By Latoya Richards
It has been two years of sobriety as I write this, but I’ve been in the process of trying to get and stay sober for a little over ten years and I’m only 31 years of age. Relapse had been a major part of my process. So much so that every time it happened, I felt compelled to analyze the who, what, when, where, why, and how because I knew eventually in doing that I would find the answer. Ultimately I came to realize I was my problem. When I looked in the mirror I was faced with my worst enemy. I had a tremendous problem with self-acceptance.
This problem with self-acceptance that I had became insidious. It affected and infected every aspect of my life. It was nearly the cause of my demise. I began at an early age 7 or 8 years old looking for acceptance outside of myself. This lack of self-acceptance manifested itself in various forms over the years, and my addictive personality was present long before drugs ever were. Long nights of lying to people I had never seen or met via chat-lines. I was addicted to the approval of the false self I had created. By the age of 18 I had a lot of different relationships with a lot of different men (promiscuity), and inevitably experimentation with drugs.
The drug use came after I had exhausted every other method and means to be accepted and loved by someone, anyone outside of myself. The drugs took me places I never intended on going, and kept me longer than I ever wanted to stay. I had gone through the most horrific, incomprehensible demoralization a woman could ever put herself through; running scared from feelings of rejection, abandonment, loneliness, frustration, and any other emotion or feeling we as humans do not like to feel. It boiled down to this; I did not accept myself. All I knew is that it was not okay to be me, I was not acceptable. Where did I get that idea from? It was not okay to be dark-skinned. It was not okay to be over-weight. It was not okay to have a gap in my teeth. It was not okay to have flat feet. It was not okay to have a flat butt. It was not okay to be fatherless for two reasons with two different individuals, in which death and addiction had taken both away from me. It just was not okay to be myself and that idea came from various places including my family, music, television, and radio. I began to formulate through these influences what was okay, what was acceptable and I was not the image that appeared. I wanted to be light-skinned, with silky hair (got the silky hair by way of the relaxer), arched feet and straight teeth. I wanted to be anybody but me. A transformation for the worse began to happen, and it involved a lot of lying, self-sabotage, and abusive relationships.
Coming out of the ingrained belief that I was not good enough was no easy task, and I still struggle with it today. My belief system was warped through and through. Although I had some spiritual foundation it was pretty crumbled, and it was definitely not sturdy enough to hold the structure of myself I envisioned building. Out of the cracks of that crumbled concrete came this rose. I stand tall today with a wisdom about who I am that could have only come from going through and getting through what I went through. My journey is greatly appreciated and I have changed so much, but it started with me. My thinking, my beliefs, my behavior….me. If nothing changes then nothing changes, and I take me where ever I go. I’ve had to shed so many layers of myself that I can say with peace in my soul that I am not who I used to be. But my core, my core remains the same. My core has always been love. Now I know I have to go within for that first, and let that love I have for myself exude out to others that cross my path. Self-love, self -acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, honesty, and willingness…I base my recovery on those words…those words are verbs and I take it one day at a time.
How exactly did I get here to this awesome place of unconditional self-acceptance? Well that was a process, and this is no quick fix by any means, since the problem with my self-image was so deep rooted. The very first step was to disconnect from any and all negative influences- people, places, and things. Deep down you know who and what they are, therefore, step away from them as much as possible. Disconnecting myself from the outside world gave me the opportunity to go within and do an honest self-assessment. The good, bad, and the ugly. Through this honest look at myself I was able to evaluate my thinking patterns, and the behavior patterns that came with them. The results I was getting were not the results I thought I should be getting. With the help of spiritual, self-help, and cognitive books (reading is instrumental to the rebuilding of your self-image) I then was able to start accepting that who I was (by default) who I wanted to be (which was who they told me I should be), and who I was at my core (my most authentic self) were very different. This became painfully clear after really examining the results I was getting from my behavior, which stemmed from my belief about myself and how I truly felt about the all of which I encountered.
With this new information I had inundated myself with, I embarked on a journey disposing of ideas, principals, and belief systems that were not yielding results that resonated with my authentic self. This was difficult, because there were a lot of entrenched beliefs about who I was and who I thought I should be given to me by those I love and trusted. With the help of a therapist and some cognitive intervention classes, I was able to identify these conflicting beliefs along with the behaviors that went with them, then let them go.
I finally came to a point where I was purged enough to start building a new belief system and behavior patterns that were conducive to my highest self. It was then that I was able to do another self-assessment, and not only accept, but appreciate who I knew myself to be. Without the clutter of others people’s thoughts, beliefs, and opinions of me. I began to love the journey and trust the process. This journey of self-acceptance will take you to new levels and continue to demand a new you at each level that you feel is acceptable, a you that you approve of. The key is to remain true to YOU (spirit…not the ego) and to always protect your essence throughout everything you experience. Self-acceptance is exactly that. Accepting who you truly are, whatever that may be at any given moment. Self-image plays a very important role in self-acceptance as it is extremely hard to adopt then accept other people’s version of you, it’s quite painful to be quite honest.
Some of the things I did throughout this two-year process I am going to list here in no specific order. Everyone’s journey is different. What resonates with my soul may not resonate with yours, take what does and run with it. I want to give you all I have on this topic.
Here are some points of action:
- Prayer and meditation- helps you connect and maintain communication with your higher self and God. Also a great way to remain grounded.
- Affirmations- Whatever you repeat to yourself is usually acted upon eventually good or bad. Affirmations help you get used to speaking the absolute best about yourself. You don’t have to believe what you’re saying at first, but eventually it will set in.
- Reading- I found reading to be extremely helpful in gathering new information to inundate my mind with. I opted for spiritual, self-help, cognitive, and behavior modification books. It also helped me cut out TV and social media quite a bit.
- Mentorship- We all need a little guidance and finding someone who is an awesome example of the person you are trying to become (or the person you are fighting to excavate) is a really good way to get there. We all emulated someone, why not emulate greatness and see where that goes. We will not be able to become who we are meant to be by ourselves.
- Vision boards, Mind maps, Mind movies– Visualizing myself in a new light was extremely important to accepting myself and these little creations helped uphold my newly found image, when old thoughts and beliefs would come up, they were a great way to combat them.
- The 12 Steps- Contrary to popular belief, these steps are not just for those with alcohol and drug addictions. They work for anyone willing to take the necessary steps and do the necessary work to release unwanted baggage and be grounded in self
- Therapy– Therapy can be extremely helpful in the self-acceptance process. Identifying certain issues that are holding you hostage could come from this. Letting go is necessary to move forward.
I found that implementing these activities in my daily life not only help me lay an amazing foundation for self-discovery and self-acceptance, but they paved the way for me to become the grandest, highest vision of myself. They also allowed me to love and accept myself while on my way to that vision. Try them out. My prayer is that this article helps you in your journey to acceptance.
Latoya Richards is a poet, writer and lover of life! Connect with her on Facebook!