Loving the Addict Until They Learn to Love Themselves
Nicole Brewer’s Story takes you down the path of redemption, forgiveness, and self-love while on her journey to recovery. Nicole’s journey and nine years of sobriety is proof that recovery is a choice and worth every lesson and blessing that comes your way!
“Loving an Addict Until They Learn to Love Themselves.” We have heard this said many times in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. It is a process of recovery that we all go through. This is my experience.
I first walked into the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous nine years ago, I drove around the building five times before I gained the courage to walk inside. It was a hot summer day and I had on long sleeves to cover my arms to hide what I had been doing to myself towards the end. It was “do or die” for me.
I will never forget this day because I was greeted by everyone when I walked inside. Some I knew, some I did not but they welcomed me in and told me they were glad I came. I instantly felt comfortable being there and knew that I was safe. One lady made it a point to walk across the room to give me a hug. The thing I remember most about this moment was there was a strange familiarity and warmth in the hug. It was not pity, it was something I had never felt before. I now know it to be empathy. After my first time there, they told me to keep coming back. It had been many years since I was welcomed anywhere so I kept going back.
I have a wonderful and supportive family but I had pushed them away a long time ago. I did not want them to see or be a part of what I was doing to myself. I have three beautiful children, ages 15, 8, and 3 at the time. I could no longer hide my addiction from my oldest two. They were angry and they were in pain and I did not know how to help them until I could learn how to help myself first. At the time, I did not think I was worthy but my children sure were.
In my first 4th and 5th step, the term “self-loathing” came up many times going over my step-work with my sponsor, as did low self-esteem. It really bothered me, that word – self-loathing. It is such a strong sounding word. I would ask myself “I don’t hate myself, Do I?” I was not happy with the direction my life had taken but had I ever hated myself?
Looking back, my problems began long before drugs. I have always been a perfectionist. As a child, I always wanted to be better, to perform better than anyone else because I wanted approval. Most of the time, I was good at everything but I had to be the best. There were many times I felt like I did not measure up. I felt inadequate and that I was “not good enough.” I was my own worst critic and very hard on myself. Once I started using and knew I had an addiction problem that I could hide for many years, until I couldn’t anymore, self-loathing was born. I had failed everyone that loved me the most. I could not look at myself in the mirror and I could not look you in the eye.
“I was treated with a kindness that day that I had not known in quite some time.”
So, let me take you back to the day I walked into the rooms of NA and was welcomed like I was. I was treated with a kindness that day that I had not known in quite some time. In turn, I made sure to do the same thing to everyone who walked through that door. I went out of my way to welcome the newcomer and make them feel comfortable. I made sure I hugged everyone who walked into that room. I treated the people inside the rooms and outside the rooms with the same kindness that had been shown to me. Somewhere along the line, I learned to be kind to myself too because I am a good person with a kind heart.
“I learned to be kind to myself too because I am a good person with a kind heart.”
I also learned the principle of tolerance. I learned to look at people’s strengths and not their faults because we all have faults. In doing so, I learned some self-tolerance and learned to focus on my own strengths because I have many.
I also worked through the steps to learn to forgive others and in doing so, I learned to forgive myself. I was more than my behavior while deep into my addiction and I learned to love myself for the first time ever.
I am very grateful for the things I have learned along the way. I am grateful for the people like me in recovery who loved me while I was figuring out that I was worthy of love. My family and my kids loved and supported me even during the times I was hard to love. The court system and outpatient center held me accountable and showed me the way to recovery. Most importantly, I must give God the glory. He led the way and loved me unconditionally in my darkest hour. Through His Word, I learned to focus on the good (most of the time).
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
— Philippians 4:8
Life is ALWAYS going to be a mixture of good and bad. Positive and negative. Paul is challenging us to seek out the positives in our lives and focus on those. The very fact that he tells us what to focus on reveals a critical point:
We always have a choice.