It’s that feeling that I just can’t shake off. You know, one that just sits on your chest, heavy as can be. Gnawing at you. Taunting you.
It wears me out. I’m tired. So tired. Tired of thinking. Tired of planning. Tired of strategizing. Tired of wanting. Tired of striving.
I need to clear my head. Ok here we go. “Be mindful” I say. Be present. You can’t do shit about the past and the future isn’t here. No matter how obsessively and meticulously the plan…the future is not guaranteed. All I have, all I own is here. Right now.
1,265 days of sobriety from alcohol. That’s what I own. That’s what I have right here and right now and that’s great. It’s amazing. And then I begin to think I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve any of this.
I’ve struggled with shame my whole life. Before I even began the addictive thought process, I was full of shame. I was abandoned by my father and my mother was just trying to survive most years.
My shame based identity began somewhere in my neurological development, and I’m sure if you’re reading this your story isn’t much different.
In fact “Alcoholics may be prone to shame, by disposition, and on top of that, drinking helps numb these aversive feelings. Indeed, alcoholics may drink in part to cope with chronic shame and low self-worth, and the heavy drinking could in turn be causing shame, creating a vicious cycle of abuse.” (HuffPost)
So then, if we rid ourselves of our coping skill for our unhealthy cycle of abuse we’ve created, how are we supposed to deal with this shame based identity?
My first experience with a step program was what I consider the boot camp of recovery. Working the steps will help you master the issue of shame based identity. First, about our actions while using. Then, after some sober time, we realize that the stinkin’ thinkin’ doesn’t just go away when we stop using.
What works for me is the ongoing inventory process.
Back to that gnawing, nagging feeling of being unworthy. It still happens all the time. But it’s what happens next that keeps me sober.
Being completely overwhelmed by gratitude is a blessing and not a curse you see. The key it to train your brain to stop the “I’m not worthy” and the “I don’t deserve this” response. Which is where your higher power comes in.
Somewhere in my inventory and reframing process, Jesus steps in and helps guide my thoughts. This isn’t something I’ve earned through sobriety either. It’s a gift received simply by existing. Yes, being human comes with inherent sin, but it also comes with a way out.
My life is simply amazing. I have all the fancy things my little heart desires. I have a solid education and a great job in mental health that’s really fulfilling. I have this incredibly loyal husband…and my girls…oh my girls own my heart; and it all weighs on my chest so heavy. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve any of this.
Then. A still, small, almost inaudible voice speaks from within.
“I got you, babygirl” is what it says. Just breathe. All you have to do is breathe. “These are my gifts to you, my child” he says. “You are worthy.”
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:29)
I got these tattoos at a time when my worth was at an all time low….long before I got sober. But in getting sober I came to realize that my father was carrying me through the mess. At the time, I got these sparrows for my girls as a reminder they are with me wherever I go. I was separated from my husband and I lost myself looking for my worth in him and our marriage.
After recovery though, I came to believe I got these as a reminder of my worth to God. I am worthy. I am enough…and I deserve what my father has blessed me with. Now I have a permanent reminder of the truth.
Shame is the thief of self worth and ultimately a thief of faith.
Do the step work. Continue to do your inventory. Reframe the shame that continues. When you hear that still, small voice, listen to it.
You are worthy…and you are loved.
Stay sober my friends.