As you move through the process of recovery, you may be tempted by thoughts that it’s too late: you can’t undo your mistakes and you aren’t worth the effort of trying to improve. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, a real commitment to recovery is the only thing you need to better yourself. Your mistakes don’t define you and as long as you are focused on getting well and living a healthy life, there will be love and support for you. It’s never too late to turn things around and giving up is never the answer.
At low points, it can seem like your mistakes are so large, so all-encompassing, that they are rooted in the very essence of who you are. It isn’t like you can simply do your time and emerge with a clean slate; you may feel forever defined by your addiction and the damage it has wrought throughout your life. You may feel obligated to separate yourself from others, even those who want to trust you because you think that you know who you are underneath and you don’t want them to suffer or be exposed to your negative influence.
This isn’t you. These thoughts are the product of a depressive, self-sabotaging brain that is so touched by pain and regret that it wants to create an escape route by any means necessary. The trapped, agonized brain of a person struggling to make it over the hill of addiction can find that it’s easier to accept defeat and give in to self-loathing than to admit that it isn’t too late to make a change. This is wrong. You are better than this. Your mistakes do not define you. What does define you is how you learn from them, how you grow, and how you move forward with your life. The only way to fail is to give up.
Life is so vast, so unknowable, so unpredictable, that it could be entirely overwhelming without the ability to make some sense of it all. Many people find one way or another to feel like they understand their lives like they can predict their short-term future, and like they have a handle on controlling their progress as a person. The truth is that life is entirely impossible to control or predict. All you can do is control your own personal choices–the rest isn’t up to you.
This is exactly why it’s never too late to change. When you’re struggling with the consequences of addiction, you may be tempted to think that you blew your chance at a good life, or that things won’t be the same for you from now on, or that it’s too late for you to bounce back and redefine yourself in a positive light. It’s not too late at all. You’re making these assumptions based on a faulty concept of thinking you can predict the future. You don’t know what’s going to come next, so how could you assume the role your addiction and sobriety will play? Don’t spend your time obsessing over the future that you think you ruined for yourself–you have no idea. Focus on what you can do right now, which is to become the best version of yourself you can be, and let your future build from there.
One of the most debilitating feelings that can prevent you from moving forward in your journey of healing is the despair that comes from thinking you are entirely alone in your struggle. Even if there are people around you who care, who want to support you, who want you to get well, they may never be able to understand what you’re going through.
In moments like these, it’s more important than ever to turn to your sobriety peers, sponsor, and counselor. You may think that these people have only known you for a relatively short time compared to the other people in your life and, if your close friends and family can’t understand you, there’s no way that these newcomers will. Think again. The reason your friends and family may not understand this part of your life is that they have no idea what it’s like. Some people who overcome addiction experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms similar to those who go through war, violence, or trauma. It can be an intensely mentally isolating experience.
The best thing you can do for yourself to break through that shell of isolation is to connect with people who do understand. Your peers in sobriety, 12-Step group members, sponsor, and personal counselors may not have known you since you were a child, but they know the part of you that needs to be known in order to heal. Shutting your trauma inside you only delays your recovery. Though it may seem vulnerable or overly personal to share the intimate details of your personal history of addiction with people you barely know, this is what it takes to move forward with your life. People participate in these programs because they work. Be patient with yourself, be patient with the program, and accept that every day you don’t move backward is a day you move forwards.
Sometimes your mind can be your greatest obstacle. Recovery looks different for everyone and it’s normal to experience feelings of doubt or despair. The important thing is to get help and not let those feelings sway you. At Cornerstone Healing Center, we understand that addiction and recovery can be difficult, personally painful processes that affect the way you see yourself and your future, even after you’ve gotten sober and made improvements to your life. Recovery is a process, not an on/off switch, and the emotional and psychological component of that process can take as much time and effort to return to a healthy place as it took for you to make it through treatment in the first place. Whether you’re just starting on your journey of healing or you’ve been sober for some time and could use professional guidance in making your new life what you want it to be, call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.