Addiction and Relationships: Loving Yourself Unconditionally, The Most Important Thing You Can Do
“When you are your own best friend, you don’t endlessly seek out relationships, friendships, and validation from the wrong sources because you realize that the only approval and validation you need is your own” -Mandy Hale
I don’t put myself first enough.
I am a mom, a partner, an employee, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister, a sister-in-law, a friend, etc. (Note: I am engaged but besides the official paper I am pretty much fully enmeshed in his family and feel like a spouse).
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at it’s core. It’s very nice to be helpful and caring of others, and to be in a lot of these roles there’s a certain self-sacrificing aspect that is understood to be “part of the territory” (whether or not that’s healthy is a different story).
And I know that there are different cases for everyone and some of these may not apply. But for the most part, these are common:
When you are a parent, you want the best for your children, you want to make sure they are taken care of, and often try to anticipate their needs and wants.
When you are a partner, you want your relationship to be fulfilling, and your partner to feel loved and supported.
When you are a family member, you want to support your parents and siblings and be an active member of the family.
When you are a friend, you want your friends to know they can count on you for support, an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on when needed, and someone to have fun with when the opportunity arises.
When you are an employee, you want to give your best to your work to provide for yourself and your family, and you want to be dependable and hard-working.
But what about you? What do you do for yourself, as the role you’ve had your whole life?
And I’m sure you know that when addiction is involved, it can very often influence any and all of these relationships.
For me, I’ve struggled with this a lot, even before addiction came into my life.
I’ve mentioned before that I have codependency issues, but I’m also a perfectionist and I want other people to like me and think I’m important, along with the fact that I want to be kind, supportive, and helpful to my loved ones in general.
Before I met my partner, I was codependent, but I didn’t know it. There wasn’t really a scenario where I could see it play out and realize it was there. As a teenager and young adult, I never had any romantic relationships, and although I was unconsciously keeping people away, I also thought it was because I wasn’t _____ enough: pretty enough, fun enough, girly enough, attractive enough, outgoing enough, skinny enough, etc.
I had a decent amount of friends, and knew I had at least something to offer given the fact that people would hang out with me, but I didn’t know what the missing piece was to secure a boyfriend.
After meeting my partner, we didn’t immediately become a couple. We were friends first, and while I developed feelings early on, he wasn’t in the place to meet me there yet. Which I of course used to fuel my thoughts of not being ____ enough.
When we finally got to the place of us both being on the same page and becoming a couple, I still had the feelings. Maybe it was just him, maybe he was being nice, maybe other people were being nice. Am I really someone who is good enough for things in life?
And this spilled over into other relationships, too.
Any time situations with other people were considered: when I became closer with his family, when I met people at work and was invited to things and included in workplace interactions, when I’d meet new people in any situation.
I’d always wonder if they were just being nice to me, including me because they felt bad, or felt a sense of obligation because they were nice, decent people.
And as a result I would either push them away with methods that are embarrassing even years later, or do as much as I could for them to where it was borderline off-putting.
This even shows up in my relationship as a parent.
I wouldn't have thought that it would given the fact that I would assume my child would love me no matter what, but I was still doubtful.
I want to do all the things. I want to make the baby food myself, keep her wardrobe fully stocked and toys in her toy boxes, and I want her to get the most education and the recommended limits on screen time and whatever she needed to have I wanted her to have it. And when I thought I failed on any of these things, or when I was just too tired to play, I felt like a failure and that her life was going to be ruined.
It wasn’t until I started realizing that I had issues that needed some focus from me that I realized also that I had a very poor view of myself.
It wasn’t other people that had the issues or who were being too nice or whatever else I thought it was.
It was me that didn’t have a high enough opinion of myself.
And it was because I had this low view of myself that I created that victim mentality, the intense codependency, the lack of self confidence, that feeling that I would never have the things I envisioned for myself, that my relationship would always be sad and my partner and I would be stuck in unhealthy patterns and he would never get better, and that I would always have to hide from the world, take up the least amount of space, and keep quiet because no one wants to hear about me and what I have to say since it’s all depressing anyways.
But, what if I told you it doesn’t have to be like that?
What if all we had to do was love ourselves first and foremost?
Now, when you are coming from the place I was at, it’s hard to change. It’s not a light-switch.
I didn’t wake up one morning, full of confidence and love for myself and the world that I never went back.
That would be nice though, wouldn’t it?
It’s a process, and one that I am still on now.
But it’s a path I’m motivated to take because I know that the alternative is not how I want to live my life.
I do my best every day to show up for myself, and do what I can to take care of myself first.
It’s like that quote, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. I have all of these responsibilities, but if I’m running on empty, and full of negativity, how on Earth could I possibly help anyone else or fulfill any of my roles, or not think everyone hates me and my life sucks? With an empty cup, I’m destined to fail.
But if I take the time for self-care, if I do the things every day that remind me of how important I am to myself and how much I have to not only offer myself but those around me, and if I do the things that make me feel my best and operate at my top performance, I set myself up for wins.
And I know, sometimes that doesn’t happen. There are times that I’m just in a funk, I just can’t focus, I’m PMS-ing, I’m sad, I'm just off for no discernable reason, whatever it is.
But just like when I’m doing well, I need to remember even more during these times that I’m worthy of good things, and I am able to give myself some grace to have these low times, instead of beating myself up for it and using it to feel even worse about myself. I have to remember that no matter where I am at in life or how I am feeling, I am always worthy of love.
So, I try to focus inward instead of outward more often.
If I want ice cream, I buy ice cream, because that doesn’t mean I failed as someone who is trying to be healthy or that I won’t like what I see in the mirror anymore.
If I want to cuddle with my daughter and watch a movie instead of working on a textbook with her, I’ll let her pick the movie and relax, because that doesn’t mean I failed as a parent.
If I decide that I don’t want to go to that work hangout because I’d rather go home and go to bed, I’ll decline, because that doesn’t mean that I’m not worthy of getting invited or having friends.
If my partner doesn’t anticipate my every need, I make sure I communicate or let go of unfair expectations because that doesn’t mean that they don’t love me or that I’m not worth the effort.
I do my best to realize when I’m doing my best, and if I think I’m lacking in any area, I try to see if it’s a real issue, or an imaginary thing I created in my head with no real goal that I didn’t meet. Just as I shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations for others, so should that apply to myself as well.
Once you realize who you are and the positive things that you can offer to yourself and the world, you will be able to see through your false narratives and get stronger in yourself and your worth because you know that you have the evidence to back it up.
And if anything ever challenges that, you can make the decision on what you do from there from a place of confidence and surety, since you’ll know what you deserve and what you want for yourself and your life.
Each and every one of us is worthy of love, especially from ourselves, and we all have our own unique gifts and characteristics that make us who we are.
And the sooner we realize that, the better it is for everyone.