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Love Yourself... By Feeling ALL The Feelings

There is a well-known saying in the sober community: “Once you get sober, you have to learn to feel all the feelings.”

This was so true for me. By the time I finally got sober, at 41, I’d spent over 20 years avoiding feeling them. I didn’t know how to manage them. Had never been taught to.

Brought up in a typical working-class household in the 1980s you pulled your socks up and got on with it. If I ever did try and express an emotion, I was told I was hysterical or attention-seeking. It was definitely seen as a weakness in our house.

I don’t blame my parents, anymore. They were only bringing me up how they were brought up. But for years I played that victim card and refused to see how I could repair years of damage that I blamed others for.

But in December 2017 I took the first steps to breaking that generational curse of never saying how we felt – I got sober.

I thought the hardest part of staying sober was avoiding the drink. I had no idea how hard it would be dealing with feelings I had drowned out with booze for years.

It was like navigating a landscape I had been told never to go near, without as little as a compass let alone a map!

It was one of hardest, but most rewarding, self-discovery steps I’ve ever taken. I had to unearth these parts of me that had been used to demonise me.

I had to sit alone and tell myself that it was okay to cry when I was sad, that it wasn’t weak or attention-seeking, that my feelings were totally valid.

But it wasn’t just the sadness I had to navigate. The tears would flow at any emotion. Happy? I cried. Overwhelmed, here come the tears. Pride, more tears. Joy? Yup, I cry. Laughter…until I cry.

As I slowly but surely unpacked all these new and, at times terrifying, feelings I got a glimpse of who I really was.

Not who mum and dad had wanted as a daughter, but who I was before all that, before I changed for them, for partners, employers, friends, social media.

I found this empathetic, funny, kind and warm highly-emotional wee soul. It was like finding a wee flickering light that refused to go out.

I found it was okay to be passionate. It was okay to cry for people I had never met and in the same way it was totally fine to feel pride in people I had only seen online.

It was okay to be angry, it was okay to want attention, it was totally valid to want to be alone.

I was absolutely perfect at being me: the flawed and imperfect and loving and passionate me.

But it was hard. It still is sometimes. I spent a huge deal of my life caring what others thought of me. I was terrified people wouldn’t like who I really was – because I hadn’t gotten to grips with who I was myself.

Slowly and surely, I am uncovering more of me by feeling all the feelings and I work hard on me. But the only opinion that really matters now is mine.

It is so fucking hard trying to be someone you are not and so fucking liberating when you can finally start to realise that how you are, emotions and all, is perfect.

I practice what I call radical self-love – I tell myself daily I am enough. I look in the mirror and tell myself I love myself.

I have over 30-odd years of radical self-hate to eradicate.

I hold myself when I feel sad. I allow myself time to lie in bed and feel emotions wash over me. I journal on it, and I work out where in my body it’s coming from.

I name the emotion – loneliness, shame, sadness, anger, fear – and I apologise to myself for hiding it away for so long. I give each one what it needs – my love.

So, when it shows itself again, I can recognise it and love myself as I need to be. When I feel joy, I tell people.

I practice gratitude all day every day. I tell myself I am grateful to be me. I read my gratitude out loud and allow myself to feel the once-alien emotion of pride in myself. I am no longer ashamed of who I am.

I know for certain that I am better at being me because I do feel all my feelings. I no longer try to distract myself from them by drinking them away, eating them away, or all the other things I used to do to distract me from feeling the feelings. I actively want to feel them all and try to understand them better. I am emotional. I cry easily, laugh heartily, love passionately, champion fiercely, I wear my heart on my sleeve…and I am totally comfortable with all of that. I know it’s good to be vulnerable, to keep growing, finding myself spiritually, and to love myself whole again I need to get up close and personal with my vulnerability. I have come a long way from being scared to show the real me. Oh, and I did cry writing this! But I am good with that.

Kirsty Mulcahy is a certified life coach and self-love coach for women. The Edinburgh woman is also founder of Sober Buzz Scotland, a thriving movement helping people break free from alcoholism and live the sober life. For more information visit: Follow Kirsty on Instagram: @skyrosecoaching; @soberbuzzscotland

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