Dear Vanessa

I used to spend my Friday nights at parties and nightclubs. I would spend hours getting all dressed up, putting on makeup, curling my hair. I craved the excitement of finally letting loose (i.e. drinking WAY too much) just as much as I craved attention, because I thought attention meant popularity, beauty meant power and the attraction of men meant affection; love even.

I wish I knew then what I know now – that I would never find self-esteem, or sustainable self-love, at the bottom of a liquor bottle, or in a bar, or in a man, or in a job.

My thoughts, were incredibly flawed.

My heart breaks for the woman I once was. I feel genuine sadness in my heart for her – for the pain she lived with and the loneliness she felt inside. I wish I could reach out and hug her so tight she would have no choice but to believe she was lovable, and I would tell her she is enough! I wish I could tell her to take the make-up off, wear clothes she feels comfortable in and laugh at herself, because she is pretty hilarious when she isn’t trying so hard to impress people.

It makes sense to me now, the addiction, the empty relationships, the isolation. She just wanted to feel accepted, she wanted to fit in; to feel secure. But she hadn’t quite learned the importance of loving herself yet, and so she built a wall to keep people at a safe distance; never too close, but always too far. 

Where she went wrong, was expecting something exterior to fill an interior void. She expected others to make her feel happy and loved. She didn’t know her worth, and because she didn’t value herself, she taught others to undervalue her too. She was wrong…and it still hurts sometimes.

Her Friday nights look a lot different today.

I look a lot different…

Today, I spend my Friday nights being of service to my community. I have exchanged parties for volunteer work – the chance to bring a little hope women who seem to have lost themselves along the way too.

I’ve changed so much, although I have evolved, I recognize that most of the world, and the people in it, have remained the same. This can be discouraging and disappointing at times. I find myself having to remind myself, sometimes daily, that I have absolutely no control over the thoughts and actions of others. I can only control my own thoughts and behaviors, and today I choose recovery.

I decided to write my younger self a letter. I wasn’t exactly sure what would come of it, but in the end I found it to be incredibly therapeutic. I admit I sometimes feel a sort of disconnect now, between who I was and who I am today. It’s almost as if my younger self is a completely different person altogether – as if she is still lost out there somewhere, waiting to be found. I don’t ever want to be that woman again, scared and alone. So I continue to put in the work, every single day. I listen. I change. I grow.

While writing this letter, I envisioned myself sitting in front of the teenage me, gently taking her hands in mine while she rolled her eyes and let out an obnoxious sigh. I imagined myself lifting her chin so that her eyes would leave the table to meet mine. I would tell her she is loved, and watch in silence as that one single tear, the one she has never been able to hold back,  spills from her eye and slowly make its way down her cheek.

If I had the opportunity, I would tell her that everything is going to be ok. I would tell her she will surprise herself someday – that she will be fearless in her quest to inspire others. She will even make herself proud too. 

She wouldn’t believe me, but I would tell her anyway…

Dear Vanessa,

1. Don’t compromise who you are for an idea of what someone else thinks you should be. There’s no requirement ANYWHERE that says you must conform in order to find acceptance. Trust your instincts! Be unique, be thoughtful, have the courage to be different.

2. BE KIND! Mean girls, though glamorous and popular on TV, are far from fabulous in real life. People will not remember how popular you were or what you wore, they will remember how you made them feel. Guilt and regret are difficult to live with, and just as difficult to let go of.

3. You are not fat! Seriously, STOP IT! Learn to appreciate your body now, otherwise it is going to be difficult to appreciate your appearance as an adult with a body forever changed by motherhood.

4. You are allowed to say NO! Sometimes it is necessary. Self-care is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and you do not have to apologize for it. You cannot please everyone, so at the end of the day make sure you are, at the very least, pleased with yourself. 

5. Drugs and alcohol, though they seem like harmless fun when you are young, do NOT make you cool. No successful adult wishes they were an addict, and no addict wishes to continue a life in active addiction. Choose the right path while you still have the ability to choose, it is much harder to change that path in the future.

6. Do not give up on yourself…EVER! Life can be hard and often unfair, but it is also beautiful. Things will get tough and you may find yourself feeling heartbroken and lost, but those feelings won’t last forever. It’s the cycle of living a full life. There are ebbs and flows. Hold on tight and take a deep breath when things get difficult and don’t ever forget to be grateful when things are falling into place. Do not lose hope. Even the most tragic events have a lesson. Have an open mind, and you will never miss an opportunity to grow.

7. Do not let a man, ANY man, determine your self-worth. If a man is only interested in your physical appearance, he does not deserve your affection. Physical attraction does NOT equate to love, and believe me when I say that you do not need a boyfriend to complete you. You are already loved! Be patient! Wait for the person who embodies everything YOU love; Humor, loyalty and intelligence. Someday you will appreciate your husband for being not only your partner in love, but one of your best friends.

8. What other people say about you behind your back is none of your business! There are certain instances where ignorance is bliss. Do not seek out resentments. The opinions of others only define you if you let them. What matters is how you feel about yourself.

9. Forgive yourself! You will make mistakes. Don’t be discouraged. Some of life’s best lessons will come from your biggest mistakes. Walking through the pain will only make you a stronger, more compassionate woman. Never stop trying to be better than you were the day before.

10. If you are going to make an apology, mean it! Then take the necessary actions to change your behaviors. Apologies are nothing but words when the actions are repeated. The most honorable people are those who can admit when they have done something wrong, and then change their behavior.

11. Learn to accept the apology you never received. You cannot control the actions or opinions of others, and a forced apology is just as painful as no apology at all. Learn to let go and move on. In the end, staying angry will only hurt you.

12. Learn to laugh at yourself.  Stop taking yourself so damn seriously! Laugh until your belly hurts, until you snort, until you have tears streaming down your face and then laugh some more! There is nothing that compares to the joy of laughter.

13. Do not compare how you feel on the inside to how other people appear on the outside. This one is important, so listen up! No one is perfect, it is NOT possible! Accept yourself, flaws and all. You will be blessed with a lifetime of happiness if you can succeed in this one task,

14. Be yourself! Just be you! Authentically, unapologetically you! You are not meant to be anyone other than yourself! Embrace your imperfections! Embrace your flaws and your quirks! 



10 thoughts on “Dear Vanessa

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  1. This letter of your seemed to me like ” I wrote this letter to my younger self” .. I too changed my life… The Old me and the Me today 😊 … Our thoughts matches.. Can i share your article on my blog ?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this…your voice and your spirit speaks to men on this recovery journey as well. I shared this with my recovery friend in Alaska this morning…another strong woman on this epic recovery journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Eliza! I am so happy you can relate to my writing! For years, I felt so alone and was too afraid to share my life with others. It feels so good to know that I am not alone!


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