Why do we have such a hard time letting go of the past? Despite our best efforts, it can be extremely difficult to free ourselves from past mistakes, tumultuous relationships and negative experiences. Sadly, holding onto this guilt, shame and grief causes unnecessary pain and suffering that can make it difficult to move forward in life. This is something that we talk about often in therapy, as recovery is about resolving past trauma, healing and accepting our new, sober lives.
Today we are going to talk about why it’s so hard to let go of the past, the importance of moving forward and the steps to doing so.
Why it’s Difficult to Let Go of the Past
When we hold onto past hurts, we tend to relive the pain over and over again. It’s even possible to get stuck in a pattern of hurt. So, why do we emotionally torture ourselves in this manner?
There are many reasons why it’s hard to let go:
- You identify with your pain. Some people forget who they were before their addiction. After using drugs and alcohol for so long, it’s easier to identify with the addiction and the pain it caused. Therefore, letting go of the past is like letting go of aspects of you. Now you have to face this new you, which can be scary.
- You have to readjust your expectations. Another reason why it’s hard to let go is because you have to readjust your expectations. You may have had great plans for yourself – a lucrative career, a happy family. But when the addiction got in the way, it robbed you of these things. While you can certainly get back on track, you must face your current circumstances.
- Painful feelings are familiar. It may sound strange, but painful feelings can be comforting. This is especially true if you’ve suffered trauma. You know pain and how to live with it. Letting go and being happy is unfamiliar territory.
Trauma’s Role in the Healing Process
While everyone experiences some level of hurt in their life, it can be more pronounced for a recovering addict. Also, people who experience multiple traumas in their lifetime are at a higher risk for self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, the reason for the strong link between trauma and addiction. Unfortunately, after years of abusing these substances, it’s easy to forget what may have led you down this path.
As you recover from addiction, you may go back to these hurtful times in your life. You may fixate on the things you did and said to others, or you may feel past negativity creep up. In order to move past this and continue in your recovery journey, you will have to face these issues and process them in a healthy manner.
Importance of Moving Forward in Your Journey
When you let go of the past, you release yourself from all the negative feelings attached to it: guilt, shame, resentment, bitterness, etc. This allows you to feel happy and enjoy the present. Here are some reasons why letting go of the past is helpful to your recovery.
- Lower risk of relapse. When you’re happy in your sober life, you’re more likely to work hard to keep it. Contentment in your life is the difference between being sober and being in recovery. If you’re unhappy, you’re more likely to want your old life back.
- Encourage growth. For many people in recovery, happiness comes with growth. As you begin to make positive changes in your life, you will experience more happiness. Not only will you feel empowered, but also you can develop healthy coping mechanisms along the way.
- Embrace your journey. Being happy in the present allows you to focus on your personal journey and not compare yourself to others. People only share what they want to, so it’s important not to view others’ lives through an unrealistic lens.
- Release yourself as the victim. Addiction is painful and people who struggle with it often feel like the victim. However, this mentality does not contribute to a successful recovery. By letting go, you are no longer a slave to your past. You are now free and can focus your energy on the things you are grateful for.
How to Free Yourself from Painful Memories
Remember, freeing yourself from past hurt does not happen overnight. It’s a process that requires a better understanding of yourself and your motivations for using drugs and alcohol. Fortunately, integrated, extended treatment allows you to discover yourself, be responsible for your happiness and lead a life of integrity.
Here are some tips for releasing yourself from painful, negative past experiences.
- Make the decision to let go. Things don’t disappear on their own. If you push them away, they will continue to affect your life and compromise your recovery. You must make the commitment to let go. Knowing that you have this choice should be empowering.
- Express your pain. Express the pain you feel so that you can release it from your system. This can be an emotional process, as some pain may be repressed. You can talk through it in therapy, write in a journal or write a letter to yourself. Doing this will help you understand what the hurt is about.
- Stop being the victim. Being the victim means it’s you against the world – and this can feel good. But there is no benefit to being the victim. You need to take responsibility for your happiness and not let someone else control your emotions.
- Focus on the present. Part of recovery is learning to live in the present. Instead of spending your energy on the past or the future, you should be grateful for what you have in the here and now. Releasing past burdens allows you to do this.
- Forgive yourself and others. Forgiveness is powerful. It doesn’t mean that you agree with what the person did, but it does mean that you want to move forward in your life and be happy. Forgiveness also allows you to empathize with others and see their perspective.
As you can see, letting go of the past is something that you must work toward. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you can start making steps in the right direction. At Acceptance Recovery Center, we help clients start the next chapter in their lives. Through our tailored programs and innovative therapies, we can help you understand the reasons for your addiction and how to overcome them. To learn more, contact us today.