I have recently had the privilege of reading interviews and progress notes pertaining to rehabilitation programs. A consistent theme with many individuals is guilt or shame about the past. Often the guilt or shame comes from events they really had no control over, but it just eats away at them. In the negative environment often the easiest available relief from the guilt and shame is to escape through drugs and/or alcohol. Abuse, neglect, lies, cheating, tragic loss, are the most common reasons for such deep pain. In a perfect world we would understand that each day is a new day and a chance to be different, but often we feel change is not possible because the past defines who we are and therefore defines our future. So the shame of past dirty deeds follow us around, making us believe it is simply too hard and we are not strong enough. Shame, guilt, anger, fear, hurt…all of these negative feelings keep us trapped in a dark place. If we stay in that dark place long enough we actually identify with it, accept it, and the thought of moving passed it is unimaginable.
The idea of letting go of everything we have ever known about the world and ourselves can be a very scary process. Some individuals are in denial of what is really happening, they do not see how their choices are affecting themselves and those around them. Obviously the first step is no longer denying the truth, but instead, facing it head-on. We must be brutally honest with ourselves. If you have been abusive to others, a cheater, told lies, just purge it all. Lay every dirty deed out on the table that you have committed on yourself and to others. Then find it within yourself to forgive yourself. Admitting your wrong doings to yourself and out loud to those you have treated badly can be very humbling and also freeing. Some may accept your truth and your apology and others may tell you to get lost. The point is not what others think of you, but the fact that you are owning it, taking responsibility and at the end of the day what really matters is what you think of yourself. If you truly speak from the heart and let it all out, letting the denial, anger, hate, mistrust and all the other negative feelings go, then you will begin to feel free and know in your heart that today really is a new day.
The second step to admitting the truth is acknowledge what others have done to you. Those who have abused you, lied to you or cheated on you, even those who left or died in some tragic way. You have to let go of that anger and hurt and forgive those individuals as well. This also means not taking the blame on yourself for what others have done to you and no longer using what others have done to you as excuse to continue living your life in a unhealthy way. Being honest and offering forgiveness are the keys to freedom from the negative emotions and the first step to letting go of the past so that you can move forward.
Once you have spoke your truth and forgiven yourself and others, you can re-evaluate and take inventory of your current circumstances. Where are you in the important areas of your life? Do you have a family, a job, a home, an education, a spiritual connection or faith in a higher power? If you have done enough damage to be without all of these things then you can start at the basics and build yourself back up. This will not be easy but the process is very rewarding. I have watched individuals complete a GED, enroll in college, get a job, an apartment, start going to church and build a support system, and eventually rekindle positive relationships with children and other family members. The truth is you have to start with yourself and learn to be alone first. This process is the hardest because being alone can lead to temptation to revert back to the old ways of thinking and unhealthy habits. You cannot force yourself back into others lives. Some may never forgive you and that is their choice. Be willing to keep moving forward and forgive them for not forgiving you. Have your own back, because if you don’t love yourself you will continue to allow yourself to be put in bad situations and make bad choices. This process can involve letting go of unhealthy relationships that may not support your goals.
Letting go of all the negative and toxic relationships, thoughts, beliefs and ideas about yourself and the world around you is very therapeutic, but sometimes easier said than done. Individuals may relocate in order to start all over and remove themselves from toxic environments. It may sound extreme, but sometimes it is the only way to reclaim health and happiness. It is not about the past anymore and the future does not really matter, it is the present moment that really matters. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, start speaking your truth, apologize, forgive and re-evaluate your current circumstances and most of all be grateful for having each new day. The truth really will set you free.
With freedom, forgiveness, truth and love