By: Amanda Nelson
Last night while giving my 2 year old daughter a bath, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, you are so beautiful.” Of course my eyes started to tear up and I began to feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude for who I have become in my recovery. In the past, it had always been hard for me to think that anyone could find me beautiful because I knew that what I was doing to myself and others in order to satisfy my addiction was the furthest thing from beautiful. Although I know that there are good days and bad days and sometimes old habits can crop up when we stop doing “the work,” I also know that I am not that same woman I use to be anymore. Today I can accept the compliment because I believe that I have accessed the beautiful parts of myself.
So what does “the work” mean? The work is shining a flashlight on all the dark parts of myself that are so uncomfortable to look at. It is accepting, forgiving, releasing, unlearning, discovering, shedding, and so much more. In recovery, we hear about this idea of unlearning. Unlearning, for me, is the process of realizing that some attitudes and habits that I had adapted have to be discarded in order for new ideas and attitudes to surface, helping me to mature and allowing me to become the woman I truly want to be. A new attitude meant new behavior, and I needed a complete change. My old ways of behaving was a result of having to survive my addictions. My old ways of behaving involved lying, stealing and manipulating. My needs had to be met and when I didn’t get what I wanted or needed, I responded with absolute fear and rage, hurting anyone in my path. I hurt the ones I loved the most. My addiction was a black cloud that hovered over me at all times.
When I think about recovery, I think about the image of the woman I want to be when I am living in a healthy state of mind, body and spirit. I think about how this woman reacts to stressful situations in life, because no matter how much time we have sober, all that is unhealed in us will eventually come back up, forcing us to face a difficult decision each time: to react as we've always reacted, or to react from a place of new perspective and growth. I think about how she treats her family and how she treats complete strangers. I think about how she carries herself physically, what her posture is like and what the energy is like that she holds in her body. I think about the energy effect she leaves on others. I think about how happy she is, and that she knows happiness is an inside job, she doesn’t rely on others to bring her happiness. I think about all these things and then I take a look at where I am currently falling short for the sole purpose of showing me where I need to improve. For me, without a vision and specific intention, I get lost. Without consistent action, I will eventually start drifting backwards. When I do get lost, it is usually because my ego has taken over, I’m stuck in self pity and a victim mentality, and I am focusing on what needs to be changed in other people rather than in myself. The best gift I can give myself and all of those around me today is the commitment to this work.
So when my daughter looks at me and tells me that she thinks I am beautiful, today I can believe her, today I acknowledge that I have become someone I am truly proud of and someone that I think is beautiful too.