“You have to love yourself first,” they said. They, the countless people who have made this suggestion throughout my years, never brought with them a pamphlet on where to start. There was no gameplan, no rulebook, or instruction manual. As great as it sounds, I didn’t know how. What clicked for me was looking at the statement from a different perspective. Love is good, love wins everything. But in order to love myself, I had to start by liking me. If I knew one truth, I knew I didn’t like me. If I knew a second truth, I knew I didn’t want anyone to know.
The last thing I’d want anyone to know are my weaknesses, failures, and incomprehensible differences. Because I was unable to like myself, temporary relief was sought by being validated by others. If I didn’t like me, I needed you to. That’s also why I was always the good guy in all of my own stories. Take all of my prior intimate relationships as an example. The reason I was in these relationships was because she was attracted to me. It fed a vital part for my ego to survive. Once the infatuation period was over, she became useless to me. If I couldn’t like me, I couldn’t love me; if I couldn’t love me, I certainly couldn’t love her.
Now, that’s not to say I just dated anyone; all of my exes are physically attractive – except one. Blek. But hey, we all make mistakes. All kidding aside, these realizations have been valuable gifts I’ve received by remaining sober. Can you imagine the insanity and calamity caused by coupling alcohol with dislikeness of myself? Can you see how I might be willing to crush another, all at the expense of protecting whatever thread of existence I felt I had left? Fortunately, the beginning of the end of my last relationship started with her saying, “You need help,” which is exactly what I needed to hear.
If I knew a third truth, somebody knew. What a fucking relief. Whatever it was I was trying to protect, whatever perfection I needed you to think of me, was gone. I’d been exposed. Like Adam and Eve realizing their nakedness after eating the fruit they weren’t supposed to and covered themselves, I no longer had a place to hide. I am the dick. I am the sinner. I am the liar. I am the addict. I am the alcoholic. I am the problem. I am the bad guy.
The life I had been living was a continual pattern of filling a void inside. Alcohol wasn’t the problem though I still have no intention to drink, it worked very similarly to an anxiety pill with a prescription that says, “TAKE AS NEEDED.” I needed a lot. Relationships weren’t the problem, they simply distracted me from having to focus on me. Eventually, the real Slim Jonny would please stand up… and run for the door. The point is my design for living was repetitive cycle of choices that avoided the one thing I needed to pay attention to: Me. It doesn’t mean I needed to like or love myself, I can assure you that I didn’t. But what I had to do was get rigorously honest about who I really was. A selfish, egotistical, lying, cheating bastard.
Do I accept that? Yes. Does it mean I have to always live that way? Absolutely not.
Anything that could distract me from me was a good thing, and other people’s problems is an easy one to use. Take grammar for instance. I used to be the grammar nazi, correcting others when they misuse you’re and your, or their, they’re and there. This is an easy one to make myself appear and feel superior to another but honestly I do not know all the facts, especially if it’s a stranger on social media. Are they using a voice-to-text software because they cannot type? Did they get yanked from school early to take care of a sick parent? Do they have a learning disability? Who am I to bring to light the failures and mistakes of another person when I have enough of my own problems to deal with? Only now am I learning to let the world be as it is because if there is any chance at changing it, it’ll have to start from within; not from my belief that I’d been living without.
I can assure you that if you want any sort of change in your life, and you don’t feel like you are capable, you are right. Therefore I suggest you ask for help. I cannot tell you where, how, when, why or what for. You will be guided so long as you seek it. Whether you need to reach a personal, spiritual, or physical bottom to do so is up to you. I think it took all three for me but I don’t think it’s required to reach bottoms to get to the tops. My perception of life has done a complete one-eighty, and my priorities have changed. What I never thought could be is now here and I’d like to keep it. My selfish nature is transforming into sincere gratitude. And for whatever you find in your journey, whether it’s to lose weight, kick an addiction, grow spiritually, run a marathon, do what you love for a living, or be a better parent, if you want more of it, give freely of what you learn.
Love is an action word, and I can love myself by continuous self-improvement in many areas of my life. But liking myself had to come first, and the real change started happening when I could accept both the good and bad of who I was, and be honest about where I went wrong. The real change comes from within, never without.
P.S. Many people have asked for my recipe for the chili cook-off competition I won recently, having never made chili in my life. The secret recipe is found on the back of the McCormick’s Chili Seasoning packet which can be found in your local grocery store. Yep. That’s the truth.