An essential tool for recovery. Navigating addiction in the family is typically overwhelming on its own, bringing the past or future into it creates even more anxiety and tension and complicates an already difficult situation. It is enough to have to deal with today without bringing yesterday and tomorrow into it. Fear about tomorrow can keep us awake at night as we play out movies or possible outcomes for ourselves or a loved one. Focus on yesterday can have the same effect if we replay events we wish had gone differently. Spending time mentally in yesterday and tomorrow breaks our focus away from our lives today. This is dangerous and distracting as daily life alone requires a fair amount of focus.
Let’s talk a bit about living in each of these days; yesterday, tomorrow, and today.
When we dwell in yesterday it is easy to become depressed or to get stuck there. I see parents who have spent much time thinking over their entire history with their child; wondering where they went wrong, wishing things were like they used to be, searching for someone to blame, falling into remorse and regret, bearing unnecessary guilt, staying stuck in self-pity, and lamenting lost time. Although it may vary in severity, these perspectives tend to persist with too much focus on yesterday. To change perspective, start by accepting what has happened has happened and is unchangeable. We may never receive an explanation or understand why, but we can still find meaning in our journey. The focus can then be turned toward today.
Today we can let go of old hurts and we can forgive ourselves. Parents can remind themselves that they acted in good faith, loved their child, and did the best they could with what they had. Keep in mind not to judge yesterday’s actions with today’s information (as discussed in a previous post). It is difficult to enjoy life or to be effective today if you are beating yourself, or anybody else up mentally about yesterday. I believe it is critical to forgive ourselves and others, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (I think that is written somewhere.) Let go of the past, take your experience and lessons and use them today.
Once we accept that there is no going back, we must next accept that we cannot control the future. No amount of worrying or planning can guarantee an outcome and there will always be the unexpected, fear and worry which do not help.
When we focus too heavily on tomorrow it can create tremendous stress and drastic missteps as we take actions in response to movies that play in our minds (which may or may not ever come to pass). These movies are often created by fear, expectation, or just plain desire to control an outcome. In recovery we have an acronym for fear (F.E.A.R. – False Events Appearing Real).
When focused on tomorrow we will spend tremendous time, effort, and stress on something we cannot possibly control and are not even sure will happen (F.E.A.R.).
Focusing on tomorrow can lead us to avoid what needs to be done today for fear of a future outcome. Think of a parent enabling an addicted love one’s self-destruction because they fear the possible consequences. The outcome is that the parent dislikes themselves for not doing the right thing and it doesn’t help the addict anyway. So, it only succeeds in keeping the whole family in a state of dysfunction. Parents never intend this, but often fear of the future overcomes them and they do it anyway. This leads to living with tremendous anxiety. What we can do instead is focus on the here and now and decide what the best thing to do today is. Followed by being prepared to accept any outcome, “Thy will be done.” If we feel good about our choices right now, we can know that we have done our best.
Today we can weigh out what we will feel the best about doing and act on that.
Today we can accept that future outcomes are out of our control, we can let go and let God.
Today we can choose our actions based in hope rather than fear.
Today if we are overwhelmed, we can always try to break life down into smaller bites. We can do just about anything for a day, or if we can’t handle that we can at least do what we need to for an hour.
Today if you are reading this you are already doing something to improve your life and your loved one’s life.
Today there is hope! Hope that regardless of the past we can be happy, we can turn our past pains into lessons, we can find meaning in our troubles, and we can forgive ourselves and others.
Today we can be grateful!
Today we can have faith!
Josh Azevedo is a guest blogger for PAL and is the Executive Director at The Pathway Program, https://thepathwayprogram.com