By Lisa Woititz, author of Unwelcome Inheritance: Break Your Family’s Cycle of Addictive Behaviors
With the right support, looking back at our difficult past experiences can help us to understand where our ongoing pain and struggles come from. And sharing the feelings we’ve pushed down for a long time can be a relief. But making those connections and releasing our emotions doesn’t always heal those hurts. In fact, sometimes too much focus on the past can prevent us from moving forward, which is exactly what we need to do to feel whole and create positive change. It’s good to know that our future can be happy and bright even if we cannot change what happened in the past. Here are some things that we can all do to move forward in our recovery:
LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
Have you ever looked at your family tree? It holds the key to understanding who and what has shaped our lives. Was it just your mother or father who had a drinking problem? What were your grandparents like? What sort of home environment were your parents raised in? Understanding what behaviors and physical predispositions have been passed down to us can give us a whole new and expanded perspective on our lives. It can also give us insight as to what traits we have passed along to our children and what we may want to do differently than our parents and grandparents.
RECOGNIZE YOUR OWN IMPORTANCE
Our personal recovery doesn’t just help us. It can help those that we love in their healing process as well. Many people minimize the impact they have on the lives of others. Everyone is someone’s child, spouse, parent, friend, loved one – we are all important to someone! When we take better care of ourselves, we relieve our loved ones of worry and fear about our well-being. When we smile, those around us can’t help but smile too. Happiness is contagious! If you don’t feel that you are worth taking good care of yourself, do it for those you love. Your happiness matters!
CHANGE THE THINGS WE CAN
We may not be able to change the past, but we do have control over what happens next. If you miss someone with whom you have a broken relationship, consider reaching out to that person if only to say “hello.” If you have a dream, take a small step toward it. If you don’t like something the way it is, change it! And if you don’t know how to change it, ask for help. If you feel afraid to make a change, ask yourself, “Can this action harm me or someone else?” If the answer is “no” and it is just a case of the jitters that is in your way, remember that the opposite of fear is faith – have faith in yourself because you can do it!
SERVICE TO OTHERS
There’s no better way to forget our troubles than to help others who are less fortunate. Opportunities to serve others present themselves all day long, in small ways and tall. Call someone that you know is going through a hard time and let them know you are thinking of them. Volunteer your time to a cause that is important to you. Do something nice for your neighbor. If you have a talent, share it. Service is a state of mind that reminds us that despite our troubles, we have something valuable to offer others.
REMEMBER TO BE GRATEFUL
Those of us who were raised in a stressful and depressing environment may see the glass as empty instead of half full. Even when we don’t have a reason to feel unhappy, we may find ourselves in a negative state of mind. This might be a habit that you have the power to change. Attitude is everything! When you wake up in the morning, write down five things that you are grateful for. This daily practice will put you in a positive state of mind that can carry you through the day. You will see that it is virtually impossible to be in a negative mood when you are focused on all you have to be grateful for.