When I was 21 years old, I found myself in the midst of learning that my soul was a dead space. I slowly awakened to this through the love and support of Alcoholics Anonymous whose rooms I had ran into one Saturday night, endless Therapy sessions allowing me to deal with what was left when the drink wasn’t there to numb my emotional existence and an endless supply of life changing books.
For my 21st birthday, a friend bought me a present that helped me to understand even more about myself. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach fell off my shelf a while back while discussing favourite books with a friend on the phone. That book was given to me at a deeply traumatic time of my life for which I am now very grateful - I would have been sober for about two months and my entire being was coated in a veneer of grey self-loathing. I had no self-worth, no self-esteem and absolutely no self-belief. I was dead inside. My fighting spirit was lying in a pool of self-destruction unable to fight anymore, even unable to emerge long enough to get me through the night.
This beautiful book, that still has yellow highlighter scrawled across many of the sentences that serve to demonstrate the excitement for the 21 year old reader as I understood something new, something that I could make sense of, is about the quest of a seagull to break free from the crowd, from expectations, from all that is uncomfortable and senseless – to seek freedom. I connected with it on such a profound level at the time and flicking through it again, 20 years on in my journey of recovery, none of its meaning is lost on any personal growth that I have been fortunate to have had.
Sometimes, when we want to be different, it’s easy for people to feel upset or angry. Sometimes, when we absolutely believe that we are on the right path, someone wants to stand in front of us and try and prevent us from seeing the way forward. Sometimes, because of that, it’s easy to lose self-belief. The importance of having people around you who love you is immense.
Self-love is the cornerstone to everything. Some people just have it from childhood….they know without acknowledgment or questioning unreservedly that they are special, worthy, loveable and able. They know this through unconditional love from emotionally intelligent parents. Without self-love, we have nothing. As I have said so many times, it is the cornerstone of faith, of loving others and of enjoying other people’s journeys…wherever they may be on that journey.
I have learnt to choose to remove myself from negative people and try and let them go with love. My conclusion has to be that self-love, self-belief and self-worth are not something that I can afford to think of as mine without question – I have to work on them every 24 hour stretch. Some days are easier than others and because I have so many yesterdays of self-love instead of self-destruction, there is a very strong foundation underpinning any challenges that come my way. So surround yourself with loving people, people who genuinely and honestly will tell you how it is while being there for you at the same time.
The friend, who bought me the book back in 1991, has written inside “If circumstances are bad and you have to bear them, do not make them a part of yourself.” How lovely of her to write that and how these words are far more profound than I could ever have appreciated at the time.