I once stumbled upon a video created by Dove. It was called “The Beauty Sketches“. The gist of it was to show how women see themselves and far too often in a negative light.
I have always struggled with feeling badly about myself and what I have or have not done. Allow me to share my story.
One day, my phone rang. It was about 9-10 o’clock at night. I looked at the phone and saw the area code. I said to myself well…. he’s either dead or in jail again. I was driving at the time so I did not pick up the phone. Whenever I spoke to my Dad I always needed to make sure a bathroom was near because I would get so nervous, he literally scared the s#!t right out of me. When I got home, I called the number back.
It was the police. He was dead.
Enter Al-Anon, at the age of 39. I’m 45 this year.
By the time I found Al-Anon, my thinking was truly unmanageable. In my mind, I was doing everything right so why was I so miserable? But I figured, he’s dead…I don’t have anything to be scared of anymore. He can’t stalk me to a meeting and hurt me or these other people. It was time to get help. I was tired of feeling bad about myself, my accomplishments and my relationships.
Finding the right Al-Anon meeting was a miracle in and of itself. My first attempt didn’t work out so well. I found a list of meetings on al-anon.org. I showed up at the posted day and time and the meeting was over. It turns out they accidently had the wrong time posted online. The meeting was just letting out as I was walking in.
The next week, I tried again. I showed up and there was a whopping three people. It was me and two other men. I thought to myself. I’m having trouble with men; this might not be the meeting for me.
Third time is the charm! At least for me and Al-Anon it was. I walked into a different meeting and it was amazing. I felt at home, I felt comfortable, I felt understood, I felt loved. Loved! I needed that so much and yet with a lifetime of harsh criticism I felt I had none and I felt undeserving of love. I should settle for undesirables in my life because I was undesirable. I was stupid and ugly. Or so I was told. For example:
When I was six years old, my father got drunk and was fighting with my Grandparents. I woke up from a sound sleep and he was shouting at them … “SHE’S STUPID!” At first, I thought he was talking about my mother because they were going through a divorce. But then my Grandma said, “She’s only 6.” That’s when I ran to the bathroom and threw up.
My father was an angry drunk and was always on the verge of violence. He came running into the bathroom, grabbed me by the shoulders and started shaking me. “DID YOU HEAR WHAT I SAID?!?! DID YOU HEAR ME?!” I was scared out of my mind, so I said no. But I’ve lived with the thought that I am stupid ever since, no matter how much I accomplish.
On a different occasion, he took me to a department store for the purpose of buying me a nice outfit to wear for job interviews as a college graduation present. He was unfamiliar with women’s sizes. We came in through the door closest to the juniors section. I tried to tell him we needed to go over to the misses department. His reply was, “WE HAVE TO SHOP IN THE FAT LADIES SECTION!” I was horrified – I had zero self-esteem as it was.
Even during times of sobriety my father had issues. He would replace drinking with other obsessions; hoarding, gambling, pornography, stalking women, etc. He would say things like… “we should kill all the old people because …”
And so it was throughout my entire childhood and young adult life.
But the people in that Al-Anon group loved me- right then and there. Hugged me and gave me a box of Kleenex (or two) and loved me. Wow!
I don’t know how Al-Anon works, but if you keep an open mind it does work. It is working for me. I’m learning how to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. I’m learning how to communicate respectfully and productively. I’m learning that my feelings matter. I’m learning I have character defects, but I am also learning I have a lot of character assets as well. Al-Anon is teaching me to be a bit less “crazy” and I am learning to love myself! I am worthy of love.
One of the biggest things is, I can now see that my father did love me. In all my life, I never knew it until I found Al-Anon. He never once told me. Now that’s a gift! I have found love FROM the person I felt badly about, FROM the one person who had done things that hurt me, FROM the one person who I blamed. Yes, FROM my Dad, I was loved by an alcoholic. I see it now. He couldn’t tell me, he couldn’t show me – at least not in the way I needed him to. But in death, I see him showing off every school picture of me I had ever taken. I see him bragging about me to strangers and acquaintances. I see him trying to encourage my success when previously I had only seen “not good enough” in those same words.
In Al-Anon we say … “Let it begin with me.” The sentiment being, ‘Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others.” Al-Anon is my path to self-health.
Slow progress, in recovery, is progress. I’m not perfect. Take what you like and leave the rest. But keep coming back.