I didn’t know how to love myself

When I shared that I was feeling lonely and unloved in my marriage, it was suggested that I needed to love myself first. (I would always try to smile when I heard that, because it helped to suppress my gag reflex.) I absolutely hated what I perceived to be an over-simplified and corny approach to my serious problems. My bigger problem was this: I didn’t know how to love myself.

Having had alcoholic parents, my role models didn’t know how to love themselves either. Had they known, I’m pretty sure they would have been able to express love, rather than leave us out in orbit the way they did. I’m pretty sure I chose an abusive, alcoholic husband because he also treated me that way. It was all very familiar to my childhood. Unfortunately, none of them could give away something they just didn’t have themselves.

Eventually in Al‑Anon, I “came to believe” that I already have everything I will ever need, right within me. I don’t ever need to go searching for it elsewhere. Whenever I forget that, I start walking around with my old reliance on others to bring me happiness and be my salvation. That fearful thought has made for some profoundly lonely and unhappy days for me.

Al‑Anon taught me that I have a disease of perception, and that I don’t have to sit around and wait for love. I can change the things I can, right where I am. When I am feeling lonely and unloved, I am probably lonely for myself, and probably not doing enough to take care of my own mind, body, and spirit. I can take action to change that.

My Sponsor taught me to “Let It Begin with Me” by making a list of the things that I love to do, to list all the things that make me feel good and bring me more joy. She told me to regularly do those things, and to regularly acknowledge to myself that I am choosing to do them.

My list looks like this: daily meditation, outdoor photography, walking, gardening, putting my feet up and reading, playing the piano, and baking pumpkin or banana bread.

With my Sponsor’s help, I discovered that if I want more love in my life, I have to practice “First Things First.” When I do the things I love to do, I feel happy, and I have faith that everything else will continue to fall into place.

By Deborah A., Missouri
The Forum, April 2014