“How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself”, with Andrea Arlington and Fotis Georgiadis

Being a former international fashion model and working in front of the camera most of my adult life, my “appearance” is what I depended on to survive financially as well as emotionally. As I age, it’s hard to accept the lines and wrinkles and the last 10 lbs. that never seem to come off! However, […]

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Being a former international fashion model and working in front of the camera most of my adult life, my “appearance” is what I depended on to survive financially as well as emotionally. As I age, it’s hard to accept the lines and wrinkles and the last 10 lbs. that never seem to come off! However, having said that, as a former model I also know how much retouching of photos is done for fashion, PR and marketing for clothing lines, cosmetic and advertising companies. It’s so unrealistic for us to be comparing ourselves to that which isn’t even real to begin with.

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Andrea Arlington. Andrea is a Life Coach specializing in Family Recovery from Addiction and Substance Use Disorder. She is a Certified ICF (International Coach Federation), Life Coach, a Certified BALM Family Recovery Coach, a Certified Transactional Analysis Practitioner. She is a Certified ASR Educator specializing in complementary communication techniques for enhancing intimacy in relationships, a Non-Denominational Minister, Mother, Grandmother and founder of Families United for Recovery, which teaches parents and family members science based, compassionate tools and strategies to become their addicted loved ones, best chance for choosing treatment and/or sustaining recovery. Her education and her company, Families United for Recovery and her LLC, (Love, Leverage and Connection) Method of Family Recovery, came about as a result of her own family experience with Substance Use Disorder which began when she lost her younger brother to IV drug use, had two daughters who were IV heroin users (now six and eight years in recovery) and has been in relationship with multiple men who suffered from Substance-use-disorder and other addictions. As her parents were with her brother Ben, Andrea did not understand what she was dealing with when Alexis and Tess were using, or how to get them to stop. Like so many parents, she thought it was bad behavior, poor choices and moral failure which follow the social stigma surrounding addiction. Her focus was on trying to control the behavior by punishing, withdrawing approval, shaming, blaming, yelling and screaming. Andrea tried to fix the consequences of their, “poor choices” so that things didn’t get worse. But they did get worse, much worse. Andrea felt lost, traumatized, and ashamed and like she was going crazy. Traditional methods of family recovery, letting them hit bottom and detaching felt wrong to her and didn’t work for them. This led her to find and work with several coaches, therapists and mentors. Andrea was hyper focused and determined to become educated, mentored and coached by the best of the best in the recovery and family recovery fields and she did. As a result, she mastered the tools, found compassion for herself, her struggling loved ones and others on the recovery journey and found her own recovery and joy for living after living in her own private, and sometimes not so private hell. Andrea turned the pain of her family’s past into a career focused on being of service to parents and families who want to become their loved ones’ best chance at choosing and sustaining recovery. One of the pivotal ideas in her family recovery coaching and education program comes from the research that shows a loved one has a much better chance at recovery when one or more family members get into recovery themselves. She firmly believes in and emphasizes the power and impact families can have on their loved ones when they first get educated, learn tools that are grounded in science, compassion and love, get the support of people who have walked the path successfully before them and find the support they need in community. Andrea offers free and open to the public weekly live group coaching and education in Malibu, Westlake Village and also a weekly online education and group coaching session on the Zoom platform. It is there that she assists other parents with her program LLC,(Love, Leverage and Connection) Method of Family Recovery, using her experience, education, insight, and passion to provide parents with the tools they need to navigate their own recovery and their loved ones struggle for recovery. Additionally, she offers educational workshops and private coaching for families, teaching them to to become aware, get out of denial, learn strategies and tools to help inspire and to become a catalyst for their loved one to choose treatment and sustain long-term recovery and to live with inner peace and to get calm, regardless of what is happening with their loved one. Andrea works closely with many professionals in the recovery field across the country to assist parents and family members in helping their loved ones recover.Much of the trauma and drama she experienced with her daughters is captured in the 2010 E! Reality show, “Pretty Wild” where her daughters are struggling with IV heroin use and one of her daughters Alexis Neiers was charged with being the lead ring leader of the “Bling Ring”, a group of teenagers who burglarized the homes of celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom.

Thank you so much for joining us Andrea! Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

Currently, I’m building my company, “Families United for Recovery” and on building my free and open to the public, Family Recovery group coaching and education program. This program helps family members who have a loved one struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), become their best chance for choosing recovery and also helps the family members themselves, recover their own lives which, who have often been derailed by the trauma and heartache associated with loving someone who is suffering with SUD.

Today in our country, we are losing over 210 people a day to overdose and it simply doesn’t have to be that way. Substance Use Disorder and addiction is a call for connection, a call for help and we are their best chance for choosing it, when we are well educated on how to create an emotionally safe connection with them. My program is offered weekly on both the ZOOM platform and live in Malibu.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

On July 3, 2012 my husband of 11 years, announced that he was done. Done with our marriage. The last four years had been the most trying four years of my life with two of my daughters being addicted to IV heroin, crystal meth, living on the street at times and my family‘s name on the front page of the LA Times in reference to my daughter, Alexis Neiers being arrested and charged with the home burglary of Orlando Bloom of the Bling Ring burglaries.

The constant daily fears of what the future held for Alexis at age 18, facing 6 years in prison, and Tess going from being a prima ballerina who danced with the New York City ballet, to becoming homeless and prostituting herself on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and our reality show, “Pretty Wild” on E! Entertainment, having shown the dysfunction of our family worldwide on E!, was just too much! All of this made me feel like I couldn’t face life anymore.

I was devastated, felt helpless, hopeless and frightened beyond belief. This all was beyond anything I’d ever experienced in my entire life. I had no relationship with my 3 daughters, had lost contact with my friends and family over the four years that all of these crises were taking place, and I didn’t know if I even felt like life was worth living. It was isolating and agoraphobic. 
 At that time I reached out to a life coach friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken with for several years. Within a few moments of hearing his voice I was in tears, choking up, and filling him in on all of the details of what my life had felt like over the last several years. I told him I didn’t know if I had any purpose left to my life. It was at that moment that he told me to get out a piece of paper and a pencil and write the following at the top of page, “July 3rd 2018”(even though it was July 3rd 2013, and then, “I Andrea am so happy today, now that my life is…“ He told me to write several pages covering every area of my life, what it would look like five years from then and to write it in the present tense, as if I were living in 2018 at that moment in time. Although at that very second, it seemed like it was something that wouldn’t make much difference, I agreed to do it only because, I didn’t know what else to do.

That began my journey of self-recovery and self-love. Every day, I made a little bit of progress toward getting out of my fear and over time, I found mentors, and educators who helped me begin to see, how the patterns in my thinking and my belief systems had been operating unconsciously and creating unhealthy relationships and experiences with both myself and others. I began to understand the voices in my head weren’t really who I was, and they had kept me so unhappy and in such a place of fear for much of my life.
 I begin to write in that future journal, describing the relationship I had with myself, with my imagined partner, the kind of vacations I was taking every year, the lifestyle I had and the vocation that I had, which would allow me to live anywhere in the world I wanted to, and also being able to make a living from my computer. I wrote several pages and then I took them with me to get my car washed and detailed, as I felt like it was the minimum effort I could make to at least clean up some small part of my life. As I sat there, I read and reread the pages. I began to feel hopeful that somehow what I’d written would become my experience in the future.

For the rest of 2013–2015 I buried myself in self-help books, worked with amazing mentors and hired a recovery and relationship coach. I learned about how my belief systems were sabotaging my relationships and happiness in life and how to be in healthier relationships. I learned amazing communication tools that allowed me to feel safe and have emotional intimacy with people. I felt so inspired that I went to school to become a life coach for people who struggled with relationships, got certified in Transactional Analysis which is a program to help people understand the dynamics of the different ego states that we all have and how they impact connection in relationships and impact our own psyche.

Over time I began to get interested in the patterns of addiction that I had experienced from a young age when I lost my brother Ben to IV drug use and then ended up marrying men who suffered from substance use disorder, struggled with it myself, and ended up with daughters who suffered from the same condition. I discovered several programs that helped me learn how to communicate and help my loved ones, who were still suffering from SUD.
 My daughter Tess was still using and living on the street and when we applied some of these tools, for the first time in five years and after five different rehabs, she made the decision to kick heroin and crystal meth and got clean on her own. She has been sober almost 6.5 years now.
 Making a decision to change, began with writing that five-year future journal. On July 3, 2018, it was five years from when I first wrote that journal entry. To my amazement my life had far exceeded what five years ago I had felt, was almost impossible to achieve.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

Being a former international fashion model and working in front of the camera most of my adult life, my “appearance” is what I depended on to survive financially as well as emotionally. As I age, it’s hard to accept the lines and wrinkles and the last 10 lbs. that never seem to come off! However, having said that, as a former model I also know how much retouching of photos is done for fashion, PR and marketing for clothing lines, cosmetic and advertising companies. It’s so unrealistic for us to be comparing ourselves to that which isn’t even real to begin with.

People get depressed when they compare themselves to these unrealistic images. Additionally, having a lifestyle which allows one to be at the gym 6 days a week and afford all the upkeep it takes to look perfect, (nails, hair and cosmetic procedures) is also very difficult for most of us, when we have jobs, families and relationships to meet the time and financial needs of.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

To truly understand how lovable you really are, one would need to fully grasp their true self. The Self that is behind their heartbeat, that Life energy which is breathing life into them. If you stop and reflect, you will likely be in awe of that Life. When you consider the Life that renews the cells in your body, the heart that pumps gallons of blood through our bodies every minute, the egg and sperm, which when considered further, are no more than a bunch of cells, atoms and molecules… and then they become us as the infant, the child, the adult.

How can we not love and revere that Life that lives in, as and through us? That is who we truly are! When we discover this, we are free to love, honor and cherish ourselves in an epic way. Through acts of self-love and contemplating the above, we fill ourselves up and the overflow pours forth and connects us with others in a healthy, holistic way. Self-love leads us to sharing the best of ourselves with the world in a way that leaves us feeling happy and fulfilled.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

People stay in mediocre relationships for seemingly many reasons but underlying them all, the real reason is because we don’t know who we really are.

Most of us, are living in reaction to the beliefs, thoughts and experiences which we cultivated as young people, living in reaction to our environment, family of origin and society. These beliefs, thoughts and experiences have been handed down through multiple generations of our families and through the society that we grew up in.

They, (mostly unintentionally) programmed us to play roles in relationships and life, that are mostly fear based, and are driven by the projection of others, society and media onto us. These roles or self-identities are not real, they are not authentically who we are. I know this sounds a bit crazy at first, but they therefore, are not even real. The Self many of us identify ourselves to be, is not who we truly are. We continue to stay stuck in the roles and in these relationships, because we are experiencing an identity crisis.

When we don’t love ourselves, (because we don’t actually know the Self that we authentically are and without loving ourselves, we can’t really love anyone else. This is because without loving ourselves first, we don’t have a true understanding of what love is. We think we love others, but it is actually often need, and not love. Often there is a compulsive need for validation and feeling valued by the person we think we actually love, who may be unhealthy for us and we for them. This compulsive need or desire, could almost be considered an addiction, which occurs in unhealthy people and their relationships.

Interestingly, science has proven that there is actually a biochemical equivalent to the emotions we experience when our partner triggers unhealthy reactions in us. Over time, neural pathways form in the brain and the brain releases endorphins and hormones which, over time cause our bodies to literally become addicted to these bio-chemicals. This causes us to actually go through a bio-chemical with-drawl when we try to leave the relationship. This is very similar to someone who is going through with-drawl, from substances.

We would be free to leave unhealthy relationships, and be happy and powerful authentic individuals, living a thriving self-actualized life, if we realized we had been raised by adults, who were not evolved enough to nourish and nurture our individual nature and true being. Rather they expected and projected their beliefs and thoughts onto us as very malleable, little beings and as soon as we see that we can re-parent ourselves and find our authentic self and fall head over heels in love with who we truly are!

When you are in relationship with another person from this authentic self and your partner is living from theirs, there is a healthy connection. My advice? Learn to really know and love your True self whether you’re in a relationship or not. There are many great ways to do this. I encourage multiple approaches including creating a powerful vision for yourself of what you want your life and relationships to look and feel like. I believe one of the best ways to do that is by creating a vision board for yourself so that you can remind yourself of who you are, what you desire, where you are going. Every time you walk by it, it reminds you and acts as a roadmap to keep you focused on taking action to create the life you desire. I also highly recommend a daily meditation practice, communing with Spirit opens our heart, causes us to feel joy and connection to something that is deeply peaceful and sacred.

When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

How do the daily actions I take in relationship to each area of my life stand up against what I claim my values to be?

Is how I show up in every area of my life leading me in the direction I want to move toward?

How deeply do I listen to my-Self and my partner?

Am I grateful and thankful for the blessings in my life today?

When my daughter Alexis was sober for a year or so, she called me and said, “Mom if I can get off of Heroin and I’m not even on any antidepressants or any other medication, don’t you think you could quit smoking weed and get off of antidepressants? And I said, “Well I could probably get off of antidepressants”. I wasn’t ready to give up the weed. It wasn’t long after getting off of the antidepressants with the assistance of a doctor detoxing me from them, that I realized the marijuana was actually making me depressed and I quit.

Looking back I realized I had probably been on Anti-depressants for 13 years, simply in order for me to not feel depressed while smoking weed. Thankfully, I don’t use substances anymore to mask my feelings or medicate them away. I am so grateful for the inspiration that has come from Alexis’s recovery and the request she made of me that day.

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

Being alone? We are never actually alone! How can we be? We are so much more than our body, our thoughts, and our emotions. There is that within us that make our heart beat hundreds of times a minute, pumping gallon of blood through our veins. Our thoughts change all the time as do our emotions, so we are not them either. We are so much more. The way to be “alone” and be comfortable is to realize we aren’t alone ever. Learn to see and experience the Divine within our self and all of life. Live life in a state of constant wonder. Observe the beauty and the impeccable systems that operate in nature, our planetary system where the planets perfectly orbit around the sun, never crashing into each other. Contemplate these things and then you will know you are never alone. You are connected to everything you see, hear, touch and taste. You are One with the divine wisdom, life and love that has manifest Itself, and all of Its creation!

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

As far as individuals go I think I’ve covered that in answers to other questions. Society? That’s a great question. How do we influence the media and its sponsors to not be financially motivated and instead to be motivated by the impact their messages have on our society, our families and us as individuals?

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

1. I have a daily gratitude practice where I list at least 3 things I am grateful for and to feel my gratitude more deeply, I list 3 reasons I am grateful for each of them.

2. I’ve written a love letter to myself. To do it I’ve asked:

a. What are things that people admire and appreciate about me?

b. What are things I like and appreciate about myself?

c. What are my greatest achievements?

3. I meditate daily to commune with the Sacred within me, and take a minute several times a day to reconnect with this presence within me. I then often experience being aware of the sacred presence throughout my daily life, in all things and everywhere.

4. I’ve made epic vision boards for creating the life I want for myself.

5. I renew and update my 5-year future journal.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

Books: “The Family” by Bradshaw — helps us understand the impact our families had on our self-esteem and self-love and how to overcome; “A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson — teaches us how we are so much more than we have ever considered and how Love is truly guiding us on every area of our lives if we just start to understand how it is working which she teaches in this book; “Braving the Wilderness” by Brene’ Brown — Teaches us how to bond to ourselves and stand in our truth and relate to ourselves and each other; “The Secret of the Ages” by Robert Collier — This book is said to have been the inspiration for the movie, “The Secret”. Read it and you will know the keys to creating the life of your dreams!; “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggrichs teaches us how the masculine and feminine needs are quite different and how we can relate to each other honoring these needs and have healthier more connected relationships

Podcast: “Recovering from Reality” Alexis Haines my daughter hosts the raw and touching new podcast Recovering from Reality. Created to normalize the struggles many people face and provide a platform where guests get real about life’s struggles, these courageous stories of survival provide hope and optimism for those trying to live a more fulfilled life.

Stories of survival deserve to be told with pride. Recovering from Reality is for those who have gone through hell and emerged on the other side. By sharing our journeys like a badge of honor, we can begin to erase stigma, shift the status quo on addiction in our society, and open the door for others to do the same.

A mother, writer, doula, wife, and advocate for mental health, Alexis got sober at nineteen years old after facing up to six years in the correctional system due to addiction. As the former star of the E! reality series Pretty Wild who faced a burglary conviction as a member of the notorious “Bling Ring”, Alexis understands the power of storytelling and media firsthand. As a survivor of the entertainment industry, IV heroin use, eating disorders, rape, physical violence, and childhood sexual trauma, Alexis is continuing her life-long journey of personal recovery by connecting with others and sharing her experiences with the world. Join us on the path of self-reflection and personal growth as we explore the areas of our lives that many stigmatize. It’s time to recover from reality.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

Commune with Spirit every day through meditation, walking, prayer. Through this you will develop a conscious connection with the God of your understanding. The power of this connection is the Secret to living a happy, healthy, thriving life. Once you’ve tapped in to this Spirit, you won’t want to miss connecting at least once, if not multiple times throughout the day. You will begin to feel connected to the same Spirit in others and in Nature. This is a life giving and Sacred feeling.

It is essentially the idea behind the ancient Sanskrit greeting, “Namaste’” which is still in everyday use in India. Translated roughly, it means “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you” — a knowing that we are all made from the same One Divine Consciousness.

Acknowledge Its presence throughout the day. This is Spirit is the Divine Individualized as you and as All, expressing Itself individually in, as and through All of Its creation.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin.

It resonates with me because, in my experience, having lived a limited life, based in fear of not being lovable, not living up to others expectations, not speaking my truth for fear of rejection, self-medicating with substances so as to dull my fear and in order to feel safe, never being who I authentically was. This is what “to remain tight in a bud” represents to me.

When I finally reached the excruciating pain of my emotional bottom in 2013 and then began my journey of authentic self-discovery, taking a deep dive into spiritual practices, giving up my self-medicating, reaching out to others for support, mentorship and connection, I began to blossom and fell in love with myself, my life, and life as a whole.

Throughout our lives so many of us do what’s familiar even though it may no longer serve its original purpose in our lives. In doing so, we can get caught up in patterns and in experiences in life that don’t serve us, that don’t allow us to really blossom into the person we are capable of being, not just for ourselves, but for our families and our communities and the greater good of our world.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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