"Every situation, success, setback, or mistake I have in my life offers a moment where I can pause and evaluate what it all means."
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Episode 107 -- April 22, 2021Strength in the Struggle: You Are Worth the Work
In her book Awakening Blackout Girl, survivor and victims' rights advocate Jennifer Storm shares information, tools, and resources for healing from sexual trauma while also in recovery from substance use. In this excerpt, Storm emphasizes the impossibility of being perfect. She reminds us that it's not only okay but is necessary to make mistakes and shares an example from her personal life on how she uses self-awareness as a tool to handle setbacks in life. The excerpt closes with an exercise, meditation, and mantra to reinforce the progress we're making on our healing journey.
This excerpt has been edited for brevity.
You are not perfect. I know, this may come as a shock to you, but you aren't, and neither am I. We are going to make mistakes. Shit, we have to make mistakes. That's how we learn. It's how we grow. People often ask me how I have gotten this far without relapsing. How have I gotten to this place in my life without running back to my old habits? My response is that it's not worth it for me today. That could very well change tomorrow. I hope not. I'm pretty sure it won't, but none of us is immune to falling back. I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm above any of the behaviors that could lead me back down a dark path.
What gives me hope and strength is that I have different skills today than I did five, ten, or twenty years ago. Everything I've experienced and learned so far decreases the likelihood of me using drugs and alcohol today. My recovery has always been about making daily choices that keep me on a path of healing and recovery. I'm not coasting—I'm constantly aware that I'm not perfect, and I'm working on those imperfect parts of myself all the time. That is where my hard work lies. Am I being helpful or hurtful? Am I being honest just to make a point or to truly benefit someone? Am I being an asshole? Have I made amends when I was an asshole? The way I approach my life today is that everything is a lesson. Every situation, success, setback, or mistake I have in my life offers a moment where I can pause and evaluate what it all means.
Think back to science class, when you learned about homeostasis. Our bodies are always trying to achieve chemical balance. For me, recovery is the emotional equivalent. If I live in the extremes, if I live out on the edges, then I am shifted spiritually, emotionally, and mentally into a space that does not fully serve me.
Your whole center of gravity is thrown off balance when you are on the edge. Sometimes, all you can see is the cliff. When you take a step back and move into the middle, your perspective can expand and take in all that is around you. Yes, the cliff is still there, but there are also beautiful trees ahead, the sun bursting through the clouds, birds flying free above you.
There is so much strength in your tears, fears, and struggle. Please do not let anyone else tell you differently. The things about us that others often perceive as weaknesses are actually signs of our strength. If you own your mistakes, use your voice, strive for daily compassion and balance, and are committed to learning and growth, you are magic. To me, you are a superhero for doing this work. The only true mistakes in your life are those moments when you did not try, you did not get back up, or you did not want to make things right. Once you realize that, you will begin to understand that nothing is beyond your reach. Everything is possible, and you are the only one standing in the way of you. Do not underestimate your own power and worth. Do the thing that scares you. Dream big. Be brave in your explorations and know that even if you don't reach your original goal, you will gain something. Maybe that something is just the ability to say, "Hey, I tried that, and it didn't work out. Now I know." There is so much growth in that. Do not limit yourself, and please, never give up on you. You are worth the work.
People ask me all the time, "How did you do it?" How did I survive it all, and how do I stay clean and sober? My single greatest tool is my self-awareness. You can take a similar journey with yourself. The time and effort are so worth the reward.
Here's a picture of what the journey looks like for me today.
I wake up to a surge of energy rushing through my veins. My mind immediately begins to spin as I think of everything I want to do today. I turn to my wife and rattle off five very different goals. I am pinging from one to another when she stops me ever so gently, looks at me, and says, "Baby, get on the bike. You're spinning."
Now, confronted with my current condition, I could easily bite her freaking head off (old me), or I can take a look at myself and lean into the beauty of this moment. This other human gets me. I have someone in my life who wants me to be the best version of myself. She is not judging me with her gentle nudge; she is loving me in a way very few can or know how to. Healthy me welcomes this and knows this is exactly what I need.
I smile and jump onto the bike. I start an '80s rock ride because I know the energy coursing through me right now needs a hard-core release. I need to scream, pound the pedals, and push myself beyond my comfort zone to get this shit out of my body, mind, and spirit. This energetic release is what I require to not fall back into a lesser version of myself. This thirty-minute workout is all that stands in the way of the day I want. Will I release this extra stored energy and give it a proper, healthy outlet? Or will I refuse, be mad at my wife, blame her for my current angst, and proceed to spew this energy onto undeserving people throughout my day? Will I surrender to what I have learned about myself, as a growing yet imperfect human being? That is my choice today and every day. It is also your choice, my friend, my soul companion on this journey of healing. You have the power to choose. Choose wisely, my friend, because your life literally depends upon it.
Spend some time writing in your journal about why you are worth this work, why you deserve healing. Write about everything you have accomplished already and everything you hope to accomplish in the future. Write about everything that makes you kind, beautiful, compassionate, strong, intelligent, or creative. What good things have other people said about you recently? The next time your self-worth is low, return to this page and read what you wrote.
Today and every day, I will seek to understand myself and embrace the lessons around me. I will not judge the fall; I will embrace the standing up.
I am worth the work. I am a freaking superhero.
About the Author:
The author of several books, including Blackout Girl by Hazelden Publishing, and magazine articles, Storm is recognized for her work as a victim's advocate and has received numerous awards for the telling of her personal story of victimization, addiction, and recovery. She has traveled the country giving keynotes, lectures, and workshops, and she participates in panel discussions regarding victims' rights, LGBTQ rights, addiction and recovery, and civil rights.
Storm has been profiled in and interviewed for many major national media outlets, including NBC's Today Show and Dateline, People magazine, CNN, Rolling Stone magazine, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, CBS's 48 Hours: Live to Tell, E! News, Washington Post, Business Weekly, and USA Today.
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