Thursday, April 8, 2010
Authenticity is a concept that I was introduced to when I was in treatment for alcohol abuse. Each morning the residents and house manager would start the day with the reading of at least one daily affirmation. The topic of authenticity was a common element in many of the affirmations, especially those intended for women. Maybe we lose ourselves in the midst of an abusive, controlling relationship, or in our addiction, or other self defeating behaviors. Or maybe we never developed a strong sense of identity and appreciation for ourselves in the first place and that itself made us vulnerable to abuse, addiction and other dangerous lifestyles. Regardless of what came first the chicken or the egg, one of the great things about residential treatment is that you learn or rediscover who you really are. You are separated from your family, friends, job, social life and most of your personal belongings. All of the external "things" we use to define ourselves are stripped away. You live in a house full of strangers who know nothing of your history except that you share the common bond of addiction, and now you don't even have that "identity" to fall back on. This is a frightening experience for most of us. But once the initial fear, anger and powerlessness wears off, we are left with the rather exciting opportunity to look within and remember who we are at our most inner core of our being. We are also able to pick and choose which of those traits we wish to develop, nurture and refine. And, wonder of all wonders, we are free to decide what characteristics, habits, traits and interests we want to introduce into our lives. It's like the terrible twos or adolescence all over again. We try on new roles and some of them don't fit, we rebel against change and rules, we struggle with self identity and self esteem. Most of us don't make it the first time through treatment. Finding our authentic self is too much work, too scary, too filled with uncertainty fear of failure,and worst of all fear of not being accepted for who we are. so we go back to what we know, an abusive relationship, the bottle, the pipe, the needle, whatever it was that we thought defined us. My aoda counselor once said to me, treatment will ruin any future relapse for you. As usual she was right. Once I had the glimpse of who I could be, who I wanted to be, that other life revealed itself for what it really was, a cheap gaudy mask designed to hide me from not only the rest of the world but from myself as well. So on my second bout of treatment, I was a little more receptive, a little less rebellious and a lot more willing to reclaim Jenny, whoever she was. I knew she was in there and I knew I could resurrect her. It has been a long journey, but within the last couple of years I finally feel I know me, my authentic self. Ever since that relationship with me has developed life has changed drastically for the better. Lucille Ball once said "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line". The love you find is well worth the discomfort of stripping away the masks and delusions we create in order to avoid being authentic.