Life can be tough. Dysfunctional families, health issues, work problems and relationship difficulties can all impact how you live your life. As a reaction to stress or trauma, psychological disorders can develop, as can a reliance on substances which provide only temporary relief. It’s vital to seek the right treatment and support. It’s also important to realize that the power to transform your life is completely within your reach. As a young child I was abandoned by my mother and then raised by an abusive father. The experiences of my youth formed the basis of what was going to be a 20-year struggle with depression and alcoholism. Using prescribed medication and abusing alcohol were my default reaction to managing the pain of the past, the challenges in each day and the fear for the future.
The Past Doesn’t Define the Present
At the lowest point in my life I was a homeless, jobless, suicidal addict. But it was my lack of self-belief and self-worth that kept me trapped in the victim mentality. Yet journeying on the path to emotional recovery has revealed an essential truth: The past doesn’t have to define the present. Change starts when you acknowledge your problem and determine that you no longer want to be a product of your past. If you have an emotional or physical dependency, this requires that you stop allowing addiction to define you and start defining yourself. It means removing the victim label which keeps you trapped in the past, negatively reinforcing your lack of self-esteem and preventing you from making good choices. To move on from the past requires accountability, which inevitably means bringing into the light those things which have been hidden. Only the truth can set you free to become the person you were meant to be.
Letting Go and Moving On
No matter how desperate your situation or how hopeless you feel, it is possible to start changing your life for the better. Letting go, finding hope and overcoming your failings are all skills that can be learned and with practice become easier. The reality is that the person who holds the key to unlocking a positive, vibrant and fulfilling future is you. Reinhold Niebuhr’s widely known Serenity Prayeris a valuable tool in learning to move on. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. Acceptance lays the foundation for forgiveness, not only toward others but also for you.And forgiveness helps close the door on your damaged past and opens up another to a renewed life.
Learn to Love Yourself
Life events that you endured may be the cause of trauma, but it is the internalization in your mind that determines how you deal with the pain. Behind every addict is a fearful, tortured, anxiety-filled individual who seeks to relieve their misery, but in the process self-destructs. Moving from self-loathing to self-loving can be a challenging process, but it is essential when you want to love your life. Accepting who you are and where you are at releases you from the perfectionism that keeps you from being satisfied. Self-love isn’t simply an emotion, rather it’s a course of action that you can incorporate daily to empower and renew. Obviously you need to recognize those characteristics that need to be improved or altered, but at the same time focus on your positives. Make the move from believing you are not good enough and affirm that you are perfectly imperfect.
If You’re Afraid to Do it, Do it Afraid
For many, one of the greatest challenges of getting help for addiction is dealing with fear. Fear at any level can prevent recovery and inhibit you from making the most of your life. Yet the sense of achievement, self-worth and strength that can be gained from stepping out of your comfort zone is invaluable. Taking a risk begins with the decision to do so, and the action will follow. You don’t have to feel confident to be confident, and in some situations, the attitude of “fake it till you make it” can be a productive technique. And for those times of doubt, even if you’re afraid, do it afraid. Remember, changing your life forever starts with you.