It’s been one year since my last birthday (ha ha – isn’t it for everyone!) and as I reflect at the year gone by, I’m both saddened at the losses I experienced and amazed at the growth I’ve gone through. When you’re going through those times, in those moments, you don’t even realize that time is also passing, until a day like your birthday comes up and you pause to take inventory of where your life is at.
To gain strength in my own personal recovery, I’ve had to discover how to set boundaries that were healthy for me. In the process, I lost people that I thought cared about me, but who couldn’t accept my boundaries. For the majority of my life, I would remove those boundaries, simply because I couldn’t tolerate the idea of hurting someone else or being abandoned. But I paid a dear price with my heart and my mental health all those years.
My biggest challenge was trying to reconcile my relationship with my oldest child. I put all efforts that I had been pouring into my own recovery aside, all in hopes of being able to help him with his own demons. What I failed to realize is that he was not in a place of being ready for recovery, and I fell back into a deep spiral of my own. Many months were spent on edge and in a constant heightened state of anxiety and panic and my life had become a whirlwind of chaos and crisis.
As my birthday began to inch closer, I began to feel a sense of urgency to take better care of myself. Not only was I suffering mentally, but physically I was also having some issues that pushed me to take stock of where im at in life. For most of my life, I had put myself 3rd or 4th on the list of priorities and I made a commitment to put myself at the front of the list.
1. I quit drinking. I’m 21 weeks sober now and while I still struggle with the odd craving now and again, I must admit that removing alcohol has been beneficial in reducing my mood swings and helping my medication work properly. Drinking had always been my escape plan for dealing with pain and loneliness so I had to come up with other coping skills and I found the most effective one for me was exercise.
2. I began to exercise and work out regularly. Initially, it was because I was on a return to work plan that I began working out, but it is morphing into becoming a lifestyle choice for myself now and I’m finding myself pushing harder to achieve more. Again, I’ve noticed a change in my mood for the better and am finally noticing a change in my body. I’m learning to love myself and appreciate the physical strength I have.
3. I’m adopting the mantra of “Take no shit”. I’m no longer willing to be anyone’s emotional punching bag or to bear the burden of someone else’s guilt or shame. I know the person I am, and that’s good, kind, compassionate and loving and those are the types of people I want to surround myself with. Toxic people have no room at my table.
4. I’m finding my purpose. I was meant to help others and to show compassion. I am recognizing and appreciating the skills I have to offer the world and using them to make changes that will make a difference. I’m finding the thing that brings me satisfaction at the end of the day and gives me a reason to jump into my day each morning.
5. I’m setting goals and reaching them. They’re small goals that are attainable so I can feel success. I know that in the past I would set vague and unrealistic goals and then beat myself up when I couldn’t meet them, and I would stay stuck in this vicious cycle. Eventually, after building on my small successes, I plan to set larger, long term goals with concrete actions and rewards along the way.
6. I’m practicing self-care and self-love. These ones have been hard to incorporate into my life. I never understood the concept of self care because I spent all my time nurturing others. But when I finally decided to show myself the love that I show others, it’s making a difference. I am a powerful nurturer and my battered soul is soaking it up. From telling myself to remember to eat and shower regularly, to being that voice that whispers in my ear when I want to give up “you can make it”, I have come to appreciate the compassionate me even more. I don’t look for love and appreciation from others anymore for approval – I seek it from myself. This has increased my self-confidence and I feel much more prepared to cope with life’s adversities.
So happy birthday girl. You’ve come a long way in this year of growth. Time to grab that brass ring and make this year another stellar year. Keep moving towards the path that is yours to walk and hold that head high.