Tag Archives: self esteem

Punishment Enough

punishment enough

I have been cursed with a guilty conscience, thanks largely in part to living a lifestyle for many years where I usually was doing something wrong. I mean, nothing major, for the most part, but generally, just the way I lived, it was all very secretive, very sneaky. I got in trouble with people all the time and it was normally very much my own fault, and so…I developed a habit of feeling pretty bad about myself.

This has not changed, despite the fact that I am very much a responsible, productive member of society these days. What it amounts to is that I tend to be a lot more nervous and worried about making mistakes than perhaps your average person- as a matter of fact, I don’t allow myself any room at all for messing up. When it inevitably happens that I do, I am very, very hard on myself. I expect the worst consequences despite the fact that people have almost always been more forgiving of my screw-ups than I anticipate. Basically, what I’m saying is, I’m kind of a wreck. When things are going smoothly, I am okay. But throw one little issue into the pot, and the entire trajectory of my thoughts goes rapidly down hill. I obsess. I am consumed with worry. I feel really, really bad about myself. And I have had it.

I’ve had it with my attitude about myself. I’ve had it with my inability to just let things unfold, and my refusal to have any faith in myself. I’ve had it with my catastrophic thinking, and more than anything else, I have had it with fear. Even as I write this, I have a little thing hanging over my head that is causing a major disturbance in the force, and my poor fear-poisoned body feels tight and uneasy and anxious. I woke up with that old, familiar heaviness, that sense of dread that I know so well. I’ve had enough. I have to let it go. So, here is what I have to say to myself-

Dear Courtney-

Life cannot be lived while curled in the fetal position, not even the figurative fetal position. You don’t have to be afraid. Everything is going to be okay, even if it doesn’t go the way you have planned. You are safe. You can rely on me. I am not going to let you down. You can’t enjoy the awesome adventure of life if you are holding on so tightly to all of this fear. You can put it down. No matter what happens, you will figure out a way to navigate it. You always find the silver lining, always, eventually. Try to remember that. You are a good mother, a good friend, and a good person. The past is over with. You are allowed to leave it there and move on. Your life was punishment enough. Stop beating yourself up for being someone you bear no resemblance to anymore. That girl was sick and sad and desperate for help…and you saved her life. Give yourself credit for how far you have come. You have been through so much. It’s time to start enjoying the life you have managed to create. So hold your head up, and let the chips fall where they may. And never forget that I love you.

Love, me.

I know that got a little weird, but I needed to say those things to myself. Now it’s public, so I can’t take it back. 🙂

Here’s to lighter hearts and lighter loads to carry. I’m ready to leave some of this baggage behind and skip a little bit. Happy Friday!


Learning to Like Myself

liking yourself

Oh my God, this is so weird. I had to…strike that; I got to buy a new computer yesterday. I had a little incident with my laptop (Best Buy broke it when I brought it in for help with my mouse, and now they are charging me to fix it…I know, I know, don’t even get me started) and I can’t really go without a computer, being as how I work from home. I was going to have to buy a desktop soon anyway, I just wasn’t counting on it being this soon. Either way, here I am, trying to adjust to this enormous screen, and to writing from a different room in my house. Small things, but jarring, just the same.

The thing is, yesterday, when I figured out a way to purchase this (very freaking expensive) computer on my own, when I brought it home and set it up all by myself, I felt like a WOMAN. I mean, yeah, I am 42 years old, so you might assume that I felt this way all of the time…well, you would be wrong. Most of the time, I am still pretty much fumbling my way through life, a teenager stuck in a really unfortunate body. You have to remember, I literally partied my way from 13 to basically 40, with some pauses throughout. I am still figuring stuff out. Yes, I do manage to hold it together pretty well, and yes, I probably don’t give myself enough credit for the things I have accomplished, but…well, it’s hard for me to trust that this isn’t all some fluke, to be honest. That I haven’t just gotten lucky a bunch of times in a row and that’s why things are generally okay.

So when I managed to pull this off yesterday, saving myself from a really difficult week of having to figure out where I could work and when, I felt pretty together. I smugly patted myself on the back and thought “You can do ANYTHING, Court. You are the best.” (I didn’t really do this, but you get the idea.) I went off to my meeting last night feeling tired, but capable and confident.

And then…a person showed up at my meeting last night who knows me only from my active addiction. This person, having lived in close proximity to me, knows intimately how insane I was when I was using. There is no way for me to change that first, ongoing impression that I made. And it makes me feel bad. Really, really bad. I have this crazy urge to prove how much better I am, how different I am, how good I have become. This is really nuts because I don’t really have any type of relationship with this person. I don’t see them on a regular basis, I don’t interact with them on a personal level. What in the world is this about? Even now, while I am writing this, my body feels so uncomfortable.

You know what it is really about? It’s about me needing outside approval. It’s about me needing everyone who comes in contact with me to like me, whether it’s the dudes who work at Best Buy who broke my laptop, or a person who had the misfortune to witness me at my worst. And the reason I need them to like me is because I still haven’t really mastered liking myself- I’m still looking for acceptance from others to feel validated. That really needs to change. Not only can I not control what other people think about me, I have no idea what they think about me- I’m just assuming the worst, and running with it. Most importantly of all, though, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what my old neighbor thinks of me, or what most people think of me, really. It matters how I think of myself. That’s what I really need to work on.

So what is the truth, then? The truth is, I am becoming someone I can trust. That trust was broken pretty badly, and just like any relationship, when the trust is gone, it takes time to build it back. I am working my way there, bit by bit. The truth is, it is vital that I learn to like myself, exactly as I am, because all of my other relationships depend on me liking who I am. And I should like myself, I am a good person. I try every day to be a good person. Another truth is, not everyone is going to like me, and that’s okay. That’s just life. I don’t need to preemptively defend myself, or prove myself. I just need to keep doing what I am doing, and know that is enough.

Also, I really need to talk to those guys at Best Buy. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Wish me luck.




As an addict, no matter what your drug of choice is, no matter whether you are using or not, one of our commonalities is that we generally crave safety. We crave it as much, really, as we crave whatever we are putting in our bodies, or whatever fucked up thing we are doing to change the way we feel. Because any addict can tell you that, eventually, you don’t really get high anymore. Nope, that rush from the beginning flees quickly. What we really want is safety. Distance from our feelings, some space from our self loathing, to shut up the voice inside of us that will not let us be- the one that tells us how stupid, and useless, and lacking we are. We just want some relief from whatever it is that haunts us, and the addict knows the fastest way to get there. Of course, this is WAY oversimplifying it, but in essence, this is the truth- you don’t want to hear about brain chemistry, genetics, and compulsive disorders, anyway, I bet. And if you do, you should probably talk to someone else, as I am just a drug addict with some experience, not a doctor.

Now, I know what I have said- that addicts are seeking safety- sounds completely the opposite of what an addicts life looks like. I realize that. But think about this for a second…all the stories of the way addicts lie, the way they manipulate everything in their environment. Yeah, that is terrible. And by the way, it’s exhausting, too. But what is that really, more than an attempt to create a world where we have some semblance of control over our surroundings? Sure, it is misguided and horrible, but when you are so helpless in every other way, the only thing you can do, out of desperation, is to try to create some type of order out of the chaos. To know what to expect. To have some feeling of safety, we manipulate. You have to remember, an addict in the trenches of their disease is desperate, and desperate people on drugs do not have the ability to see how insane their actions and choices are. They literally are not in their right minds. They just want to survive.

Now, here’s the thing: It doesn’t start off like this. No one starts off in this desperate state. I always, when thinking of my own story, refer to my disease starting up at the age of 19, but that isn’t even true. The truth is, I discovered my drug of choice at the age of 19, but I started putting drugs in my body long before that- sure, it was just smoking weed and drinking, but I was 13. I had low self esteem, I had a weird life, and I just wanted to fit in. The best idea I could come up with, having a limited set of options, was to get high. And it worked for me. I found no shortage of kids just like myself with whom to surround myself, and I created a persona out of all of that, so that I could fit in somewhere. I had no idea what kind of game I was playing. How could I have? And not everyone was destined to wind up like me, either. That’s the funny thing about it- you are rolling the dice, and you don’t even know it. Many of my friends were able to put it down and walk away. But a lot of them- a lot- were not.

Because I was so young when I started down this path, I had no experience with the way “normal” people lived. I didn’t understand how controlling I was, whether I was clean or not, or how emotionally volatile I was. I had no idea that my behavior was a major issue, preventing me from being happy, either on or off of drugs. I can tell you this, though- the minute I realized that my drug use had become nothing more than a symptom of a far bigger problem, my life changed. It took me a really long time to get there. A really long time. I went through treatment, well into adulthood, twice, and had years clean (after which I relapsed again and again) before I got it. On drugs, my behavior was terrible. Off drugs, my behavior was terrible, and it lead me back to drugs, to make me care less about my terrible behavior. I had to come to this understanding on my own. I just wasn’t hearing it from anyone, or any place else. I am not saying it wasn’t taught to me, that no one ever mentioned it. I just wasn’t able to hear it.

This is still a struggle for me. Even knowing what I now believe to be true- that my own behavior can make or break me- I struggle to break the old habits, to find new ways to deal with my feelings, ways that are not so damaging to me, or to others. I spent a lot of years being one person, so it makes sense that being someone else is hard. But I know it is vital that I do. I don’t want to use drugs anymore, but I still behave like an addict sometimes, whether I show it or not. That person is sitting inside of me, commenting on far too many things. I am, and will always be, a work in progress.

Addicts are also very contrary people. We know what we want, and we do the opposite. Our intentions don’t always match our actions. We want to do right, but often find ourselves doing wrong. We have huge egos, and low self esteem. We say one thing and do another. We are often very smart, and live stupidly. We dream of a safe, happy life, and do everything in our power to make sure we never get there. It makes no sense to you, and it makes no sense to the addict who is living it. That is the terrible truth.

Addicts, whether we are clean or not, want what every breathing person wants. To be safe. But our fight is a little different. We carry our biggest obstacle with us everywhere that we go. The face that looks back at us in the mirror is often our greatest enemy. The battle we fight is with ourselves, over and over and over.

You may wonder why I come back to this subject again and again, why I identify so strongly with this part of me. And my answer is- because this is still the biggest part of me. Even though I am clean, the fight is the same. The person I am fighting, and the thing I fight against, and all of the little flare ups I have, they all come from the addict in me. I have a voice, and I want to explain it to the world, so that maybe you can understand an addict in your life, or yourself, a little better. But I am no longer afraid, and I am not sad, and I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel glad that I have named my enemy, and, even if it is a life long fight…at least I have the tools I need to do my work against it.

And that makes me feel a little safer. I sleep better, knowing that.