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The Most Important Thing Someone Told Me in My Addiction Recovery

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How many times have you beat yourself up over something that happened in the past or behaviors you previously had? How many times have you wished you did something different, or you could go back and change those circumstances?

I have a history of constantly beating myself up over mistakes I have made, or things I have done in the past. Sound familiar? I have always cast blame on myself for things that may or may not have been my fault because I struggle with perfectionism and I want to make sure everything I do or say is perfect. However, I have also struggled with substance abuse and a shopping addiction, both of which have impacted my private life. These addictions and behaviors put me into immense debt and took a toll on my personal relationships, which caused me to obsessively beat myself up and wish I hadn’t made so many devastating mistakes that negatively impacted my life and my future.

However, in the midst of this toxic push and pull I felt inside of me, someone told me:

“In order to stop blaming yourself and move on, you need to understand and believe that you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.”

Upon hearing this, something clicked inside of me. While it wasn’t immediate, I began to see my past actions and behaviors in a new light.

Through self-exploration, I realized my addictive behaviors came from a lack of healthy coping skills. I was using substances and shopping as a way to soothe and help me handle some of the things I was going through. While I am still battling these addictions every day, and I now know these addictions were detrimental to my health and life, I have come to accept that at the time, I didn’t know any other way to soothe myself through my challenges, and I was doing the best I could to cope. My addictions became my coping mechanisms, and seeing them in this way has helped me to be more compassionate with myself and pursue building healthy coping mechanisms to ensure I am in a healthier, more positive place.

Understanding you did the best you could with what you knew at the time does not mean you have to approve of your past behaviors or mistakes. It simply means you are choosing to accept that your past behaviors were the only coping skills you knew to be able to handle whatever you were going through. Or it means you made mistakes because you didn’t have the knowledge you have now. By choosing to accept instead of reject your past, you can learn to forgive yourself for not having the necessary tools or knowledge you may have now or are working to acquire. You can use your past as a launchpad into changing your current behaviors or avoiding future mistakes, and you can stop dwelling in the past by promising yourself you will do better in the future.

Perfection isn’t possible, but transformation is. 

You can always improve yourself by learning from your mistakes, and growing through your new knowledge and circumstances.

I challenge you to catch yourself the next time you begin to think about things you wish you could have done better in the past, and change that thought with the thought:

 You did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

By changing the script inside of your mind day by day, you can get that much closer to self-love and self-acceptance. Keep doing the work — you deserve your love and acceptance more than anyone else.

Getty image by Vera_Petrunina

Originally published: November 21, 2019
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