I learned that my issue is not really with using, but more with why I used. That “why” is threefold: shame, a fear of not belonging, and a fear of not being good enough. None of those feelings are unique to addiction. All of them are just part of being human. We all struggle with them throughout our lives.
In the past 10 years, I’m astounded by what I’ve achieved. I’m four and a half years sober. I’ve built an innovative film-making charity, using movies to help all of us struggling with addiction, mental health, and trauma to feel more seen, heard, and loved, and to recognize that we’re already enough. I’ve overcome countless obstacles, learned to see my greatest struggles as my most valuable gifts, and become an uplifting friend, family member, and partner in my communities.
Just yesterday I was speaking with a mentor of mine. I told her how tired I am, how hard I work, and how dissatisfied I still am, especially around how I don't feel like I’m thriving in life and in business. Honestly, inside I feel ugly, ashamed, and unworthy – like a monster who should be kept hidden and has nothing to offer others and is a consistent strain on his world.
Now, dissatisfaction is not a problem. Dissatisfaction is a naturally occurring mechanism in the human brain that drives us to continually grow. It’s what pushes us to evolve, which is when we feel most fulfilled. So dissatisfaction is not my enemy, but my greatest ally.
But my issue is in my relationship with myself and how I do not feel deserving of anything, really. Not of success, love, safety, friends, support, recognition — anything and everything. And that leads to feeling as though I am constantly letting everyone down. Especially myself. The broken record inside my mind sings “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” on repeat. I’m sorry for everything. For the things I’ve done and not done, do and don’t do, will and won’t do.
Just like everything in life, I believe it's different for each of us. How the thing you need to hear at the right time, in the right way, from the right person that finally clicks and gives you clarity is unique to you. But I want to share mine in case it's what you need to hear, now, from me. Yes, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel of shame, and no, it's not the train.
A new friend told me our relationships with others and the world around us are contingent on our relationship with ourselves. I have been on a journey for the past nine years of improving my relationship with myself more and more deeply as I peel back layer after layer.
Very interesting, I thought. Makes sense. I feel as though I have to have evidence of how hard something is and that it hurts me in order to convince myself and others that I have earned anything.
Then she asked, “Would you be treating yourself this way if you truly deeply loved yourself?” More silence from me. She pressed on and said, “Alex, you have a baby on the way. Do you believe that you will ever tell that kid that they aren’t deserving of something?”
Boom! Bomb dropped. “No,” I said.
My friend asked me, “Alex, do you feel as though you’d ever tell anyone else in your life who you truly love that they aren’t deserving of something?”
To which I replied, “No, absolutely not.”
I see now that it’s not that I was trying not to love myself. I was trying quite hard in fact. But my methods and treatment of myself were absolutely contradictory to how someone would treat someone else whom they truly love.
At my organization, Of Substance, we’re working toward a world where we all feel more seen, heard, and loved. Where you walk into every room knowing that you’re already enough. And where movies are our most powerful tool for healing and growth. We’re revolutionizing prevention, education, treatment, and growth for addiction, mental health, and trauma through premium, entertaining mini-movies you truly like watching. I’m personally using the mission of Of Substance as not only a way to love myself, but as a way to show others how to love themselves as well.
We’re thrilled to have the support of friends like Shatterproof and MTV promoting the film and Of Substance's mission and efforts. Learn how you can be part of our impact and Hide Your Crazy at hideyourcrazyfilm.com.
And remember… we’re in it with you. Always.
Alex Kaplan is the founder of Of Substance.