ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Recovery is about freedom. But how can you move beyond past hurt? How do you deal with the shame of addiction? This article aims to guide you towards resolution…and outlines consequences when you try to ignore the past. Your questions are welcomed at the end.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Baggage
- Guidance is Key
- Ignoring the Past
- Physical Consequences
- Emotional Consequences
- What the Experts Say
- Resolving Past Issues
- Who Can Help
- Your Questions
The Baggage We All Carry
There is no doubt that each of us who makes it to addiction recovery faces a certain burden about his/her addiction past. That past may not be pleasant. In addition, the past can be full of real trauma. Events from the past can continue to haunt us…for some of us, all of our lives.
But however uncomfortable your addiction past may feel, you should acknowledge the fact that without this experience, your life would never have been the same. The past allows us to grow. It can teach us something. The past does not need to be about guilt or shame or anger or resentment.
Facing and embracing yourself “as a person who made mistakes” is a new perspective. In addition, facing and forgiving past injury can help you let go of unnecessary emotional baggage. The experience can develop more maturity. No only do you take responsibility for your actions, but you accept what has happened.
Guidance is Key
So, how can you move past the memories and past time struggles that seem to keep haunting you? Managing complicated feelings can be successfully done by the help of a guide. That’s why we recommend that you seek help from professionals that are trained to lead you on your way to sustained sobriety and long term addiction recovery.  But there are some things you can do to get a head start.
Continue reading here and learn more about the ways to resolve a past that includes addiction…once and for all. In case you have any additional questions, or simply want to share a personal experience connected with releasing from your addiction past please feel free to use the section below. We always try to provide you with a personal and prompt response.
Ignoring the Past
There are no clear symptoms which show that you are not at peace with your addiction past, but there are some unwanted consequences which might occur as a sign of the lingering issue. The consequences of burdening yourself with your addiction past can be physical or emotional.
The physical consequences
Holding onto the past can cause long term stress and frustration. However, stress eats up you energy reserves and has an influence over your health and well-being. How does this typically manifest?
Firstly, holding onto the past can influence your quality of sleep. This can result in troubled sleeping, difficulties falling or staying asleep. However, sleep influences EVERYTHING. Recent studies have shown us that less than 6-8 hours of sleep per night can result in disease. In fact, this 2017 meta-analysis found that notable health complications and diseases can be the result of sleep problems.  These include conditions such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Diabetes mellitus
In addition, repressed feelings related to the past can affect many body systems. In short, the inability to accept your past can physically manifest through the following symptoms such as:
- Eating disorders
- Headaches and migraine
- Muscle tension
- Weight loss
The emotional consequences
Emotional imbalance is the second major sign that you haven’t dealt with the past. When we are stuck repeating our past experiences, the mind is preoccupied with negative thoughts. This can leave us feeling all sorts of backwards; we can feel insecure and full of doubts about our abilities; we can question our value; we can even hate ourselves.
When you enter addiction recovery, all of this can change.
However, recovery is hard enough. To begin, you will be challenged…first to face your ear of failing. The fear of not succeeding can serve as a base for all further frustrations and emotional upheavals. The usual negative mental-case scenarios that people face when they are unable to release the chains of their addiction past includes the following questions:
- What if I FAIL to complete my recovery program?
- What if I LOSE my loved ones’ support along the way?
- What if I CAN’T do it?
If you pay a closer attention to these questions, you will see that they are all built upon negations, or negative assumptions. It won’t take too long before this emotional roller-coaster takes over. The questions you should be asking are: “Is my past worth all this trouble? Isn’t it easier to surrender yourself to a recovery program, instead of being torn between the past and future?”
Your only certainty is the present!
Here and now is all you have! Why not make the best of it? Save your energy and put it all into your recovery. It will help you more than you can know. Isn’t that a good enough reason to let go of the past? 
What Do The Experts Say About the Past ?
Here is what Brian McAllister, author and founder of the Full Recovery Wellness Center has to say about releasing your addiction past for good.  According to his opinion you have to pay attention to the way you talk to yourself. 
“We talk to ourselves all day long. And the conversations either propel us forward or drag us backward. During active addiction many of us developed the habit of mentally beating ourselves up. This sadistic habit can stay with us long after we stop using. “The voice” in our head tells us: I’m not good enough, pretty enough or talented enough.”
Another expert shares suggestions about moving past guilt in addiction recovery.  Stephen Scoggins, teaches faith and self-understanding. Here is what he says from his personal experience:
“Daily, my father had to relive the mistakes he made during the years he spent drinking. Once he identified an alcohol problem and committed to getting sober, he realized that he missed years of my life and that of my brother. He had a hard time holding down long-term jobs for extended periods of time. When his heart broke over those mistakes, my teenage heart broke too. I had never seen such a broken man. My father had tears in his eyes almost daily as he looked back at all the years he felt were wasted. He repeatedly asks for forgiveness from all hurt he caused, both intentional and unintentional”. 
How Can You Get Rid the Past?
I’m not an expert on behavioral change. But the following steps have helped me immensely. They just might lead you to freedom. Here are some suggestions that you can begin implementing … before you seek help from a mental health professional. For more guidance on how to find someone to help you in the process, see the next section below.
STEP 1: Stop over exaggerating things!
This behavior typically comes as the result of negative thinking. When you are burdened with shame or anger from past events, you tend to catastrophize the present.  You can make things seem worse than they really are, especially if you take the stance of a victim.
In other words, people in recovery can make a mountain of a molehill. Quite literally.
I still do this. A missed appointment or unforeseen challenge can throw off my day. However, our most precious gift is experience. Once we learn to perceive issues with a new perspective, we’ll see how life throws things at us … so that we can learn. We have to experience both positive and negative in order to learn, but this does not mean that we have to reach the point of destruction in order to “get it”.
Instead, try to look at life for what it REALLY is. Aim for objectivity. To exercise this, express yourself out loud…and ask for feedback. If you are catastrophizing and exaggerating, a close person can call you out on it. And then, you can do something to change the WAY you’re thinking.
Step 2: The present is all you’ve got!
This is obvious, but hard to grasp. To understand it better, there is a quote that goes like this: “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
HERE and NOW is all you’ve got, so make the most of it. Literally, shift your focus from the past to the present. Focus on your treatment and imagine what you want…you’ll never have to make your present a past regret. Recovery and letting go can occur only when you decide to.
Step 3: The only thing the past offers us is a lesson.
Re-framing the past as “experience” is very helpful. I remember when my first 12-Step sponsor told me that I never had to be that person with low self-esteem AGAIN. I never had to walk home, barefoot and hungover. Or, wonder what I did the night before.
Instead, she taught me, “Who I am today is who I decide to be.”
Previous hard times serve you as a stepping stone to something bigger. Maybe it’s more responsibility in your life. Maybe it’s a new direction, a new relationship, a new adventure. Looking to the past as a learning tool can help make you more mature. But it’s all in what you do … now.
Step 4: Find the real reasons behind your addictive behavior.
Substance use disorders are a short cut way to reach pleasure or to self-medicate. But taking drugs does not work for long. And it isn’t the only activity that brings pleasure or relief.
If you want to make peace with your addiction past you need to get to the bottom of what lead to reaching for drugs in the first place. These issues are always discussed when a person enters a treatment program as a part of their addiction history. Call us to learn more about the rehab process.
Together with a psychologist or psychiatrist you can get to the deepest issues of your addiction past, before you determine a treatment plan. Do not skip this phase, face your addiction past, understand it, in order to be able to accept it and move forward.
Step 5: Target your goals in recovery and celebrate every accomplishment.
Planning your recovery journey will include milestones. For me, these milestones morph. At the beginning, the milestone was 90 meetings in 90 days. I did about 75. Yay!
Then, another milestone was to hold down a steady job. Check!
Then, pay off debts…Check!
Together with an addiction counselor, you develop a treatment plan that can lead you towards your new life. When you begin to map your future goals, you will move forward. This means that you will redirect your energy into taking some actions towards reaching your sobriety.
However, do not forget to celebrate every small accomplishment on your recovery journey. This will motivate you to keep fulfilling your goals and eventually step by step reach a healthy and a drug-free life. Recently, I held a party for myself. I invited my closest colleagues and friends to celebrate the publication of a book, The Definitive Guide to Addictions. 
Seriously, I never knew that this would happen…but one day at a time, I made goals and achieved them. You can, too.
Who Can Help You?
So, what professionals can help? When you seek for help, I suggest that you start locally. Ask for a referral from your primary doctor or someone you trust. You can also look through the member directories of the following professional organizations:
- ABAM, the American Board of Addiction Medicine
- APA, The American Psychological Association
- APA, The American Psychiatry Association
- The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers
I hope that you’ve found this information applicable and useful. In the case you have something additional to ask, feel free to post all your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to provide you with a personal and prompt response.