If you or your loved one is struggling with overcoming addiction, no one needs to tell you that it’s tough – you’re living it. An encouraging word of hope and change can often go a long way to help the healing process – even in the darkest times. With that in mind, Vertava Health often brings to light important and newsworthy topics as they relate to drug and alcohol addiction. Our focus in the month of January continues in a four-part series with an esteemed author and colleague, Dr. Jason Brooks, who will explore the aspects of freedom from addiction.
Freedom from Feeling Unlovable
There once was a little child who lived in a family where everything, on the outside, seemed great. The family lived in a predominantly middle-class town where the father worked and the mother stayed at home to raise the children. On the outside, it would appear this was the model family. But, behind the doors and the closed windows of the family, reality was a very different story.
Expectations of his parents were high and it was clear that love and the acceptance he dreamed for more than anything else was available…but it was conditional.
- Make good grades…interpreted as straight A’s
- Don’t cause trouble
- Don’t embarrass us
- Failure is not an option
- Perfection in everything you do
- Be a role model to your siblings and others
- If you fail, you will be a disappointment to us, and God
These messages and often impossible expectations pierced the soul of this little boy and served as a constant reminder through his adolescent and early adulthood years of his inadequacy and that love of himself and others was totally dependent upon meeting the expectations of others.
The weight of these expectations, and the inability to know how to effectively deal with them emotionally, led to:
– self-destructive behaviors
– feelings of inadequacy
– guilt, shame, and the unhealthy drive for perfection
All of which carried through their adolescent years, early adulthood, marriage and family. While on the outside, everything for this child looked great…inside the storm raged and the fear of disappointing others, including God, was always present and plagued him for years.
While this could most likely be the story of many of you, this was actually my story… the story of a little boy trapped in the cycle of family pain and dysfunction that had grown through the generations and who could not see a way out based on expectations of living a life of perfection and, missing the mark leading to being unloved.
In my work over the years, I have seen this same cycle in countless individuals and families. The unrealistic expectations coupled with being labeled as “failure, weak, disappointment, loser, disgrace, outcast… unloved” rips and destroys a heart in ways that few other painful situations do. And the pain lasts a lifetime. Often folks who experience this type of environment either as children, teens or adults look for ways to ease the agony which leads to destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug use and abuse, overeating, self-harm, personality and emotional disorders, PTSD, and the list goes on and on.
Quite often, as the cycle of harmful behaviors continues year after year, those trapped in this cycle find themselves desperate for help to break the chains of addiction and heal from the scripting and false beliefs in their life of feeling unloved. This pain is insidious because it permeates every area of life and requires incredible strength to create healing.
The journey is not easy, but it is worth it.
The first step of this life-transforming journey: Begin to break through the prison walls, you must give true forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Forgiveness is not forgetting, condoning, or a clear-cut, one-time decision. But it is the by-product of an ongoing healing process and recognizing that you no longer need your grudges and resentments, your hatred, and self-pity. You have to come to the realization that there’s nothing you do to punish those that hurt you that will heal you.
Next: Begin to the process of building love for yourself. To see yourself as a precious creation with incredible potential and purpose and to realize that you’re not here by accident. As you see yourself through the eyes of grace and love, you are then able to move forward.
The third step: learn to love others. To show the deep love that you were not given can be painful since it shines a spotlight on the loss in your life. But, to truly be free from the experiencing of being unlovable, you must learn to love yourself and others.
Through the years, as I learned who I was created to be and that the love of God is not conditional, I was able to focus on my own healing, break through the chains of our family dysfunction of love being conditional resulting in feeling unlovable, and begin on a path to touch the pour into the lives of everyone I meet. I know that as I meet people around the world, behind every smile, every laugh, every door and window, are folks who are working through the pain of the past to be the best for themselves and those they love in the moment. Today, every morning I wake with the same prayer that my life would leave a legacy of unconditional love as I touch lives…one step at a time.