By Rose Lockinger
I spent a significant portion of my life criticizing myself, honestly, if I had talked to other people the way I talked to myself, I doubt I would have had any friends. I had ridiculously high expectations of myself, you see, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried. It was never good enough it always failed to measure to up to my standards. I needed to be perfect. In my eyes, there was no room for errors. I also had unrealistic assumptions about others. I had an expectation of what my life was supposed to be and the rest of the world was supposed to live up to it. Any mistake led to harsh self-criticism, beratement, which was then followed by using a substance to compensate for my self-loathing. This would repeat over and over. I took comfort in self-sabotage behaviour as a way of punishing myself for mistakes I made. I was the queen of self-sabotage, allowing myself to almost reach success before crashing and burning in a magnificent ball of flames. I repeated this over and over for 16 years. I wish I could say that this ended when I got sober, but the reality is that it hasn’t and it has taken a significant amount of effort and time to break this cycle. This is where grace and self-acceptance have come into play.
Self-acceptance was a dream that I never thought possible. I spent my life keeping track of every mistake I made and ensuring that after I had inflicted enough punishment or self-abuse to compensate for the error. This cycle would continue ad nauseam until I finally got sober. Well, sort of.
Getting sober introduced me to a completely new way of life. I knew that it was out there but had no idea how to get there. I learned that I could change, this was a revolutionary concept for me. I had spent my life repeating the same mistakes over and over. I learned that I was not in fact a bad person but rather that I suffered from a chronic disease that left untreated would eventually kill me. Most importantly I learned that I was worthy of love. These were mind blowing concepts for me. I had existed in a rigidly controlled environment for so long. Terrified of any changes or new experiences that I had not orchestrated. These new ideas allowed me to see how fruitless my perfectionist ideals were for others, and myself, and how everyone was doing the best they could on a daily basis. I found solace in a quote from Franklin Roosevelt: “Do the best you can, with what you have, from where you are.”
Grace starts with compassion for yourself understanding that we are human, that no one is perfect. Change happens over time with little steps taken every day. Progress occurs in months and years, and the irony is that usually others bring this our attention. Giving myself grace is not an easy task. I spent so many years hating myself that just because I am sober today and live on a completely different basis does not mean that my old way of thinking won’t come skulking back in.
The past few years I have really worked on this though and I have found a direct correlation between my treatment of others and how I treat myself. The times that I have found myself being judgmental of others are usually times that I am being extremely judgmental of myself. I am not sure which way this correlation goes, but I have found that by allowing others the freedom to be themselves and not judging them for it, I myself enjoy a more comfortable presence in my own skin.
I have also discovered another reason why allowing others grace is so important, and that is because it allows them to have their own journey and experience everything that they need to experience. There were times when I would see my friends, or people that I care about, engage in things that I found undesirable. In the past, I would try to get them to act the way that I thought they should act, and usually, this resulted in them doing what they were going to do anyways, getting angry at me for interfering, and me getting upset. I have found in time, that I can offer my opinion if it is asked for, but that allowing other people to make their own choices removes any of the anger that I would feel afterward. It also allows people to learn and grow at their own pace and not at the pace that I want them to change.
In return for allowing others their own journey, I have also begun to allow myself this same luxury. Although I will admit that allowing myself the same grace has been more difficult because there are still times when I operate under the idea that I need to be perfect. It is funny because sometimes I will come up against a new obstacle, such as moving back to Virginia after spending my entire sobriety in South Florida, and I will believe that I must be perfect through this obstacle. It is difficult for me to see that I have never done this before and so, therefore, I may not know exactly how to deal with the feelings, emotions, or actions that may come. Understanding this and then allowing myself the grace to be human makes walking through these life obstacles immeasurably easier because I don’t also have to contend with the constant self-critic screaming in my ear.
The goal in all of this, is to come to accept myself and those around me exactly as they are, flaws and all. I have been given grace by my higher power, and those I love. My aim is to humbly return this grace to others. I know that by showing others the grace that I was shown I will, in turn, be allowed to be more gentle with myself, learning to love who I am, and nurture my being. Giving people the benefit of the doubt or the patience to be themselves is something that we need more of in this world, and in the end, I hope that I am doing my part to spread this.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.