Number 1: After a long spiritual drought over the summer, or so it felt, I learned something new while working Step 9 in September – that my amends to my blood father need only be that I forgive him, period. This does not require that I call him or write him, for direct contact with him usually ends with my being harmed.
This goes well with making amends to myself, that I forgive and love myself first and foremost. Forgiveness, I learned early on in the program, does not mean saying that a behavior was okay, for that is often not the case. Forgiveness instead is letting go of a resentment. We do this for our own serenity which my sponsor tells me is my ultimate goal.
Until this spiritual awakening, that all I need do is forgive (in this particular case), I was having a great deal of trouble understanding how I could feel serene while trying to have a relationship with someone who abandoned me as a child and has continued to repeat that behavior for the last 50 years. Why would I expose myself to someone's abuse if I love myself?
The answer is I wouldn't, and shouldn't.
Number 2: I also learned what loving myself really means - my second spiritual awakening this fall. I'm someone who has fought depression ever since my father first left me. I wrote poetry about death and thought about suicide long before my teen years. That or anger was where I went whenever I experienced the emotional pain of rejection, real or imagined.
I was going there again this fall so used the tools I have learned to keep myself afloat (besides taking medication). First was to have an “attitude of gratitude,” so I made a gratitude list. Okay, that helped me to stop the self-pity, to count my blessings. Second was to get some exercise and sunshine. That helped short-term, but the effects did not last long enough. So third, I thought about others and that I needed to stay alive for them. Anyone who has had a family member or friend commit suicide will tell you to think of others.
This is when I realized that I only felt good when I was either with others or had plans on a daily basis to be with someone else. Should someone cancel our plans, I would be devastated and wonder how I was going to make it through the day. It took me awhile to see this, since my old self felt better when I was alone because people often made me feel bad about myself. That's because my family of origin was non-supportive and I used to choose unhealthy relationships.
That's when it hit me, that if I was going to beat my depression, I was going to have to love myself enough to enjoy my own company. I needed to lose my dependency on others to feel good about me. In other words, staying alive for others was no longer working because it was only a temporary fix – I had to learn to stay alive for me! This is a radical change in my thinking and I have just begun to practice it.