As people gallivant around town clutching bouquets, shiny, heart-shaped chocolate boxes, and red envelopes which no doubt conceal cards noting the truest of affections, I, do not.
For me, today is a true day of reflection. One where, since my boyfriend is occupied, I turn to myself and say: I love you.
It was my last day in group therapy in treatment, as I graduate tomorrow. I brought my fellow rehab-ers sweet treats and left them in the common room. I got to share my final thoughts on being in rehab, rehashing my plans for the outside world, my strategy for staying sober once I leave these walls of comfort and safety.
My heart, oddly enough, is a little sad today. Mainly because my rehab crew are all my Valentine’s. My family. The good characters and the bad. And, I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss this.
I’ve come into my own here. And, though I still have a ways to go, I really did start to love myself in this place and because of this place. That love, not my boyfriend’s love, is a lot more meaningful. It’s deep. It’s gnarly and complicated. It’s beautiful and challenging. But, most of all, it’s something I’ve never confronted before. I’ve known, for quite some time, that I never really liked myself. At least not for who I was. I could pick and choose a few traits that were amicable, even lovely, but, nothing that left me feeling complete and whole. Not true love.
I remember the six Valentine’s I spent with my ex. Each one a bigger disappointment than the next. I didn’t feel valued or needed. I never felt like I was a big deal. And, I could spend a lot of time harping on that, being sore. But, these days I realize how futile those examinations would be. Because, at the end of the day, all six of those years, I didn’t really think much of myself. Those feelings of inadequacy, no matter where or how they originated, aren’t on him. He wasn’t responsible for my value. And, sure, he could have made me feel better, but, I’ve learned on this long, hard road, that what others think of you isn’t really what’s important at all. If you don’t feel, yourself, that you are of value, nothing anyone else says or does is going to change that for you. Not in any real way.
I’ve said before, I’m a people pleaser. People like me, we’re built to be coddled. If we’re not doing something for someone else or being affirmed by someone else, we feel useless and unloved. So, what happens when that other person disappears? Your lover, parent, child, sibling, best friend, what happens when they have other things going on that don’t revolve around you? Well, I’ll tell you. You end up feeling hurt. Left behind. Ignored. Devalued. Useless.
A big part of my recovery has been learning to say: Be mine. To myself.
I can’t change you. And, you can’t change me. I can’t always be there for you. And, you can’t always be there for me. That’s reality. And, it’s a hard reality to accept when you have a codependent nature. It takes bravery to be satisfied with yourself, to be self-reliant. It’s lonely and painful some days. But, it’s value far exceeds any material thing or love received from another human being. The biggest gift you can give the people you love, is to love yourself. Good and bad. Because, when you do that, that seemingly impossible thing, you give them permission to be themselves. Those people you care for don’t have to contort into a position where they make themselves what you need them to be to be happy.
I still grapple with self-love. I’d love to change a host of things about myself. But, today, Valentine’s Day, the eve of my rehab graduation, I am more whole, more accepting of myself than I’ve ever been in my life. And, that love, is the most fulfilling gift anyone could ever have given me on Valentine’s Day, but, the truth is, I gave it to myself.
Yes, I think I will be mine. As my boyfriend rehearses with his friends, and I sit snuggled on the couch with my best furry friend, my kitty, it dawns on me that I’m in the best company I can be in. My own.