Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck between two lives.
Parts of me exist within the different planes I’ve traveled through on my journey. I’m breaking open, and my pieces are somewhat scattered. Each time I gather them and begin moving forward, something calls me back again and I’m stuck there. Limbo.
At least that’s what used to happen. I’m working on it.
The truth is, I didn’t necessarily like who I was in my old life. My life was difficult. Happiness was elusive. I wasn’t really living then, so much as existing. I was in survival mode—gutting it out, day after day, waiting for the next distraction.
I woke up in the morning hating my body, went through the motions at my empty job, and drove home each night with crippling anxiety that came from not knowing who I was, or how I would ever be anything more than the mess I had become.
Self-harm kept me completely lost.
It helped to perpetuate my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Every time I lost control, I drank too much, I gave into the urge to binge, or was otherwise careless with myself—it gave me another reason to punish myself. To hate myself a little bit more, which of course, gave me a reason to seek even more self-harm.
If you had asked me a couple years ago, I would have told you I was really happy. Certainly, that is what I wanted to be. I was just beginning to heal after ending a long marriage. I was beginning to take better care of myself and figure out who I was—without the identity my marriage demanded of me. But, truly, I was in so much pain, I didn’t know if I would ever be happy. I had never experienced happiness before. In some way, I had decided that it wasn’t meant for me.
Each time I would start to make changes in the right direction, something would pull me back into my old habits. Two steps forward, two steps back. Lose some weight, then gain it back. Spend thirty days sober at the lamentation of my friends, and celebrate the accomplishment at the bar. It was crazy, and counterproductive, and left me frustrated and also absolutely convinced that I was incapable of positive change.
I could choose to blame my dysfunctional childhood and all of the awful things that happened back when. I could choose to blame my ex-husband and all the ways our marriage had reinforced my negative self-beliefs. I could choose to blame my friends who encouraged my bad habits. I could blame my job, or any number of circumstances and events for my dissatisfaction with my own life. But at the end of the day, this is my life, and my happiness is my responsibility. If I was unhappy, I was the only one who could fix it.
I gave myself permission to put myself at the top of my list—something I grew up believing a mother should not do. I had to let go of feelings of guilt when I chose what was best for me instead of giving into outside pressures. I had to let go of the desire to please others with my words and actions. I had to stop living in fear of judgement from others.
Most of all, I had to start choosing the things that are loving to myself over temporary gratification and distraction.
I had to learn to silence the voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough or capable enough to have, do and be all that I desire.
The transformation that followed was much like the healing process for someone who has suffered a long sickness or chronic pain. When their health is restored, they often say, “I didn’t know how bad I felt until I started feeling better.” This was absolutely true for me. It’s like I didn’t even know I was drowning until I saved myself.
The contrast between my life today and who I used to be is evident in my relationships. Looking around my circle today, I see intelligent, mindful, peaceful, beautiful souls. I’m constantly surrounded by teachers, healers, writers, yogis, and artists. None of us are perfect, and we all understand that we don’t have to be. We come together to support, encourage, and empower each other—and collectively find great success because we have each other. There’s no room for drama in my circle because it’s so full of love and kindness.
When I feel like I have one foot back on my old path, I usually find my reflection in an old friend there. Someone who can remind me of where I came from, and why I chose to take control of my life. I’m grateful for those relationships, and the way they remind me to stay true to myself.
Naturally, some relationships did not endure my metamorphosis. They didn’t fit into the chrysalis I built around myself with sobriety and self-care. Letting go of those relationships was necessary to create space in my life for a new beginning. I needed room to learn how to use my wings—it was the only way out of the pit of self-destruction I was living in.
All of this has taught me that I am worthy of my own love and respect.
When my actions are loving to me, I cannot harm another. This is why I never apologize for putting myself first. I never apologize for putting my happiness, health, goals, and dreams at the very top of my list—in fact, usually, they are the list. I never apologize for expressing myself authentically and openly. I never apologize for being the woman I was born to be.
I know that the choices I make every day will ultimately determine how happy and successful I am in life. I cannot move forward toward my dreams while constantly looking behind me, and cannot follow the amazing path I’m on today with one foot stuck on the path I abandoned.
Everyone has the ability to create peace and happiness—it’s born into us. Our intuition knows the way, all we have to do is follow it. When we give ourselves permission to let go of everything that doesn’t serve our greatest good, we create the space for new and better things to come. When we love ourselves deeply, and make choices only from that place of self-love we become an immovable force.
When we refuse to apologize for being our best selves—we become a raging fire of awesomeness. One that could never be extinguished by another person, an old habit, or any temporary distraction.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Ariana Prestes/Unsplash