We’re told we need to love ourselves. We are told we need to have a healthy sense of self-esteem. But after years of addiction, rebelling against God and making havoc of our lives and relationships, it’s hard to feel anything other than a deep sense of self-hatred and shame. However, this kind of outlook doesn’t allow us to heal or to truly embrace the promises of recovery. Self-hatred fueled our addiction and kept us mired in a life that wasn’t going anywhere. Recovery allows us to move from a place of self-loathing to self-love. While we may not feel the love, there are a few steps we can take. Learning to love yourself after addiction starts with intentional practices.
When we begin to understand God’s love for us, at first we are surprised and usually filled with disbelief. Look at our lives and all of the bad things we have done; how is it possible that anyone could love us, let alone the God of the universe? Grace is a concept we don’t initially understand—the concept of unconditional love. It is undeserved, having no connection to what we have done or haven’t done. And when we have faith in Jesus Christ, we become the recipients of this love. When we see how God cares for us, we begin to want to care for ourselves as well. If God looks at us kindly, we ought to do the same. We have no reason not to. Believers in God can be healed from addictions, and it is likely that we are already seeing evidence of this in our own lives. If God didn’t care about us, He wouldn’t be healing us. We can embrace this grace from above and extend it back to ourselves.
No one wants to take responsibility for their own failings in life or to shine the light on all the missed opportunities, the bad decisions and the willful destruction. Often addicts blame others instead. It was our parents’ fault, we never got a fair break or we had struggles other people don’t deal with. And it might all be true. While this blame shifting can bring a sort of comfort or relief in the moment, it doesn’t allow us to take responsibility for our own lives. Constantly playing the victim keeps us from owning our mistakes, making peace with them and then making positive changes in our lives. We become conditioned to believe that circumstances or other people determine the course of our lives and that we have no control. This only leads to further frustration and a sense of futility. Instead, we take a step toward loving and trusting ourselves when we assume responsibility for our actions—good and bad.
Patience With the Process
Addicts aren’t known for being particularly patient. People have often been impatient with us and we extend the same treatment to others and to ourselves. As we recover, it does no good to chastise ourselves for what we might have done better or what we should be doing faster. We didn’t become addicts overnight and we don’t recover that quickly, either. We love ourselves when we embrace recovery as a lifelong process of growth and spiritual development. We are in recovery, we are working the steps and we are getting better. Embracing the goal of “progress not perfection” allows us to love ourselves and be proud of the strides we are making.