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“You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.”
“Sometimes you just have to let yourself off the hook. Forget everything you didn’t check off your to-do list, forgive yourself for any mistakes, and stop dwelling on everything you think you could have done better. The past is behind you, and it can only control you if you let it. So let go of what you should have done and focus on the best you can going forward.”
“Letting go of the past means that you can enjoy the dream that is happening right now.”
Don Miguel Ruiz
#9 The past is gone forever.
No longer am I victimized by the past. I am a new woman.
“Release the past, plan for tomorrow, live for today.” These empowering words are the last sentence in our WFS Program booklet. It is a beautiful summation of the entire Women for Sobriety Program and a kick starter for Statement #9. Immediately drawn to this Statement, a feeling of relief ran through me. Essentially, practicing Statement #9 offered up permission to actually let go which felt like a new concept.
In the WFS “Reflections for Growth” booklet, our founder, Jean Kirkpatrick, Ph.D. writes, “If I were to dwell on the numerous regrets I have from all the years gone by, regret would also be accompanied with bitterness. Growth, rather than regret, is my day’s objective.” By consciously focusing on growth, it decreased – then eliminated a habit of ruminating on the past. This felt incredibly freeing and energizing. The old baggage had been heavy, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
In order to practice Statement #9, I first needed to understand how tightly I was clinging to the past. I also needed to see how regrets drove my behaviors. As I began to understand how clinging to alcohol negatively affected my life, it became easier to reinforce sobriety. I am so grateful for Jean and to WFS for direction, encouragement, and especially the connection to create a New Life to live today. Here are a few ideas to release regret by Beverly D Flaxington:
1. Own it: Yes, whatever it is that happened, happened. You made the wrong choice, said the wrong thing, went in the wrong direction. Whatever it is, it’s done. And you know what? It’s over. The fact of the human condition is that you won’t always choose wisely, and you won’t choose in your best interests every time.
2. Learn from it: Try and take an objective view of what happened. Why did you do/decide what you did? This is not an opportunity to bash yourself, but rather to examine the event critically. You can learn a lot about how you make decisions by trying to understand what went awry. Do you need to do a better job next time of gathering information? Do you need more time to think something through? Are you unduly influenced by others? Note what you need to do differently the next time you have a decision to make.
3. Write out what you would like: If you regret a lost (or found) relationship, a career choice, a financial decision, an educational experience, then instead of focusing on ‘what I had’ focus on ‘what I want.’ You can’t revisit the past, but you can turn your attention to something you want. So, this career isn’t the best one; how do you paint a picture of something you do want? So, the person you let get away got away; how do you create a life you can enjoy as a single person? So, you didn’t go to the school of your dreams; how can you structure a plan to take classes or become involved at the school you did go to? Paint a picture in as much detail as you can about where you’d like to head. This will start turning your attention away from the rear-view mirror and to the windshield looking forward.
4. Become entranced by today: Turn your attention to senses. Smell, taste, hear and enjoy whatever it is you are doing at a greater level than you have done before. Really engage with your world. Notice things you haven’t noticed before and resolve to be PRESENT with whatever is going on.
5. Make a plan for something you can do that might help to cancel out what you regret: For example, you didn’t spend enough time with your kids growing up and now they won’t visit you much? How about volunteering or joining an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters? Missed out on the career you always wanted? What about taking up some hobby you are passionate about and pursuing that instead? Life is not linear, nor is it black and white. What shades of grey could you incorporate into your life that wouldn’t necessarily change the regret, but might add something important to the life you are leading today?
Hi 4C Women,
I appreciate these powerful and empowering suggestions for releasing the past.
At the beginning of my sobriety, I was fearful of owning responsibility for my choices as it meant giving up the blame game I had played for a very long time. I drank to silence the negative thoughts, to forget the painful choices I made. I felt there was no escape from those thoughts except to silence them with alcohol. It worked – briefly – but it changed nothing. I continued to live in regret and beat myself up for my choices and then back to the blame game. As long as I blamed others, I didn’t need to take responsibility for anything in my life. While alcohol temporarily blocked out the hurtful feelings, I slowly began to realize I was fooling myself so that I could continue to think and behave this way and achieve the emotional growth that I yearned for. I was wasting precious time clinging to a way of thinking that kept me trapped in self-hate.
Whenever I start to revisit the past and it’s always the painful past, I repeat Statement #9 over and over. Digging deep to understand the why of my choices and forgiving myself, was such a huge life lesson. There are many regrettable choices in my past and even today because as Beverly Flaxington pointed out, it is the human condition. However, once I decided to look honestly at my role in my choices/decisions, it was freeing because I became open to learning and changing. I have also learned to reflect on the positive moments of my past. That has helped me tremendously and takes away the victimization that I only made harmful choices which continued the self-hate feeling. Now I turn off the negative thoughts of the past that I cannot change. I make different choices based on the lesson learned which I am willing to reflect on. I am a new woman and much more able to handle the mistakes I make and learn from them.
There are great questions throughout the points that Beverly Flaxington shared. I hope you will answer them to share with the WFS group you attend. We are learners if we choose. We are empowered in that learning and sharing are the way we support and encourage each other.
Here are some of the questions included in the message:
Why did you do/decide what you did? This is not an opportunity to bash yourself, but rather to examine the event critically.
Do you need to do a better job next time gathering information?
Do you need more time to think something through?
Are you unduly influenced by others?
What shades of grey could you incorporate into your life that wouldn’t necessarily change the regret, but might add something important to the life you are leading today?
Bonded in releasing the past, learning from it, forgiving ourselves and others, and becoming a new woman, Dee