I gave a presentation on Codependency to a small group last Saturday. The event was held in an elegantly appointed retreat house hidden away. From the back of the room, leaning across a granite countertop, eyes shining and fixed attentively, a man asked me how his sourness and disappointments of the past had so happily disappeared? I know a little of his story. He is a survivor of a fiery, crushing accident which caused the amputation of his legs as a child. He uses prosthetics to walk, remarkable to be sure, but his heart and mind have made the greater recovery. He didn’t disclose the nature of the disappointments mentioned above, but any poisonous resentment from the past appears long resolved. So, I answered his question. “Because of the hard, emotional work you have done, my friend.” He then asked, “Then why did it take so long?”
When Nothing Seems to Change
Although circumstances don’t always change, our attitude toward those situations can be modified. We can choose to have a positive perspective on a difficult situation. You can choose to move forward in bitterness, resentment, and negativity, or you can move forward in healing, health, and forgiveness, focused on the positive future rather than the dissatisfactions of the regretted past. Either way, you move forward. Be on guard though. Negativity lurks around every corner. Hopelessness hides in the shadows. The ever-present “never lies” are ready to make their case: “You’ll never make it, you’ll never get better, you’ll never succeed.”
How do I move forward?
The First Key – Acceptance
So many people kick against the past as though complaining loudly about personal history will bring resolution to the present problem. Step one in finding and maintaining peace is to accept what has happened to you or because of you. Then, use your limited supply of emotional energy and resources to create the future rather than foolishly fighting to fix the past. Finding the “right culprit” to blame is not a valid substitute for acceptance. Accept yourself and your situation honestly and begin making positive strides forward in faith and hope.
The Second Key – Attitude
Make a confident attitude and a strong character your goals. Resist the urge to try to change, fix, or control someone else. Limit yourself, examine your motives, and maintain your mood and disposition. Many people who are damaged by the past are more interested in controlling others than in controlling themselves. Refuse to let someone else’s treatment of you determine your mood. The negative situations or circumstances of the past do not control your future. You are always headed in the direction of what you think about and what you say. If you think and speak negatively, it will prevent your progress. However, if you think and speak optimistically, you will move in a positive direction.
The Third Key – Choices
Poor choices and flawed decisions have lasting consequences. The tainted food eaten yesterday may make you sick today and tomorrow. Understanding this principle will help you endure the inevitable outcome of another person’s imperfect choices. You can endlessly dwell on the dysfunctional, neglectful, and abusive treatment that you endured. You could complain about it until it ate at you like a cancer. You could let it ruin your day today, and every day we call tomorrow. But you won’t. You are making a better choice. You can use your optimistic attitude, mentioned above, to make positive choices to build a satisfying future. Increase your independence, get stronger, and expand your life. Be an initiator in your own life rather than a responder of someone else’s. I often tell people to do the thing they need to do. If you need to get a job, get a job. If you need to go back to school, go back to school. If you need to protect yourself, protect yourself. If you need to move forward from the wounds of the past, move forward. Or, get yourself strong enough to do the thing you need to do.
You Are Getting Stronger
This is so true in recovery. You may feel weak, inferior and incapable. The truth is you are getting stronger. You are getting strong enough to do the thing you need to do. You are getting strong enough to love yourself and resolve the wounds from long ago. You can take care of your needs and assert your own opinions. As you get healthier, you will stand up for what is right and be able to defend yourself. This will enable you to create the life you want and achieve the long-term recovery you deserve.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!