Rarely is any significant life change entirely painless. Even the most positive and desirable changes bring about challenges. This is one reason so many of us fall back to our old ways after making some progress in our lives.
I have read and listened to so many stories of people who have lifted themselves up from a life of hopelessness to one of tremendous success and fulfillment. I usually hear much detail about the pain and suffering that occurred before making the changes, followed by a happy ending involving great success. Rarely do I hear much about the story in between: the hard work, the doubts, setbacks and grief.
This is a story about the struggles I faced after getting off of drugs and the not-so-rosy life I lead for some time thereafter.
Many Things Changed, But Many Things Didn’t
I continued to work as a short order cook for several years, still resigned to the idea that I wouldn’t amount to much. I experienced frequent mood swings which sometimes lead to outbursts which sometimes lead to broken stuff. I was constantly stressed and sometimes even depressed.
Part of the problem was that, even though I had taken the drugs out of my life, I hadn’t changed the way I thought of myself. I still considered myself a loser, drug-addict. I hadn’t forgiven myself for the mistakes I made. I still hated myself.
This became clear to me one morning when I came home from my night shift job at about 7:00am. I was sitting at my kitchen table stewing over some problems I was having with my roommate. At the same time, I was mulling over some frustrating issues at work, some financial problems, health issues, and mostly just wondering if I would ever get anywhere in life.
At that point, I just didn’t understand why, despite my efforts, nothing seemed to be changing. And even more than that, I didn’t understand why I was constantly feeling frustrated and stressed out. I was exhausted and wanted some peace and rest from the frustration, but I didn’t see how to get there. In the past, I would have considered getting drunk or high to afford me some peace, but I wasn’t considering that option at this time.
Suddenly I had a thought. “Danny, you’re alright. You’re not a bad person.” I had no idea where it came from. Maybe it was a seed planted in me from the counselors from years before, or maybe it was my God consciousness. Wherever it came from, there it was… and it made me cry.
I cried like I had never cried before. Even at funerals, I never cried like this. I was sitting in this chair at my kitchen table with my head in my hands sobbing like a little boy who lost his favorite teddy bear. I was feeling pain that I hadn’t allowed myself to feel for many years… and wow!… it felt so good.
This marked a major turning point for me. Over the course of the next year, I moved into a healthier living situation, I switched to a healthier diet, I quit smoking, and started a new career working with troubled adolescents in group homes and started taking a few college courses. My life was quite different than it had been just a year earlier: practically unrecognizable as the same life.
Over the next several years, things just kept getting better. I felt better. I even looked better. At 19 years old, it wasn’t uncommon for people to mistake me for someone twice my age. By the time I was 25, it became more common for people to mistake me for a teenager.
The Power of Self Love
What is interesting about this period of my life is that I didn’t consciously set out to make major changes. I didn’t set any real goals (if I had I’d probably have seen much greater success, but that’s a topic for another article). The changes that I did make were natural individual decisions that I made along the way. They were natural because, since I didn’t hate myself (as much) anymore, it was much easier for me to focus my energy on those things that are good for me.
- I saw an opportunity to start a new career and it didn’t make sense to me to continue doing what I was doing. In the past, I would have been convinced that I would fail at that career.
- I saw that my health was suffering because of the way I was taking care of my body. It didn’t make sense to continue doing that. In the past, I didn’t have enough respect for myself to care or even notice that I was harming myself with my lifestyle.
- It didn’t make sense to me that I was not continuing my education. In the past, I hadn’t even considered that I could be successful in school.
I saw myself and my possibilities in a whole new light, and that made all the difference. It’s hard to underestimate the power of self-confidence. The idea that “students will rise to the level of expectation” applies to all of us: school students and life students.
If you don’t think you will amount to much, you won’t. That’s the simple truth.
If I don’t think I deserve a fulfilling life, I will be unfulfilled. There is no other possibility, because the only person who can bring me fulfillment is me. Why would I do something nice for someone I don’t like who I don’t think deserves it?
The reason self love is so powerful is that, as adults with free will, we are completely and totally responsible for nearly every aspect of our lives: our level of success, how much money we make, the shape of our bodies and even how happy we are. Our thoughts and actions craft our lives. And, if you hate yourself, why would you go through the trouble to craft a great life for someone you hate? On the other hand, you are willing to go to any lengths for the success and happiness of someone you love
This article is the third in a series chronicling my story from active drug addiction to a fulfilling, rewarding and productive life. See the other articles below:
- Addiction & Recovery
- A Template For Change
- Self Love (currently reading)
- Lessons Learned As A Professional Helper
- coming soon….