I’m doing a lot of writing, weekly, for my psychologist. This week’s theme is letting go of the past, and not being defined by it.
For a long time, letting go of the past was really tough for me, because it kept me mired in this really dark place, where I thought the only solution was drinking. And the more I drink the more isolated I became, and the more regrets I had, so I drank more to deal with the new shame, and enter vicious circle until I was just drinking because I was unable to physically stop, but I justified it by my past.
I forget what year it was, maybe around 2009, but I had a pretty by the book sponsor in AA, and she insisted I do a step 4 with her. Now normally I’m not a huge fan of Step 4, but doing it with her was helpful. I began to notice a lot of themes in my resentments / reasons for drinking – a lot of it was old stuff. Not that the hurts weren’t real, just that they were old, and kind of repetitive, and I got to thinking -this is kind of boring, and not the me I want to be.
As I started going through my step 4 with her, she whipped out a pen and started writing “self-pity” on a lot of my stuff. After a while, it got old. But it made me realize that as some point, in my drinking, I’d slipped into the “poor me” victim role. Yeah I had a lot of bad stuff happen to me when I was growing up, but it was history, and did I really want to stay there? I didn’t like thinking about myself as a victim, because that’s not how I saw myself in my 20’s.
I still have a lot of regrets around my drinking: about not getting sober when I first realized I had a problem; about not staying sober after my first rehab; and about my frequent relapses. But thanks to some awesome compassion focused therapy, I’m starting to accept that I did the best I could with what I knew and believed at the time. I’m not a failure, I’m a survivor. And it’s taken my life experiences, both good and bad to make me the person I am today.
I’ve had to do a lot of writing to understand and let go of the past, and most of the time now, I’m at peace with it. Yeah, there’s stuff I wish I hadn’t done, but I don’t dwell on it. That was then and this is now
I told my addictions Dr. yesterday that I was finally feeling just “normal” for the first time since about 2009. It’s taken a lot for me to get to that statement. Hospitalizations, periods of sobriety, relapses, lots of rehab and therapy, and meds changes that really messed with my brain, particularly since I wasn’t always the best with meds compliance.
But today I’m feeling stable, and like I’m having the normal range of emotions. I’m sad Finn, my harp teacher’s dog died. I’m happy I’m blogging for Hazelden, and that I have a book deal. I’m happy that I’m going into my second year in my apartment and that my roommate and I are still getting along well. I’m happy that I have good friends. I feel like I’m planning at last, and not just reacting. And it’s taken me a long time to get here.
So while I am the sum of my past, it really is a case of being greater than the sum of my experiences. I’m actually looking forward to the future. My life is a largely blank slate that I get to draw on in pretty colours. It’s a long way from being all roses, but at least I’m not actively self-destructing anymore.
And that’s a good start.