Old Life to New Life: Why we hold on to our past?

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Do you ever wonder why it can become so difficult to change direction? Although thinking about the ‘old life’ can create a lot of self-sabotage, many people still cling to its familiarity.

Taking the step towards genuine change takes an enormous amount of courage. Walking into the unknown can create a lot of fear, and this is completely normal. Fear is a healthy, natural reaction for a lot of situations, but not so helpful when it stops you from becoming a healthier, happier person.

Just about any change in life can create anxiety. It may even make you drag your feet and do things like… stay in a dead-end job, stay in the wrong relationship, or stay in a loop of unhealthy patterns, such as misusing drugs and alcohol. So, why is it so hard to break away?

Why is it Hard to Let Go of the Past?

Even when not ideal, the past can bring a sense of comfort. It’s recognizable and makes us who we are today. When posed with the possibility of something new, even something better and grander than imagined, it can prove difficult to let go of that part of ourselves.

Another thing that can happen is, with enough time, past experiences can look better than they were. In psychology terms, this is a type of cognitive bias called Rosy Retrospection. You’ve likely heard your parents or older persons talking about the ‘good ‘ol days’ or “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses”. This kind of nostalgia can create a very real, deep sense of longing.

Memories in and of themselves aren’t a bad thing. But occasionally retrospection and perception can become skewed and result in feelings of uncertainty, fear, and an indescribable ache.

For drug and alcohol recovery, rosy retrospection can romanticize the past, making things seem much better than they were. And this can make people lose sight of the ‘why’ behind creating a new life in the first place.

This nostalgia and longing are natural for many men and women during recovery. The very nature of drugs and alcohol creates ‘good’ feelings and pleasure, and this can cause a tendency to want those feelings back. And while fond memories aren’t detrimental to recovery, when the feelings persist, it can become harmful.

8 Ways You Can Let Go of the Past During Drug and Alcohol Recovery

When we let go of what’s not working anymore, tremendous change can occur. It can bring a new sense of appreciation and fulfillment in the life we’re living right now.

When feeling stuck in a nostalgia loop, there are some ways you can step back and refocus on the here and now. The following are ways you can let go of the past while in drug or alcohol recovery.

Focus on the present

Live in the present. We’ve all heard this one before, but it couldn’t be truer. Reliving the same mistakes and worrying about what is to come does little to nothing to help in the present moment.

A mindfulness practice can help with staying present. Using awareness, you can bring your attention back to the present moment and face what is happening in the now.

Break away from the addicted identity

When abstaining from drugs and alcohol, the old identity becomes untrue, and serves little purpose. The addicted identity may say things like, “I’m more creative while using drugs.”, “Drinking makes me likable and better in social situations.”, or “I finally got that promotion and deserve a celebratory drink.”

The addicted identity no longer serves a person in remission. Create a new version that you can identify with today. Think about talents, values, aspirations. Your identity is more than addiction and past actions. It is what lies under all the layers and uniquely you.

Create new memories

Old haunts can create a feeling of homesickness. Some ways you can cope with this can be by creating new memories.

Easier said than done, right? Old habits are hard to break. Some ways to get around this include identify triggers, explore new hobbies or interests, or commit to trying something new each day.

Make new social connections

Missing people in our lives is a natural response. During addiction recovery, it is critical to meet and make new social connections that share common beliefs and core values.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals with the same goals can help keep you on track.

Practice forgiveness

Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes huge ones. When you can practice forgiveness for yourself and others, you can lift a burden off your consciousness.

Studies have found that disappointment and hurt are actually bad for health and can increase risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

Forgiveness is not about letting someone or yourself off the hook. It can be a practice of non-judgmental compassion with no strings attached.

Recognize nostalgia for what it is

When nostalgia hits, recognize it. Remember, the period with drugs and alcohol really was that bad. Back up your memory with cold, hard facts. If this is hard to come by in the moment, create a list. Be honest with yourself and include how you felt physically and emotionally.

Idealized memories can prove dangerous during recovery. Strike it back with truth and reach out for support when needed.

Release past hurts

Holding on to past hurts can prevent positive change. Rejection, abuse, low self-worth can create damaging effects in the body and mind. To feel safe and whole, there are some actions you can take.

Avoid isolation and ask for support. This can come from friends, family, a therapist, or support group. Engage in activities such as writing, arts, or exercise. Practice self-care by getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, and make time for new, enjoyable hobbies.

Ask for help

There is nothing easy about letting go, and many people need some extra support to help. When we ask for help, it’s not a sign of weakness. Acknowledging the need shows courage, confidence, and strength.

Pura Vida Recovery Services Can Help

Pura Vida Recovery Services provides evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment for men and women. Contact us and learn more about how we can help.