Can People Really Change?

People often say some sort of, “I can’t imagine you like that” comment to me when they learn about my past.  When they learn that I was a down and out, mean, hurt, terrified, awful drunk.  And even after I wasn’t, I was bitter and hard-hearted for a period of time.  I think that time was almost as bad. Because at least when I was drinking I could blame it on something.  When I stopped drinking, I was left with a monumental mess.  The wreckage of my past.

When you find gratitude, you find hope.  When you find gratitude you find joy.  When you find gratitude you find that your life is absolutely perfect just the way it is. When you find gratitude you find your true self.  And you can breathe.

I have a handful of people in my life today that were around when I was at my absolute worst.  My immediate family.  And even they were still shielded from my bottom.  They don’t know how bad it got and they don’t ever need to know.  Only I need to know.  Only I need to remember so I don’t ever go back there.

In my 13 plus years sober, I’ve worked on making amends to just about everyone I can make amends to, the most important of those amends to my family.  This disease tears entire families apart.  We think we are only hurting ourselves when we use, but everyone in our life is touched. Everyone.  In small ways or incredibly profound ways, you are tearing lives apart other than your own.  I will never ever be able to make it up to them, the anguish and the sorrow and the helplessness and the loss of time in their lives that I caused, but I can continue to live sober everyday and be the best I can be.  That’s how we do it.

They’ve forgiven me and I’ve forgiven myself.  Because I am an addict, it would be easy to equate me becoming immediately different when I stopped drinking.  My chemistry changes so my behaviors must change. But that’s not necessarily the case. Quitting the drink or drug is a start for sure.  A BIG START.  HUGE. Otherwise, you have nowhere to begin from.

Then the real work starts.

The professional help starts if needed.  The meds.  IF NEEDED.  The therapy and the counseling and the just working your shit out.  Slow as molasses and you’ll want it to go so much faster and you will think you are not making progress but after a while you do make headway and  even if you don’t see it yet, others will.  JUST KEEP GOING.

I don’t think I am a different person than I was.  I think I am the same person with a hell of a lot of work to change my behaviors.  I’ve done some shitty things in my life.  Both sober and while using.  Neither is excused.  I have taken responsibility and I have done what I can to make it right.  I will continue doing just that until my last dying day.

I was so sad and bitter that I lashed out or a hid myself away in judgement. I would make proclamations about people that I knew would just tick people off for the sake of getting a rise.

A group of people I’m friends with use the term “recovering asshole” to describe ourselves because it’s absolutely true.  I was not kind.  I was not tolerant of folks that didn’t think and believe just like me.

I no longer have any interest in that.  Today I choose only kindness and I choose only empowerment.

When you find gratitude, you find hope.  When you find gratitude you find joy.  When you find gratitude you find that your life is absolutely perfect just the way it is. When you find gratitude you find your true self.  And you can breathe.

My mind and heart have changed.  They have softened over this decade plus.  But it’s been a slog at times.  It certainly doesn’t happen overnight and there are setbacks.  There are times I catch myself thinking really catty thoughts and I know something is off with ME.  Not with anyone else.

When I am aggressively after my husband, I know the problem is almost always me, really.  Because we have learned how to speak each other’s languages, we can fight fair and productively today.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t still take a shot at him now and again that is absolutely unwarranted.  And vice versa.  That’s what happens with the people closest to you.  They see your best and they see your worst and hopefully forgiveness is easily granted in your home.

If any kind of judgmental thought creeps in my head now, I am aware of it.  I certainly do my best to not say it out loud.  I can pause.  I can think if it were me someone was passing judgement on.  Or my family.  WALK A MILE IN THEIR SHOES.  It’s amazing how quickly my thought process can change these days.  With lots of practice yes, because as much as I have changed the behaviors, I am still the same person.  How I act has changed.  WHO THE HELL AM I TO JUDGE ANYBODY?

I can be a kinder, gentler person.  To others and most importantly to myself.  I like myself today.  Hell, I really love myself today and that is something that you never would have heard me say years ago.  When you love yourself and have gratitude it seems almost impossible to go after anybody else.  You are happy.  You are content.  You are free.

What people think or say or do is none of my business.  Especially when it comes to their opinion on me.  All I can control is my behavior, and sometimes even that is a challenge.  But I can work at it and change what I do and even how I think to a certain extent.  My impulses.  My gut instinct.  My pull to the darkness.  Those cannot be changed.  They are still there.  Still the same.  Still tempting and luring and trying to pull me back in.  Every day.

But the difference today is I don’t want to go back there.  The moment it starts to look good, it’s already too late.  So I keep doing the hard work of staying sober and kind and find the gratitude.

When you find gratitude, you find hope.  When you find gratitude you find joy.  When you find gratitude you find that your life is absolutely perfect just the way it is. When you find gratitude you find your true self.  And you can breathe.

We can have the greatest most loving parents and family in the world and still, this life can beat us down.  Make us bitter.  Make us feel lost and sad and out of control.  Throw addiction in there and well, it’s a wonder any of us make it out alive.  BUT WE CAN.  We can change our behaviors and therefore, we can change.  We are all responsible.  We can all help each other through.  But we have to believe first.  I believe in you.  Do you believe?

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A gift from my parents.

 

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