Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting to Recovery: Statement Seven

Statement Seven: Love Yourself, Change Your World

Statement Seven is about love and caring. Love can change the course of my world. Caring becomes all important. This is a pretty wide-reaching idea. I think the way that Statement Seven applies to becoming sober and early recovery is when we look at love as self-love, and caring as caring for ourselves. Self-hatred and problem drinking go hand in hand. Even if we can remember loving ourselves, by the time we reach the point where our drinking is really affecting our lives we no longer feel the same way. I hear women describe how they detest themselves, how they hate waking up in the morning, how they don't understand how they've become the person they are. Not only do they not love themselves, they can't imagine how they ever could.

Becoming sober, as I have said in the past, is truly an act of self-love and deep inner caring. We are born with an inner sense of peace, an intrinsic sense of self-preservation that remains within even though we may act in destructive ways towards ourselves. Addictions are very destructive, and part of the addictive process is the stifling of our desire for self-preservation. We hide our self-love away deep in our subconscious because we cannot both actively love ourselves and continue to engage in addictive behaviors. We cannot care about our life while we are so addictively destroying it.

If we are to break the addictive cycle, if we are to survive our addictions, we must reconnect with the hidden part of ourselves, the part that expresses self-love and caring for our own well-being. Statement Seven can be applied to our interactions with others, certainly, but in early sobriety the most important application is toward ourselves. If we cannot relearn love and caring for ourselves, we will never be able to truly love and care for anyone or anything else.

Love can change the course of my world

Loving ourselves enough to stop being destructive in our lives does indeed change the course of our world. The decision to become sober rates as one of the single most important moments in our lives, and is a huge expression of our innate self-love. I think there is within each of us a self-love that never wavers. It may become obscured by the cloudiness of our actions, hidden away in the deeper recesses of our minds when we act in ways deleterious to our well-being. But it is always there, ready to blossom at the earliest signs of light.

In early sobriety, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the grandness implied in the statements. We see Statement Seven as encompassing everyone and everything, and think that for this statement to be true for us there must be some earth-shattering external moment where the love of another makes everything right. What is more earth-shattering, however, is what happens when we open to the self-love we already have within us. When we are gentle with ourselves, when we nurture the spark of self-loving, we begin to heal.

Much of recovery centers on relearning how we treat ourselves, emotionally, spiritually and physically. When we approach this with love towards ourselves, love of the person we are capable of being, instead of with hatred toward the person we think we are, we find that our progress becomes much smoother. It is not always easier, it doesn't remove the hard work that must be done, but acting with love allows us to confront the difficult issues that stand between us and lasting sobriety.

Caring becomes all important

In the most basic sense, caring is the key to it all. For us to achieve and maintain sobriety, we must CARE. It must matter to us whether we are sober or not. It is this quality of caring, of taking a position that it is important to change, that underlies the important movement from wanting to become sober to actively becoming a recovering woman.

How often in a day do you say, or think, "I don't care?" When deciding where to go for lunch, or what brand of detergent to buy, or a million other little details that crop up in daily life, we all-too-frequently respond with "I don't care." When we are actively drinking, we don't care, because nothing is important enough to devote the energy of making a choice to. If it doesn't involve our acquisition or consumption of alcohol, it doesn't matter to us. We just don't care.

At the end of what the Stages of Change model describes as "Precontemplation", that being the period during which we aren't interested in changing our behavior, of becoming sober, something happens within us. It is a major shift in attitude towards our lives. We realize that being sober does matter. We start to CARE. We wake up from the mental fog that shrouded our emotions and find that it is important to act in a different way.

If you don't care, you won't change. Caring is an action verb; you cannot passively care. If you care, you will act. This caring is one of the critical components of a successful recovery. At first, it is enough that we care how alcohol is affecting our lives. We should focus on and nurture the energy that caring about sobriety brings; that energy will grow with every successful step we take toward recovery. The more we embrace the sense of caring about becoming and remaining abstinent, the more likely we are to be successful in maintaining sobriety.

That you are trying to achieve sobriety at all shows that you have within you the self-love and caring necessary to succeed in long-term recovery. Recognize the powerful steps you have already taken in mastering your addiction and regaining control of your life. Remind yourself every day, every hour, that you love yourself enough to remain sober, that you already possess the ability to care about an alcohol-free life. Use that energy when things seem overwhelming, scary, or just impossible to overcome. You have within you the power to effect change in your life. You love yourself enough to try. You care enough to succeed.

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