Don’t Let History Repeat Itself

In recovery, it’s important to remember where we came from, what we have achieved, and what we have learned along the way. It’s what keeps us going, what gives us the forward momentum to stay clean and sober.

It was last year around Thanksgiving time that I was, for the first time, attempting to get sober on my own. I was giving it my all, but still failing miserably, which only added to the pain and frustration. But, when I look back on how far I’ve come in the last year, I am proud of what I have accomplished and happy with the place I am in now.

I’ve learned so much over the past year, about myself, about addiction and about life in general. I picked up some real life lessons, and I carry them with me as I go. I’m far from perfect, and an addict is never truly cured, but I have learned from my past how to make my future what I want it to be.

This week’s safe coping strategy:

Learn from experience. Seek wisdom that can help you next time.

When you find yourself in a mood or situation that might cause you to use or to relapse, think back on the lessons you’ve learned in your recovery. Whether they are lessons you learned the hard way, or lessons you took from counselors, remember them and use them to your advantage. If I do this now, what will happen? What happened in the past? Do I want that for myself again? Do I want a worse result this time around? Chances are you will be able to talk yourself out of just about anything by remembering where you were and seeing where you are now.

You can also seek out experiences of others. Attend meetings and really take in people’s stories. They’re likely to be similar to yours. Listen to them tell how they managed to get through it, and how they’re getting by day to day now. Talk with someone close to you who also struggles with addiction. The relationship will be beneficial for you both. Sharing information goes both ways, and you might just have some advice that will help them.

The main thing is to prevent history from repeating itself. To keep yourself moving forward, always, and never falling back into old patterns. Now that you’re sober, it’s no excuse to forget that part of your life completely. As painful as it is, keep those memories alive to remind you why you’re doing this.

Things will happen in life, and temptations will arise, but you will be safe knowing what you need to do in order to keep yourself from falling back into your old ways. Remember what life was like back then, remember all the things you’ve learned from AA or rehab or books or whatever. Then take that information and make the right choice. You are strong enough now to do it.

Live For Today

For this week I have chosen the safe coping strategy:

Focus on now. Do what you can to make today better; don’t get overwhelmed by the past or future.

As an addict, it’s effortless to let yourself get overwhelmed with guilt and shame about the past. It’s like a constant current running through us, it never goes away. But, we must learn to let go of some of those feelings, make amends, and move on. To be proud of the sober individuals we have become. The past cannot be relived and cannot be changed, and it’s best to let it go and start anew.

It is also very easy to be overwhelmed with thoughts about the future. I tend to think (more like worry) about the future. It’s something in AA they call “future-tripping.” There’s a lot of stuff to worry about when it comes to the future. We don’t know what will happen, and the unknown is very scary for most people. As an addict, you wonder, will I relapse? Will I ever be really cured? Will I be tempted? Will I be put in unsafe situations? Will I have to let go of friendships to stay safe?

But there’s a lot more going on in our lives for us to worry about too. Will I ever find a mate/will my mate ever leave me? Will I have children/am I doing a good job of raising my children? Should I change careers? Should we buy/sell a home? What if I get sick or hurt? What if my partner gets sick or hurt? When will my parents die? When will I die?

These are big heavy issues that weigh upon us, and take our minds out of the present. It’s important to remember that we have no control over the future. We cannot mold and shape it into what we want it to be, it simply happens to us. There are no guarantees we will even wake up tomorrow morning, so worrying about what will happen is pointless.

The only thing we need to concern ourselves with is here, now, today. This day, this hour, this moment. Focus on what’s important right now. Focus on the things we can control right now. Focus on making the right decisions now that will help give us the kind of future we want.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, both literally and figuratively. Choose sobriety for today. Choose to set realistic goals for today. Be the kind of person you’d like to be today. And at the end of the day, celebrate yourself and your accomplishments.

Don’t get upset if you catch yourself mulling over the past or worrying about the future. None of us can really escape this, these are normal human thoughts. But, just remind yourself in those moments of the importance of living for the moment, and that you can’t do a thing right now about the past or future. It will help comfort you to know that you only need to take care of the immediate things in your life, the things that need your attention right now.

Keep making the right choices today for the path you want to go down, and tomorrow will be beautiful and bright.

The Future Belongs to You

“I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” –Carl Jung

I read this quote last night from a book I’m reading, and I just loved it. It’s very similar to a safe coping strategy post that I have already done, and it is an idea that gets repeated continually in any rehab program or set of recovery meetings you attend. I heard a version of it at nearly every counseling session, every rehab group meeting, every AA and SMART meeting. It’s the cornerstone of getting and staying sober.

This particular version of the idea sticks with me for two main reasons. The first being that I can change the idea that I am a product of what has happened to me. In my therapy sessions we talk a lot about what my childhood was like. What it was like to grow up in a strictly religious home. What it was like to be one of the poorer kids. What it was like not growing up near any extended family. What it was like to see alcohol drank in my home. How my parents’ divorce affected me. How my awkward teen years affected me. And then they get into all the stuff that happened in college. And all the recent trauma I’ve been through.

I used to blame so much of that stuff on how I “turned out”. And to a certain degree those things DO mold us and shape us and send us down certain paths that lead us to where we are today. But to a much lesser degree than I thought. And people who went through much more difficult situations than I did find a way to move past it, to thrive even. Letting go of blaming others for your troubles is a big lesson, and one that needs to be learned to know you can heal from your addiction and you can go on to live a positive life.

And those things you think have caused your problem are not you. They are a part of you that you carry with you wherever you go, but they aren’t you. They aren’t a sum of what you are. They are only a piece of what you’ve become.

The second reason I like this quote so much is the idea that the future is so wide open. I fear the future more than anything. It’s a good portion of the reason I am on an anti-anxiety medication. There is so much unknown in the future, and I just do not do well with unknowns, in any situation. It’s like that feeling when you see someone squeezing a balloon. You’re afraid it could pop. It might, it might not. And if it does, you won’t know when to expect that loud startling noise. It could happen any second. That is a really good metaphor for how I see the future. There’s always a balloon being squeezed somewhere, and it could pop in my face at any time.

I’ve learned through a lot of therapy how to better manage my anxiety. I’d love to tell you those days are behind me, but they’re not. Although those moments of panic that I have about it are happening far less these days.

And I try now to see the future as Carl Jung describes it. It’s what I choose to become. And I can choose to become anything. I can try new things, and maybe I’ll enjoy them. Maybe I won’t, but that’s ok, I just try something else. The future is mine, it belongs to me. It doesn’t belong to my past and it doesn’t belong to my addiction and it mostly doesn’t even belong to any other person. It’s mine to do with as I please.

In the darkest days of addiction, it’s very easy to think that your future belongs to addiction. I can never get away from this. I can never get out. It has complete control of me. This is what I will be forever.

Once you break free from that thinking, give up your alcohol or drugs and let your mind clear up a bit, you can see that your addiction is not in charge, and it never was. It has extreme control over your subconscious thinking, there’s no denying that. But it is not in control of you, only you are in control of you.

Whoever you become in the future is the result of the choices you made, and the paths you took. There will be bumps in the road, but do not let them define you. They happen externally to you. Respond to them, deal with them, move on and make it to that amazing person you will be in the future.