Discovering that I have the freedom to embrace exactly who I am in a very organic & authentic way, without feeling a need to conform to restrictive expectations from anyone in my life, has been one of my favorite effects that my recovery journey has had on who I am as a person.
(And if I do accidentally have people who have somehow managed to wedge their way into my small circle that aren’t able (or willing) to try to accept me for me, it appears that I have been ignoring them for quite some time.)
And I don’t want to mislead you:
1.) My choice of embracing who I am and not putting energy into worrying if people like me or not is not the same thing as everyone liking me.
Believe me. It’s not. (and that’s okay).
2.) I would like to be a more social person despite the fact that I am still particularly anxious and awkward in many situations. Liking myself and but having friends who love me for me doesn’t mean I have morphed into a social fairy who enjoys large groups, small talk, or feeling vulnerable. It simply means that I get better every day and I like me. I am grateful to have people in my life who like me as is; countless flaws, sketchy past, and sarcasm included.
But feeling comfortable in my own skin has been a rather slow but meaningful process of becoming.
It took me a long time to make the connection between how getting to know myself, unpologetically embracing who I am, and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to connect with other people, all directly effect each other.
Growing up in an environment as chaotic as the one that I called home didn’t leave me any time to handle much more than surviving. It took a lot of my energy to repress traumatic experiences and I didn’t have time leftover to invest in other areas of my life. I completely skipped vital phases of child development. Things like developing a healthy sense of who I was or learning to be friendly with other humans didn’t register with me and my scale of importance. I didn’t place any value on building meaningful relationships with others, especially not with the one that I was supposed to have with myself; I was also reluctant to open up to people and had a tiny bit of a problem trusting other people for anything.
So building a close relationship with another person was out of my carefully created and controlled comfort zone. Thanks but no thanks. I didn’t have time to worry about who I was.
And I knew that I didn’t fit anywhere so I changed like a chameleon depending on who I was around; always worrying that people could somehow see the dysfunction that i was a bi-product of. Which led to me feeling like I just didn’t fit anywhere and so, I hid.
Living this way allowed me the wiggle room to do almost anything!
Well like everything aside from building relationships or acknowledging my authentic-self.
I preferred isolation over connecting, but what I couldn’t see at the time is how damaging this way of living was. By not being connected inwardly, I couldn’t begin to allow myself to connect outwardly; and most important, I didn’t know why I preferred it that way.
The same isolation that had once been my go-to, safe place of refuge was literally killing me.
Choosing sobriety meant giving up my need for power and control.
It asked that I leap every single day. Leaping without having an idea of an exact landing place or knowing where I was going was scary. It isn’t something that can be controlled. Sobriety just asked that I do the next right thing.
Which mostly meant I had to be around –you guessed it.
I loathed the thought of having to sit in a room full of other people, never-mind that room was located inside of a church. I just hated the whole idea of having to put myself fin a situation where I would most certainly be exposed, while I was also overwhelmed with the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen when I did these so-called next right things.
On top of everything, I was sober during all of this life-change business.
But it never failed. Every time my home group met I was always greeted by smiling faces. Over time I quit glancing behind me to see if they had mistaken me for someone else or were smiling at the person behind me.
They saw me, and they accepted me, and that’s all it was.
I started to greet them with a hug and a smile right back.
For a long time that was as deep and connected as I was able to get.
But that was okay.
As more time passed I shared and listened and took notes, and I began to excavate parts of me that I hadn’t ever seen before.
As each piece of me was uncovered I excitedly shared the news with my small group and little by little I started to connect a little bit deeper, with myself, and with others.
I felt safe and loved, and I started to feel more and more comfortable with the changes that I had made and the discoveries that had been painfully unearthed.
By connecting with other people and listening to them share, I was learning so much about who I was.
This would end up being the place where I learned how to open up and to allow myself to be vulnerable and that is how I learned the value, importance, and power of connection.
Being comfortable and accepting of who I am is freeing, and allows me the confidence to show myself to others in a way that allows us the opportunity to form a connection, and that can lead to lasting relationships.
I have managed to find an imperfect but perfect for me tribe of friends.
Granted, many of the connections that I have made are mostly with other women in recovery who I have not actually met face to face, but it still totally counts.
The most important part about our kinship isn’t proximity anyway, it is having the freedom to be ourselves and not having to worry if that is acceptable or not.