Picking Up The Pieces From My Past Addiction

By Gia 01/14/16

Forgiveness means patience and time. Time, I have learned, we can never run out of, especially in recovery.

Happy, hopeful girl with sunglasses at the beach

During my active addiction my life had become so magnificently unconventional and inappropriate, I don’t think it ever really accomplished itself as a behavior, never mind a life, more like a warm and fuzzy toxic cluck. Life in active addiction had forced me into the death sentence of a futureless future in a black hole accompanied by a life full of heartache and hopelessness. Regret at missed opportunities that I watched pass me by, whilst focusing on the people who had betrayed, damaged and walked out on me, whilst I was slumped over a sink with a needle hanging out of my own arm saying, “What about me?”

My whole persona and identity had become shaped to that of a victim—a victim of my past and of my thoughts. The one who focused on the problem, the hurt, degradation and the humiliation, the girl who tells you her life story over and over again, one of those people in 10 years time who turns into a shoulda, woulda, coulda type of girl if only things had been different.

When I made the choice to change and find out if life had more to offer me than what I had been getting, I had to have hope that there was something bigger out in the world for me. Hope that something bigger was in front of me than what was behind me. For so long my past had been living a daily routine in my head and it was very much alive and voicing its resentments whilst scolding my heart and burning my soul. I had no energy to chase my destiny whilst being tainted with self-pity and crying on the floor, looking backwards and upside down at it all. I had to learn to let the first half of my life go regardless of how painful it would be and how empty I would be at the loss. Active addiction had allowed me to live in my past and it meant that I had no energy to be in the here and now which is where I needed to be to go after a future for myself. And I had come to decide that I quite liked the idea of having a future.

In active addiction, I had given myself full permission to go out and destroy every living cell in my body and rob myself of love, empathy and compassion. By practicing the 12 steps of Narcotics Anonymous in my daily life I was able to find a purpose to my life and I was able to practice forgiveness. Before I went into recovery I thought the world and his family owed me an apology for the harms done upon me, for the hurt and degradation, the endless abuse and self-loathing. However, I soon learnt that the first person I had to practice forgiveness on was myself. Forgive myself for rejecting and starving myself of love. Until I could learn to forgive myself I was incapable of forgiving or loving anyone else.

For me forgiveness was a slow process, it was not something that could be forced and it was not easy. I hated my own reflection when I looked in the mirror. Reminders of my past were etched all over my body. I carried self-harm marks on my arms, and had trauma heavily sketched all over my face when I even attempted to break into a smile. Forgiveness meant patience and time, and time I learnt we can never run out of, especially in recovery.

Life for me has shown up at the most unexpected times when I have least expected it. Whilst cleaning out my cupboard I found an old box of photographs. One photograph in particular stuck out. It was of a little girl who was sat on a beach with her big blue eyes full of hopes, dreams and aspirations and smiling into the camera. The little girl was me and I knew straight away how I had neglected and abused that little girl through my active addiction. I erupted into tears as I realized I had allowed my active addiction to destroy all the hopes and dreams of the little girl staring back at me. I had to forgive myself, I had to find a way to set this little girl free and restore all of the love, hope and dreams that I could see so clearly in her and that I had lost in myself.

It took time, it did not happen overnight. For someone else, maybe it takes a lifetime to forgive. But today that little girl is with me, obviously not in the physical sense but she’s with me in my heart, restoring the love, hope and dreams everyday. I can feel her.

As my recovery from active addiction progressed and I continued to work the 12 steps, I then began to imagine all the people who had hurt and violated me over the years. I chose to picture each person individually as a child on their first ever family holiday, with their eyes full of hopes and dreams. I wondered what could have happened in their life that was so terrible that it sent them out to try and destroy the heart and soul of another individual.

Some answers I found and some I never will, but I began to think about them individually and how they had had their hopes and their dreams taken away from them. Instead of anger and resentment, I had empathy and compassion and I prayed that life gave them everything that they wanted.

This was another moment of life showing up when I least expected it because this was when I realized that by holding onto the anger and resentments of the past I was unable to fulfill my own potential as a human being. It was like sticking a pen full of heroin into my arm and expecting someone else to die. I knew then I had only been killing myself and my resentments and anger wanted me dead.

Recovery has taught me that a life sentence can be just the same as a death sentence. Not even a death in the physical sense, just the emotional sense, and that’s a place called hell on earth. A place where I looked in the mirror and saw Satan looking back at me, because I had become my own worst enemy when I chose to put needles in my arm.

We've just passed that time of year again, when we say goodbye to one year as we all sing "Auld Lang Syne" to see in the New Year. People are busy thinking up New Year's resolutions, but I say it’s not the changing of the time when both hands on the clock strike 12 that will change us, but it’s the changing of the mind that will.

Today, when I look in the mirror my reflection is of a girl who went to hell and back. The magic of it was that she never knew how she got herself there. A girl who came back with enough excess baggage and trauma to last her until she’s 108 years old. And if my luck is anything to go by, I’ll still be here at that age. Today, I like the girl looking back at me. I have gratitude in my heart and I am very thankful for my past. I am grateful to be in recovery and I have gratitude to be looking back at me. Today, I like who I am and I am exactly where I need to be. Life has a funny way of showing up.

Gia is a writer from London, England. Gia enjoys living life to its fullest and encouraging others to do the same. 

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