Are you still punishing yourself for your past?
How has your addiction contributed to your feelings of unworthiness?
Why is it difficult to feel deserving of compliments and kindness after addiction?
Find out this and more in this episode of Recovery Talk.
Today we’re going to be discussing unworthiness, and this is a topic that plagues us all. I see it come up in the Facebook private accountability group all the time, and in many cases it’s always this epiphany that comes after the fact, where you realize that you’re having feelings of being unworthy, of not deserving, of continuing to punish yourself for all of the wrongs that you have done in your past, but for many of us, it starts way before we even started drinking and using. It started when we were children. At what age do we start to feel not good enough, or not enough? When did we start putting up limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world around us? This is a topic that goes very deep and has multiple facets.
If we look at each other as human beings, there’s no difference between any of us. We’re all flesh and bone. We’re all human beings. We’re all imperfect, and from the moment we are born, we are introduced into the human race equal to everyone else, but as soon as we are old enough to process information, to recognize objects, and start to develop an identity, start to develop wants, needs, desires, the world around us starts to change, and the media play a tremendous role in how we value ourselves. The self-worth that we give ourselves is based on what we wear, what we look like, whether we’re thin, whether we’re fat, whether we’re tall, whether we’re short, whether we’re black, whether we’re white. The world around us tells us who we are and what we’re worth, so we start to attach our self-worth to the external things around us.
So then we move into our drug use, and we move into the chaos and the wreckage that we cause around us when we are out using, and we get into a relationship, and we have boyfriends, or we have girlfriends, and we fight, and we hurt them, and we say things that we can never take back. We cheat, and we steal, and we lie. We do these horrible things that ruin these relationships, that damage the people around us.
We steal from our family. We lie to our families. We lose their trust, but if we’re going to continue to use, if we’re going to keep up with our habit, then we have to do whatever it takes to get more money, so we can get more drugs. So we continue to lie, and cheat, and steal, and manipulate, and we burn bridge, after bridge, after bridge, and we do things and say things to people that we can never unsay. Never undo, because once it’s done, it’s done. So now let’s sit with that for a moment and let’s think about being 30 days clean. Being 60 days clean, and no longer having the drugs to drown out all the guilt, shame and remorse that we feel.
You start going to meetings, and you get a sponsor and you start working the steps, but this is a slow process. This takes time. You have to heal, and in the meantime, you are tortured by these thoughts, and you just feel like a piece of shit. You hate yourself. We don’t think we do, we don’t realize that we do. In many cases we’re characterized as egomaniacs with an inferiority complex. We are the giants of our dramas, or the dwarfs of our nightmares. It’s this up and down roller coaster ride that we deal with every single day in early recovery, and the anxiety, and these feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control, and obsessed, and suffering from the obsession of the mind.
So we develop an identity crisis, and the stock in ourselves plummets. Our self-worth is non existent. We don’t feel worthy of shit. So someone pays you a compliment, or somebody offers you a glass of ice tea, or someone offers to bake you a cake on your birthday. Somebody offers to take you out to dinner, and you say, “Oh, no thank you. No thank you.” Why do you do that? Why wouldn’t anyone want to say, “Yes” to any of those items? You’re not stealing from anyone. They’re offering it to you, but somehow the first answer that comes to mind is, “Oh, no, no. No thank you.” It comes from a couple of places.
First, it comes from a place of not being worthy; of not deserving something nice, of not deserving of someone else showing you kindness, showing you love. It also comes from a place of anxiety and fear. For so many years we never did anything without a hidden agenda. So, why would this person bake me a cake for my birthday? What do they want from me? Ice tea, what are they trying to sell me something? If I sit here and drink this ice tea, do I have to listen to them sell me on something, or try and convince me of something? We’re tainted, and the value we put on ourselves we also put on the world. The same limitations that we have in our lives, we assume is the same limitations in the world, that everyone’s angling. That everyone’s looking to get over, or simply that we just don’t deserve kindness because we never showed anyone kindness when we were out there finding ways and means to get more.
There are friends of mine that I know that are amazing individuals that do service, that take care of their family, that are responsible, accountable members of society. They contribute on many levels, and yet still have a tough time accepting a glass of ice tea from someone, accepting a compliment from someone. Oh wow, you look so nice today. “Oh, no. You’re just saying that.” Unable to accept and take kindness and still have not reevaluated themselves and embraced the concept of self-worth.
So first of all, before we go any further ask yourself, does this happen to you? Is it difficult for you to accept a compliment? Is it difficult for you to accept kindness and love from others? From strangers? Is it difficult to see that you bring value into the world, that you contribute? Or do you feel as though everything that you do that is good today is penance for all the bad things you’ve done in the past? And if so, when does that bill become paid in full? How long are we going to hold this over ourselves? The simplest way to start your journey of self-worth is to forgive yourself, and forgive the world around you. To recognize that you are a human being doing the best you can with the tools that you’ve been given. That you’ve made mistakes, but you are no longer repeating the same behavior. So you’ve made amends. You’ve changed.
So in many cases we’ve done all these things and we just have not taken the time to give ourselves credit for it because we are not worthy. We’re going to be paying for our sins for the rest of our lives. I think that a lot of that is attached to the society that we’re brought up in. In religions that have punishing Gods, its sinners will go to Hell. So if I’ve committed all these atrocities and how could God forgive me? So now it’s time to look at who we are today, and what do we do in our lives? How do we contribute to society, to our family, to our friends, to the world around us? That’s what gives you value. That’s what gives you self-worth. When you donate your time and work in an orphanage, when you go to meetings and you carry the message, and you share about your day, and you share about having 30 days clean, and share about how you got those 30 days clean, or if you have years in the program and you’re sponsoring people and you’re walking them through, and you’re doing service.
If you’re married and you have children and you’re raising those children with core values, with integrity, with discipline, with love, with caring. When you’re a little league coach and you teach kids how to play sports, or with the Boy Scouts, or the Cub Scouts, or the Girl Scouts, or the YMCA, or the YWCA. When you start contributing to your community, when you contribute to your family, when you contribute in your friendships, when you’re there for the people that count on you, what is that worth? What is that worth to you? There are so many times we’re in trouble, when we need help, when we’re struggling, when we have questions, and we have doubts, and we have fears, and we don’t reach out because why would anyone want to listen to me anyway? Why would anyone want to hear my problems? Why would anyone care about what’s going on with me?
You’re projecting based upon what’s inside of you, and for many of us when someone calls us, we pick up the phone. We carry the message. We help. If you’re in trouble, we listen. So why wouldn’t we expect the same from our friends, from our family, and from the members in our community? What is difference between you and me? Between you and them? What’s the difference? The only difference is the value you place on them, and the value you place on yourself. The minute you stop doing drugs, the minute you stop lying, cheating, and stealing, the minute you make a commitment to be a better human being, to contribute to society, to help others, to be of service, to be loving, caring, nurturing, responsible human being, then now you’re worth something. You have worth.
Worth comes from the inside. It has nothing to do on the outside. What you drive, where you live, what you wear, how much money you have, that does not define you. That is not your self-worth. That is your net worth. Your net worth does not equal your self-worth, and what society deems successful, this watch, these clothes, those shoes, this car, means nothing if you’re a shitty, lying, cheating, stealing, deplorable human being. The profits and benefits from the pain and suffering of others, and when you think about someone who is genuinely concerned with you, cares about you, and wants to show you kindness, and you tell them, “No,” you’re depriving them of the opportunity of being generous, which is another wonderful attribute that we pick up along the way when we become the type of human being that has real value in this world.
Don’t deprive someone of the opportunity to be generous, to be loving, to be caring. It feels good to help others. It feels good to give to others, and why would we deprive anyone of that feeling? So the next time someone offers you kindness, and your first instinct is to say, “No thank you,” Really ask yourself, where is that coming from, and why?
There are so many reasons why we are the way we are, why things happen to us in our lives, why we’ve experienced all the things we’ve experienced. It’s part of the human experience. There’s good things that happen, there’s bad things that happen, there’s challenges, there’s obstacles, and these are all opportunities to learn and grow as a person. It builds character, integrity, self-worth and self-esteem. Think about the value you bring to this world with the experience you have. I’ve interviewed so many people who should be dead today, including myself, and at the end of our interview I always say, “It’s a miracle that you are alive today. What you’ve done, the places you’ve been, the situations you’ve put yourself in, you should be dead. The fact that you are not tells me one thing, that you have a purpose on this earth, and your purpose is to share your experience, strength, and hope with others who are struggling and are just as lost as you were in the depths of your addiction. Your value and your worth is unquantifiable because there’s no telling how many people you can help simply by sharing your story.”
That is real value, and is worth so much. Everything that happened to us is for a reason, and when we use those experiences to help others and to do the greatest amount of good, then you deserve every beautiful gift and miracle that this world has to offer. So enjoy and embrace, because you deserve it. So I’m going to close with this Hindu fable that my wife told me about, that she heard in yoga class. It is the story of Lord Hanuman. Now Lord Hanuman is the son of the wind God Vayu, and he has the head of a monkey and the body of a man. Now Lord Hanuman was born with very special super powers, and is one of the strongest Gods in Indian folklore. He is known as “The protector” in Hindu mythology, but as a child he abused those powers, and so to prevent him from hurting himself and others, the great sages of this time put a spell on him so that he would forget that he had these great powers, and from that moment he would live his life as a normal human, and only in times of great need would Lord Hanuman be reminded of his powers so that he could fulfill his destiny as the great protector.
I know that when I heard that story it immediately made me think of this topic. Of worthiness, of feeling unworthy, and that’s all that it is. These are feelings. Either feeling worthy, or feeling unworthy. Hanuman never lost his powers, he was just put under a spell that made him forget that he had these powers. So for us as human beings when we’re born in to this world, we are given these amazing gifts from a higher power. It’s why we look different. It’s why we sound different. Its’ why we each have very different and special skill sets.
It’s those gifts that allow us to contribute to the world, but as time goes on and things happen to us in our lives, and life itself beats us down, and we get married, we get divorced, we get jobs, we get fired, we get into drug abuse, and wreak havoc and destroy our lives and the lives of the ones that we love around us, when we come out of the fog of the chaos that is our lives, we forget just how amazing we are. That we possess these gifts that were given to us by a higher power and because of all the bad things that have happened to us in our lives, we don’t give ourselves permission to use these gifts, these talents, these character assets, these character attributes, these things that make us who we are, that make us special, that allow us to contribute to this world and make a difference. We forget about those.
So I’m here to remind you that you have special gifts, and special powers, and today you can step into that power and become the person you were always intended to be. You simply have to give yourself permission to be worthy.