotionally destroyed I actually believed him and I ended up giving him full custody of my son. Here comes another failure to me in my life, so what do you think I did, of course started drinking and numbing myself, every time he called he would remind me that Anthony is happier there and said he is better off there, so when I heard this I thought in my own mind at that time that my son didn’t need me and that I would just mess up his life if I was in it, because that is what I continued to hear, so I actually believed it, its been almost two years since I have seen him now and his dad still likes to make stabs at me, I’m in hope that it is never too late to build up that relationship his father took away from me. During this time I had more guilt and shame and negative messages that I just wanted to numb away so I went back to drinking, you would think after all of this, I would have hit my rock bottom by now but I was far from it. I still continued to drink and give myself away because if I couldn’t feel any worse or have any value it kept going downhill and so did my dignity. A year later I met someone else and he was nice at first, see this is the insanity part after everything that had happened I just thought I needed someone to fill that void, so here I go again.Codependancy and alcohol were huge battles that I had to overcome. He was nice but he would always yell at me and put me down in front of other people and at this point I just didn’t care anymore, I thought this is how I am supposed to be treated so I put up with it, I just got to a point in my life that I was just going to settle for anything, no matter how I was treated. While I was with him on the weekends it was after work, he ended up yelling at me and I ended up going out and numbing up what I had just heard and of course everything else that I have been avoiding forever. This is the night I almost lost my life, I don’t really recall much from that night how I got my keys or where I was driving to, I remember waking up in the hospital with blood all over my face and in my hair and the doctor telling me I had gotten into an accident. I ended up with a concussion and biting through my lip, I have a scare there to remind me everyday how it happened. I ended up being a .22 alcohol level. Again it is by God’s grace I am here, the ambulance driver even came back and said I shouldn’t even be here and that someone was watching over me because the amount of blood I had lost would have killed someone and where I had hit, if I would have hit any harder I would have right over the edge and it was a dark place where trains passed through nobody would have found me. This was my wake up call, but it wasn’t enough. I ended up putting myself into outpatient treatment and going like I should. But when you live in red wing and you’re an alcoholic and going across the bridge to thirsty Thursday was the topic of discussion in class what do you think me and half the other class did, went to thirsty Thursday and drink the cold beer we were trying no to think about or crave. So almost losing my life and outpatient treatment wasn’t obviously enough. I got to a point where I had to go and say lock me away from all alcohol I need impatient care, please I really can’t do this. I finally got to go to inpatient treatment at Albert lea fountain centers. It was the best experience of my life. That is when I knew that all I had in common with nick and all my other friends were drinking but with my codependency I thought nick was the best I could get. We ended up together for three years and we had my son Devon together. He was emotionally abusive to me it was consistent put downs all the time that is all I heard. I was his secret; he didn’t tell his family about me being in his life or me being pregnant until the day before I had him. I was smaller than an average seven month pregnant woman, I ended up having Devon two months early, I was with him in the NICU for six weeks, his dad would come now and then, he was always too busy drinking, he would consistently call me and put me down he even came to the NICU drunk one day, it was embarrassing and he started yelling at me and I just took it all in, I stayed with him for two more years thinking things would get better they didn’t, it just got worse, the only time we got along was when we drink otherwise it was like I was living with a stranger, I would pretend to fall asleep on the couch so I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore I did this for almost a year and a half, and when we to his family, I would pretend to have the happy family face on. The third year I finally reached my turning point I wasn’t putting up with it anymore, I left, I left everything behind and me and Devon moved to a shelter in St.Cloud,it was scary but its what had to be done for me and my sons happiness. I swore in my mind no more bad relationships. I stayed sober for three years was really involved and then got too comfortable. I though I could be a norm again, why do we always think that. I was thinking and making myself believe I could have just one, well I could for awhile and then that’s when it of course took a turn for the worst. On the weekends I didn’t have Devon I would go drink it wasn’t to search anymore it was just to drink, I didn’t need to talk to anyone I just wanted to be numb, I just got to point where I didn’t want to do it anymore so by God’s grace I quit and started celebrate recovery. I wasn’t going to mess this time up. I ended up giving my testimony right away and it was amazing experience for me. I had always had that love for God in me, but at my darkest moments through these times I didn’t think that I deserved God’s grace or forgiveness, I was very angry with him. Between being at the shelter and going to church and being able to go to celebrate recovery really helped me out. I was doing really well, until I find out my dad is in hospital critical condition, I go to Wisconsin to be by his side, praying for him and just holding his hand, he was unable to speak, I had so many questions and so much to say, but I just held his hand until the moment he took his last breath. This was very hard for me to take in. The things left unsaid not knowing if my dad was saved and his greed had been buried with him, he was so obsessed with material possessions that he was buried in an actual Mercedes Benz coffin, this just reminded me every time I saw this that he had not only abandoned me but another family for his money and business, it was hard to take all in, I just learned this much that he was hurting too. But with this came a relapse, again drinking it all away, I right at this very moment wanted to end it all, I wanted to just never wake up, what a selfish thing, but that is how I felt, so I continued drink that whole week after dad died, didn’t have Devon so why not just get obliviated and not have to think about anything. This was a year ago today. I was done doing this self pity party I had for myself after that week and gave up the drinking again. I was doing very well staying in the program again life was good for the drinking part. Me and Devon were still in transition moving everywhere, I felt like I failed my son for having to move so much and the what ifs started kicking in, if I only would have stayed Devon would be happy. I started getting back into the dating world this time I wasn’t drinking and so I thought just maybe ill find that right person. I was still in control of my own choices I wasn’t letting God make the choices for me and here comes that codependency thing again. I was very strong in my faith but I guess not ready for God to take that whole wheel yet, I asked him to, but I still wanted to steer. I got into this relationship with a man that I met online, ok I am going to speak a little in my flesh and say he was a boy mindset that was. We started dating and he told me everything I wanted to hear, he was Christian he was in recovery and he believes that it was God’s will that he was placed in my life.O.K. So I believed him for awhile we ended up thinking this was going good, we moved in together everything was going good. This is when God did some revealing to me, this is a man that had told me it was God’s will for us to be together but hadn’t even opened up a bible yet, every time I tried to leave he would always tell me God keeps telling me not to give up on us so of course in my mind I’m trying to believe him, I’m getting stronger in my faith in this time and I am feeling so disconnected to this man that God said personally this is not my will for you Tiffany you need to leave and leave now. This is my breaking point in my codependency was this very year a few months ago. I finally sat with him on the couch and said this isn’t working; I don’t want to be a part of this any longer, I’m leaving. Something was different this time I was at peace, it wasn’t like I wasn’t hurt at all or sad, but I was at peace because I finally heard God say this to me and he would take care of me. Even though I feel like another failed relationship I do know this much. God has given me a new courage a new boldness, its very hard to explain, I don’t have to depend on anyone making me happy, the thought about having to please others and what other people think of me is gone, see the difference between then and now is I’m heaven minded not focused on the earthly things or people of this world to know that I am loved or accepted. I have an awesome father who loves me and accepts me for who I am and what I have done he has never left me or forsaken me. People will always fail you but God never will. I know now that when the time is right God will put that right person in my life, this time I’m walking in obedience and this time I’m not worried about when its going to happen, in his timing it will be done. So by God’s grace I have overcome alcohol and codependency only through his grace there is no other explanation, I have proven otherwise that I can’t do it on my own. God has been with me every step of this journey he is literally all I have had in this journey and still is, but I know this even when I didn’t think he was there, he was, he was just waiting for me to come to him and be fully submissive to him. If you don’t think miracles can happen I don’t know what else I can say, I am living walking proof that God is real just by me being here and telling you my story, the enemy wanted to destroy my will to share this with you, he instilled fear in me, but God gave me boldness to share this because its not what you think of me that matters its what God thinks of me that matters, even if my story only touches one persons heart, then I have done my job. The good part of the story is just beginning I completely gave my life and my heart to God I mean completely to him, I made a pledge to God and myself that he is taking full control of the wheel of my life and in his timing when he sets the right one in my life I’m saving myself for marriage because I am not worried anymore about people opinions, God is the one opinion that matters.Im telling you this because since I have made this step of faith, God told me to get a place of my own not knowing how I was going to gather the money up so fast, and remember when I said I left everything behind, we did. Just clothes are all we had. I hope this encourages somebody, you need to believe in faith, the big leap of faith, that’s what I did, God rewarded me with the money I needed the very day before I needed to move in and piece by piece he is providing me with what me and Devon need, I am so amazed by how good God is, this is what can happen if we give complete control and walk in obedience with the Lord, he will bless you beyond what you can ever imagine. So I hope that will instill hope in someone’s heart the impossible can come true you just need to take that blind leap of faith and keep pressing on. This program has completely changed my life all by God’s grace. My journey God has given me, he is going to use me to minister to abused woman and children that’s a recovery of life to celebrate. Thank you Jesus!!

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