My name is Wendy Van Buren, and I work in the Alumni Department at Mountainside. I have 28 cumulative years of sobriety, and as some of you may know from hearing my story in meetings and IOP sessions, I experienced a relapse a few years ago.
I want to talk about the topic of self-love. For myself and so many of us, developing a trusting relationship with ourselves and forgiving past actions can be daunting at first. We struggle with the barrage of thoughts and many self-criticisms that can derail our efforts and cause us to feel hopeless and incapable of success.
As the Four Agreements teaches, we can learn to separate fact from fiction and turn misguided understandings into authentic truths about our innate divinity, strength, and sense of higher purpose. For me, living a sober life, being unafraid to confront my shadows, and loving every part of me – not just the shiny ones I show to the world – enable me to turn challenges into learning opportunities. Sobriety continues to teach me that recovery is a sacred path. It asks me to be open, lay down my protective weapons, accept others as they are, be responsible for my words, thoughts, and actions, and welcome the magic that surrounds and supports us.
Of course, this is not always a straight line, but recognizing that I am human, messy, unpredictable, and always complete brings me deep serenity and the courage to move forward to live a life of my choosing. Sober living opens the doors to new connections, trusted allies, happiness, and a deep reverence for the simplicity of life.
My mind, body, and spirit opened in their own timing without my needing to push, control or manipulate. I have learned to surrender to the moment with grace and be confident that my actions align with a higher truth and understanding. I believe we are the leaders of a way of life that requires honesty, courage, commitment, and endurance – a way of life that is a profoundly powerful example to those around us who still struggle with their own shadows and self-doubt.
I attended my local women’s AA group the other night, and an elder said, “As I live aligned with my higher power, I no longer feel the need to promote or defend myself.” I found it to be such a perfect definition of self-love.
Universal love has asked me to shed my ego, be rigorously honest, nurture humility and compassion for myself and others, show empathy for my fellow travelers, and keep celebrating my journey one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. My heart is filled every day knowing I share this journey with all of you. That we move mountains and create a world founded on our sobriety and chosen from love, freedom, and truth.
Always from love,