One of the major contributors to addiction is the fact that we often base our sense of self-worth and peace of mind on what others think of us and how they interact with us—their facial expressions, body language, attitude and words. This is especially true with those we care about most, like a spouse, parent, sibling, girlfriend, clergy, etc. If we sense disappointment, anger, disapproval, judgment and the like from these individuals, we tend to internalize these emotions and make them our own. How “they feel about us” is how “we feel about ourselves.”

One of the most important things you must learn in recovery is that your true worth has nothing to do with those around you. You have great worth because you are a wonderful creation—unique in all the universe. And you are unconditionally loved and treasured by your Creator—independent of what anyone else thinks or feels.

Does that mean you distance yourself from others, dismiss their feelings and refuse to reach out to them? Of course not. It simply means that you obtain your sense of worth and self-esteem from a Higher Source—one that never changes and will never let you down. Constantly connected to that Source, you are able to be a tremendous support and strength to those around you.

Some years ago, a client shared the following experience:

“It has been an interesting couple of days. I had a great experience on Thursday night. I had really felt that in working through my addiction, I had received forgiveness for the horrible mistakes I have made. I felt like God had forgiven me and everyone else that knew about it had forgiven me—with the obvious exception of my wife. She is trying but has not gotten there yet.

I realized on Thursday night that because she was not able to forgive me, I had not forgiven myself. Because she was still suffering, I should still be suffering. I came to the realization that I didn’t have to wait on her to forgive me before I forgave myself. I had a joy and happiness return to me that I have not felt in a long time. I finally felt like smiling again!

As I shared this experience with my wife, she could sense a change in me. I felt so free! At first I was hesitant about sharing this with her because as I mentioned before, if she was still suffering then I should be also. But I came to the conclusion that even though she might feel that way, if she could see me happy again, and making real progress, that would hopefully give her more confidence in me. We were up late last night and my wife shared the feelings and pain she is still experiencing. She cried on my shoulder and let me hold her while she talked. It was painful to see her hurting this way, but the fact that she turned to me and let me hold her while she cried is progress. Slow and steady!”

This individual’s experience is a great example of the power we gain when we stop basing our worthiness and self-esteem on what others think of us—even those closest to us. When our sense of true value comes from our Creator, we gain remarkable confidence and power that allow us to be a great strength and support to others. If this individual was still basing his self-image on others, when his wife shared her feelings of pain, he would have been offended and reacted negatively, creating a wedge between them, reinforcing and magnifying her struggles. Being lifted by the unconditional love and acceptance of his Creator, he was able in turn to lift her up in her time of need.


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