Confidence

“Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

–Helen Keller

I’m not known for my confidence. As a child, I was known for basically the opposite: my shyness. I was highly anxious, even as a kid, and lived in constant fear of saying the wrong thing, or saying something that someone would deem stupid. As I matured, I also began to fear saying something that might make someone angry, or stir up controversy.

When I knew the answer in class, I never raised my hand. Every time a teacher asked a question I knew the answer to, and I sat there in silence until the teacher finally revealed the answer, my answer, I wanted to slap myself in the back of the head. Just raise your hand! What are you afraid of?

It’s silly to look back on, now that I’m much older and have matured and could go back and reassure my teenage self that everything would be fine. But, the fear back then was real. I would sit in classes where the teacher called on people randomly, and have silent panic attacks. Heart racing, body shaking, palms sweating, and just pray I wouldn’t have to say anything.

I had no confidence back then. No one had ever really instilled in me a sense of confidence. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that it will probably take a licensed professional years to dig up, I am not a fan of myself, generally speaking. I am not confident enough to take risks and try new things, because I am afraid of failing. I am not confident enough to speak my mind or express myself, because I am afraid of criticism. And I am not confident enough to fully open up to other people, because I am afraid of the vulnerability and shame.

When it finally became clear to me that I needed to choose the path to sobriety, I wasn’t confident about that either. It seemed impossible for me to do it. It promised to be painful, scary, difficult and uncomfortable. It took weeks of having my self-esteem re-inflated by the counselors at rehab before I had a shred of belief that I could manage life without alcohol.

And then I finally realized that I was going to have to muster some semblance of self-confidence if I was going to have any chance at succeeding. This is why they have me listening to and repeating so many affirmations, I realized. Because they were rebuilding my confidence. My hope. My belief that I could do it.

In the end, the only thing stopping you from doing anything is a lack of confidence. It’s the last road block that’s left at the end of a plan or a dream. You have to break through all the messages coming at you that you’re not worthy, you’re not able to, you can’t, you shouldn’t, you won’t, you never will, you aren’t going to.

You need to move past all of that. Or through it. Over it, under it, whatever it takes. And then you’re there. And then you can look back at your struggle. And here’s the best part about confidence: once you get a little bit of it in you, it grows, and grows and grows. And pretty soon, you’re unstoppable. And your confidence spreads to those around you, and they believe in you too.

I’m 96 days sober. And I never could have done it without self-confidence. And now, I feel like I can accomplish so much more. I look forward to the next 96 days, instead of dreading them. And the days and months and years after that. I am excited to see what I can do.

In your struggle to be sober, you must believe in yourself, above all else.

Compassion

It’s hard to believe this is already my tenth Safe Coping Strategy post. These began as a challenge from my counselor, as I expressed some difficulty getting this blog off the ground. She suggested I do a regular post, each week, on the same day, on the same theme. The Safe Coping Strategies have been a great topic, and choosing one each week to write about forces me to review the whole list each week. It’s been good for me.

This week, I chose:

Compassion. Listen to yourself with respect and care.

In recovery, there’s a lot of making up for lost time to do. There’s a lot of apologizing for past behaviors to do. And there’s a lot of stuff to regret.

This is all normal and natural, but you have to stop once in a while and give yourself a break. Reward yourself for positive choices and steps in the right direction, no matter how big or small. Do something compassionate for yourself, even if that’s just buying a sweet treat at the bakery.

Recovery is all about healing. But more than just the physical healing you’re doing. It also involves emotional and mental healing. You’ve been through the ringer. Your emotions have been so high and so low, sometimes in the same five minutes. Not to mention, you’re actually learning how to deal with feelings all over again. While you used, you were able to ignore and deflect feelings, put them off for another day. But now, you have to feel it all. And sometimes that’s hard.

So listen to yourself, recognize your emotional needs. Talk to someone when you need to, take some alone time when you’d rather do that. Do something that elevates your mood. More importantly, do something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Healthy self-esteem is key to a successful recovery. The belief not only that you’re capable of being sober, but that you deserve to be sober. You deserve that kind of life, and all the amazing things that go along with it.

So, while you’re working on making your amends and earning back trust, don’t forget to stop once in a while and pat yourself on the back. Do something nice for yourself. Have compassion for yourself; you’re going through something very difficult, and you should be treated compassionately.

Doing it for Me

There are a number of major things that have changed since my second stay at rehab. I’m now taking an anti-depressant and when I need it, an anti-anxiety medication as well. This is the first time in my life giving these kinds of medications a try, and they’ve made a major difference.

When I left after my initial 30 day stay, I was prepared to be sober, I knew how to be sober. What I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t now how to do was to work on my depression and manage my anxiety. That, paired with some life events that popped up, I feel are the reason I so quickly and easily fell into my old patterns and relapsed.

I’m also taking Antabuse, a medication that will make me violently ill if I have any alcohol. So, psychologically, it’s a lot easier for me to accept that I just can’t drink. Can’t do it. Not even a sip. Previously it was more like, nope, I can’t drink. Can’t have a drink. Can’t do it. Well…just this once will be ok, right? But, with the Antabuse, it’s a reality. I am not going to put myself in the position of the horrific reaction it will give me. So, no more “just this once.” And it’s actually kind of liberating. That little voice in my head has totally shut up.

And I’m also in the midst of cleaning up the mess I made with this past relapse. I disappointed a lot of people, and flat out humiliated myself in front of other people. There are a lot of people I need to make things up to and I need to earn back a colossal amount of trust. All of it, really.

But, there’s something different going on with my recovery right now, above and beyond all the changes that have happened. I think the biggest change is a shift in motivation. At some time in the last month or so, my motivation to change and to get and stay sober changed directions.

In the beginning, I was doing it because I thought it was something I should do. Something I was supposed to do. I was doing it for my husband, for my children, for my friends and family. Because society looked down on it. Because my doctor told me to just knock it off already.

But, I realized yesterday when I spoke with my counselor, these days I’m doing it for myself. Because I want it. Because it’s important to me. Of course I’m still doing it for the other people in my life, but the main thing is I’m doing it because I want to. I finally want it for me.

My counselor and I talked about internal vs. external motivation for sobriety. It’s ok to have both. In fact, it’s a very good thing to have both. The more reasons you have to be sober, the greater your likelihood that you will succeed. But, your internal motivation should come first. The reasons for getting clean, staying clean, finding positive things to do with your life, creating a positive future for yourself, those should come from within.

It’s still a good thing to want to accomplish all of that to satisfy others in your life. That will help you build and maintain good relationships and friendships, and help you have a meaningful family life. But ultimately, your loved ones are not in charge of you. They can’t force you to stay sober, only you are in complete control of your sobriety.

I’ve learned after my relapse that I need to be doing this for me, before all else. Because if I don’t want it and if I don’t believe it can happen, then my chances of success are slim. And I truly want to succeed.