Who Am I Really?
Question: Do you remember that feeling of wide open confidence before the world introduced doubt? I do and would start with that if you relate… in some ways I think that’s what we ultimately need to “recover” in Recovery.
I developed low self-esteem at a young age. It started when I had learning difficulties in school. I knew there was something wrong with me and that I was different. I felt I was less than others and went from being a very outgoing and humorous kid to being quiet and shy. I constantly compared myself to others in academics and sports which resulted in me not feeling good about myself.
I tried to resolve my feelings of low self-esteem through external validation. I played sports, worked out, did well academically in college. I figured becoming a dentist would once and for all take away the feelings of being less than. Though I was proud of what I accomplished, it did little to improve my feelings of self-worth. In fact, I developed imposter syndrome and felt I did not belong in this profession. I could not understand why the dental practice that hired me and eventually made me a partner wanted me. I figured any day they would decide to fire me.
This went on for several years until I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. I was placed on a stimulant and immediately felt I had the answer I was looking for. I imagined what I felt on the medication was what normal people feel like all the time. It seemed I finally found the answer to my problems but this did not last. After a year I started abusing the stimulant and my life started spiraling out of control. Eventually it would cost me my job, and threatened to end my career.
My self-esteem dropped to an all-time low. With nowhere to turn, I found recovery. Early in my journey, I expected a life transforming epiphany. I wanted a one key answer to all my problems, kind of similar to when I found a drug that I thought would fix my life. Honestly, I was lost. I did not seem to be changing. I still had all the negatives of my old life. The only difference was now I was not masking them with a drug.
However gradually my life improved. It started with introspection and acknowledgment of the wounded part of myself which formed in my early childhood. I had to face issues about myself head on and not run from feelings that percolated in the process.
I am an avid runner and have a run coach. I have found some parallels between recovery and running. My coach has taught me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable while running. The pain in run workouts is coming just like some of the work we do in recovery. The road to recovery is not a comfortable one. There is nothing you can do to stop the pain but you can learn to accept it, not fight it, sit with it, and know ultimately it is temporary. The moment when I had the courage to feel the pain I was so scared to feel and let go of it, I gained a new freedom. I was able to drop the mask I was wearing for so many years and let people see who I really was.
Recovery is such a long and broad-ranging process, focusing on the mind, body, and spirit. It is something that can’t be rushed. It is something that I have to recommit to each day. It can sometimes be painful. It can sometimes be boring and time consuming. However, in the end it is all worth it. It has allowed me to recover that confident, humorous, and outgoing part of myself I lost so long ago. I no longer have to wear a mask to fit in. All I have to do is show up and be my true self and for this I am thankful.
— A Grateful Dentist in Recovery —