Learning to Love Yourself on the Journey of Recovery

This guest post is written by David Sunday, outreach coordinator and veteran liaison for The Council on Recovery.

As we move into a month that celebrates love and relationships, I couldn’t help but think how confusing loving myself was early in my recovery, or that I couldn’t fully love anyone else until I loved myself. I would hear things in meetings like “We’ll love you until you’re ready to love yourself.” I remember thinking to myself, “What does that even mean? Aren’t I my problem?” 

As I worked my program and grew in my sobriety, I gradually learned to put others before myself. Even this within itself was confusing. I spent a good amount of time helping others and doing service work, but I never realized the only way I could truly help another was by helping myself. If I’m being honest, I still had a difficult time looking at myself in the mirror. I had no idea how to have a healthy relationship with myself or anyone else. I still put expectations on people, places and things, and when they didn’t fit into my agenda I walked away “to protect myself.”

Photo by chester wade on Unsplash

I can’t exactly put my finger on when the light turned on, but the little boy inside of me that was crying out for help was not the problem. The problem was the man who still hadn’t separated himself from his ego, who was standing in his way and wouldn’t allow him to fully heal. This person was the problem! This is what it meant to love myself – to be kind to myself in this process of healing, and to not always need to do or say everything right, but to know that if it came from my heart, it was enough. To make an effort to take care of myself the best I know how with the tools I have, physically, mentally and spiritually.

As I sat in a support group the other night and listened to people share their gratitude, struggles and fears, I knew in that moment that this is what people meant by loving myself- being in a space with others who are on this journey with me and who value what I have to bring. It’s not perfect, but it’s real, and it’s love. It’s loving the life I have today without the need of escape, because I am able to show up and be who I have always been. Real love of self isn’t comparing myself to anyone else’s journey but looking in the mirror with my head held high and saying to myself “I’m the one I’ve been waiting for!” And so are you!