Being attached to a painful person, habit, or situation.

Sometimes we’re going to be attached to a person, habit, or situation that’s harmful to us. 

It’s not that we want to be harmed. It’s that the person, habit, or situation is what we know. 

It feels familiar. It feels “right.” 

It can be hard to break with a person, habit, or situation that we’ve gotten used to— even if we KNOW that it’s causing us damage. 

We didn’t wind up with that person, repeating that habit, or in that situation by accident. 

Sometimes we get convinced that we CAN’T break away. 

We might get convinced that, even if a person, habit or situation is harming us, it’s what we “deserve.” 

Sometimes we’re terrified of what we’d have to face if we DID break away. 

What could possibly come next when we abandon this person, habit, or situation that has been such a big part of our everyday life? 

We may not trust ourselves to be able to survive and function WITHOUT that familiar person, habit, or situation. 

It’s not necessarily that we want to stay with a person, continue doing a thing, or stay in a situation that is causing us pain. Many people would give ANYTHING to be ABLE to give up a relationship, behavior pattern, or circumstance that they feel trapped in.

But it’s just not as simple as deciding “I’m not doing this anymore.” 

When we’ve repeated patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving over and over and OVER again, those patterns have momentum in our nervous system. 

Trying to step away from those pattern can create a GREAT DEAL of anxiety— so much so that we may actually experience physical discomfort or even pain when we try to make a big change. 

It’s not a matter of “willpower.” It’s not a matter of “character” or “grit” or “toughness.” 

If we’re going to successfully break with a person, habit, or situation to which we are attached, we need to be realistic about what comes next. 

We need to have specific strategies mapped out for when the anxiety comes rushing in like cold sea water. 

We need to identify specific skills that will keep us from running BACK to the situation we’re trying to escape. 

We need to have supportive people handy who know what we’re going through, who understand the stakes, and who are willing to help us handle the uncomfortable feelings that WILL happen when we try to break longstanding patterns. 

The good news is: just because we are attached to a person, habit, or situation, doesn’t mean that we have to stay enmeshed with them. 

We CAN set limits. 

We CAN change our habitual patterns of thinking, feeing, and behaving. 

People do make massive changes in what they think, feel, and do every day. 

People do recover from addictions. 

People do end destructive relationships. 

People do leave jobs that are sucking their will to live. 

People do leave toxic families. 

People do leave destructive communities. 

When we grow up without positive or stable attachment experiences, we’ll often attach to certain people, habits, or situations that aren’t healthy for us— and it can be TREMENDOUSLY painful and confusing to try to set limits with them. 

That’s not your fault. That’s how attachment works. 

Meaningfully changing your life takes patience, commitment, and support— and the conviction that you DO deserve positive, non-hurtful attachments in your life, 

Even if you’ve never HAD positive, non-hurtful attachments in your life— you STILL deserve them going forward. 

It wasn’t on you to be an adult as a kid.

When you were a kid, it was not your responsibility to set or enforce boundaries with the adults around you. 

When you were a kid, it was not on you to understand things like an adult, respond to things like an adult, or understand the motives and behavior of the adults around you. 

If hurtful things happened to you as a kid, you did not “make” them happen. You did not “let” them happen. You are not responsible for things that happened TO you. 

As adults, we read statements like this, and often we intellectually agree— but our gut tells us a different story. 

Our gut often tells us that if we were abused or neglected, it MUST be because of something WE did or failed to do. 

Our gut often tells us that there MUST have been something we could have done to prevent the bad things from happening to us. 

After all, we tell kids over and over and over again to tell someone if they’re being touched inappropriately or hurt or bullied…so doesn’t it follow that if those things happened to us, it MUST be because we DIDN’T tell someone? 


The truth is, there are LOTS of reasons why kids struggle to speak up about bad things that are happening to them. 

It’s often not at all clear to a kid what’s happening when they are being abused or neglected. 

(It’s often not even clear to ADULTS when they’re being abused or exploited— but that’s a different discussion.) 

Those who abuse or exploit kids often go to great lengths to create confusion about what is happening. 

Almost always, adults in a kid’s life are in positions of power— and they leverage that power to instill doubt, fear, and embarrassment in a kid’s head about what’s happening. 

As adults, we’re often told that “what we tolerate is what will continue” in relationships, and “we teach people how to treat us.” 

Those statements are…complicated, even for adults. It’s just not that black and white, even in adult relationships where we have comparatively more autonomy and power to set boundaries and escape bad situations. 

Kids, however, are NEVER responsible for “failing” to put the brakes on a situation being perpetuated by an adult. 

It wasn’t your fault. 

It wasn’t your responsibility. 

You were a kid. 

They were the grownups. 

Many of us carry shame about not having stopped an abusive situation. Many of us carry shame for not having told someone. 

Many of us carry shame because we’re retroactively applying the “what you tolerate is what will continue” standard to relationships when we were children. 

I’d tell you to forgive your past self for not being able to put a halt to abusive situations when you were a kid…but that’s not something you NEED forgiveness for. 

Abuse did not happen to you because you were bad. It did not happen to you because you were irresistibly attractive to or seductive toward an adult. 

It happened because an adult made a choice. 

Neglect did not happen to you because you were unlovable or unworthy of care. 

It happened because an adult didn’t or couldn’t do what it was their responsibility to do. 

These are not excuses. They are statements of fact. 

It was never as easy as “what you tolerate is what will continue”— especially when you were a kid. 

The kid you once were needs to know that you know, that you really, really accept that. 

The kid you once were needs to know they’re not bad, dirty, or unloveable. 

The kid you once were needs to know you don’t blame them. 

Because it wasn’t your fault. 

If only it was as simple as “choose joy.”

You didn’t “make”— or “let”— abuse happen to you. 

You don’t “choose” to be depressed. 

You don’t “choose” an eating disorder. 

Many people in our culture use language that suggests if we are suffering emotionally or struggling behaviorally, it is because we are somehow “choosing” it. 

We get this message dozens of times a day. 

We are told that if we have a problem with this messaging, we must not be interested in “accepting responsibility” for “our part” in our pain. 

I can assure you: people who struggle with depression and PTSD have NO problem “accepting responsibility” for the pain they’re in. 

More often the opposite: they tend to accept WAY TOO MUCH responsibility for what they’re feeling and experiencing— often because they’ve been implicitly and explicitly blamed for their pain for YEARS. 

I understand why our culture encourages us to use the the language of “personal responsibility” when it comes to our emotional pain and behavioral struggles: it’s a way to FEEL like we have power or control over them. 

That is: people WANT to think that the only people who are depressed, addicted, or otherwise struggling are CHOOSING those experiences on some level…because that means there’s a reliable way to AVOID those experiences, right? Just “choose” something else. 

“Choose joy” is an oft-repeated mantra in self-help and wellness circles. 

If only it were that straightforward. 

Most people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, addiction, an eating disorder, or other types of emotional pain or behavioral struggle would give ANYTHING to be ABLE to opt out of their misery with a simple “choice.” 

Some self-help gurus have built entire EMPIRES pretending that the way we feel and function can be reduced to simple “choices.” 

It’s just not that simple. 

The truth is, changing how we feel and function usually involves changing conditioned patterns in our nervous system. We feel the way we do and do the things we do because we’ve been conditioned and reinforced in our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, usually over decades. 

Those don’t change overnight— and they rarely change in one blinding moment of “choice.” 

Changing our patterns of thinking, feeing, and behaving takes time. And patience. And consistency. And support. 

It’s often a massive pain in the ass, which is why so many people struggle with it, and why relapse is so common. 

All the cultural messages we get about how our pain and problems would go away if we just “chose” to feel or function a different way can REALLY chip away at our self-esteem. 

Remember: those messages represent a combination of wishful thinking and profit motive. 

There are a LOT of people out there who count on us buying into the “just choose something different” theory— who want to profit off of our pain, our frustration, and our vulnerability. 

You CAN change. Our nervous system can, and does, change, well into adulthood. 

We CAN feel and function differently, even if our patterns have been conditioned and reconditioned over decades. 

But we need to be realistic about what that’s going to take. 

AND we need to be willing to filter out the destructive messages we are CONSTANTLY getting from the culture— and maybe even those around us— about how we’re creating our own misery with our poor “choices.” 

If someone truly believes that they can simply “choose joy” and undo decades of conditioning, good for them. 

I’ll bet on the person committed to taking little daily steps and making realistic changes over time every single day. 

“Too emotional”…for what, exactly?

Lots of people reading this have been told, over and over again, you’re “too emotional.” 

You’ve been told that if you’re hurt by something someone says or does, it’s your fault. 

You’ve been told that you “shouldn’t” be hurt by something that hurt you. 

Often we’re told that because something someone said or did wasn’t intended to hurt you, then you have no right to be hurt by it. 

Sometimes we’re shamed for being hurt or affected by something. 

Years of hearing variants of this over and over again can take their toll. 

Often we’re left second guessing ourselves and our own emotional reactions: “should I REALLY be hurt by this?” 

“Do I have the right to be hurt by this?” 

“What if this is me being oversensitive and overemotional?” 

Here’s the thing: you’re affected by what you’re affected by. You’re hurt by what you’re hurt by. 

It doesn’t matter if anyone else thinks you have the “right” to be affected or hurt. It doesn’t matter if they intended for you to be affected or hurt. 

If something hit you, it hit you— and that’s the reality we have to deal with. 

Telling ourselves “I have no right to be impacted by this”— even as we’re stumbling backward from the impact of the thing— doesn’t help us regain our footing. 

There’s a BIG difference between “I SHOULDN’T be impacted by this” or “I have no right to be impacted by this,” versus “Huh, I wouldn’t expect I’d be so impacted by this…I wonder what’s going on?” 

You don’t need anyone’s permission to acknowledge the impact or pain something had on you. 

“What if this is just me being oversensitive?” You’re exactly as sensitive as you are; no more, no less. “Oversensitive” compared to what— some arbitrary standard of sensitivity that “they” happen to approve of? 

Who gave “them” the right to decide how sensitive you “should” be? 

I know what it’s like to be highly sensitive. It can be inconvenient. It can be frustrating. It can be embarrassing. 

But you need to know: you’re not “too emotional.” 

I dare say you are exactly as emotional as you “should” be, given what you have to work with and what you’ve been through. 

It’s true that highly sensitive people often have to learn specific skills to mange how we feel and function. 

It’s true that we may feel things differently and more intensely than some people around us. 

And it’s definitely true that some people will not understand— or care— what it’s like to be us when it comes to experiencing and processing the things we feel and the things that happen in our environment. 

But none of that has to do with you being “defective” or even “wrong” in how you process experience and emotion. 

You’re not “wrong” for being hurt or affected by something— even if it wasn’t meant to hurt or impact you. 

You’re not making a mountain out of a molehill by being honest about how you’re feeling. 

You’re not out of line for expressing how something impacted you. 

Even if somebody else thinks you’re being “overdramatic,” remember: it’s YOU who has to accept and manage the impact this thing had on YOU.

In order to manage something we have to be real about how it it us. 

In order to be real about how it hit us, we need to remember: others’ perspectives and opinions on what “should” or “shouldn’t” impact us, or them, or anyone, belong to them. 

Your experience belongs to you. 

That’s what you have to work with, and that’s what you need to manage. 

No shame. 

Shame and self-hate are a dead end.

Holding ourselves accountable; pushing and challenging ourselves at the right time and in the right way; and being relentlessly honest and realistic with ourselves, will help us grow. 

Hating and shaming ourselves will not. 

Most people reading this have had enough of hate and shame directed at them to last several lifetimes. 

Often we experience hate and shame directed at us so much growing up, that we internalize it. 

It feels familiar— and in that way feels “right.” 

Sometimes we even paradoxically come to find a sort of safety in hating and shaming ourselves— because it’s what we know. 

Self-esteem, believing in ourselves, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt—  all of that might sound nice…but it also might make us anxious. 

When we’re told we’re capable and worthy, many of us get a little suspicious. We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’re wondering what the catch is. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people reading this register self-hate and shame as their baseline for how they “should” feel about themselves. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people feel like giving themselves the benefit of the doubt or standing up for themselves is “selfish” or naive’. 

It’s heartbreaking that so many people are truly convinced that, even if everybody else has worth and dignity, THEY are the exception…all because of how we were treated, related to, and spoken to at formative times of our life. 

Valuing ourselves doesn’t mean we always like ourselves or approve of our behavior. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also realistic about the fact that we’re not always awesome, and sometimes we need to make amends or try harder. 

Guilt is a normal, useful, and healthy thing to feel. It tells us we’ve violated our standards, and we need to come back into alignment with who we are and what we value. 

Guilt very often spurs behavior change. We don’t like feeling incongruent with who we are and what we value. 

Shame, however, is a different, toxic animal. 

Shame isn’t about what we did— it’s about who we are. 

Unlike guilt, shame doesn’t point out any discrepancy between who who are and what we did— shame tells us that “bad” thing we did was perfectly consistent with the “bad” person we are…and we should feel bad about it, because we ARE bad. 

Unlike normal, proportional guilt, I’ve never seen shame be anything but toxic. I’ve never seen shame incentivize behavior that is anything but self-harmful. 

This is important to talk about because the world really likes to tell us that shame changes behavior. 

There are LOTS of people who think that shaming other people is the way to get them to change their behavior. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably had shame weaponized against you countless times, in countless ways. 

The truth is, changing what we do and how we feel begins with a commitment to being kind, fair, and supportive of ourselves. 

That doesn’t mean liking or approving of everything we do. 

It DOES mean talking to ourselves with respect; giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt; and REFUSING to reinforce the voices and messages from the past that are trying to get us to shame and hate ourselves “for our own good.” 

Being kind and fair to ourselves isn’t about making excuses. It’s about being very real and very honest with ourselves. 

Recovery will absolutely ask us to make sacrifices, push ourselves, demand and expect more of ourselves, than is sometimes comfortable. 

That’s hard enough. 

We don’t have to make that task harder by layering self-hate and shame on top of an already exhausting, intimidating task. 

Changing our life starts with the commitment to be there for ourselves. 

Even when we don’t like ourselves. Even when we don’t approve of ourselves. Even when we don’t like or approve of our behavior. 

In fact— especially then. 

Have compassion– but set limits.

We need to find that balance between understanding why we do what we do— and setting limits with patterns of thinking and behaving that are negatively impacting our lives. 

This is very often easier said than done. 

One of the most important realizations we have in recovery is that we don’t do what we do for the hell of it. 

The patterns that other people might consider evidence of us making destructive choices— perhaps due to a “character” issue— we know to be adaptations to past or present pain in our lives…adaptations that sometimes kept us alive. 

It’s very common for people who grew up with pain to blame themselves for the destructive patterns in their life. 

We’re told that we could make “better” choices…if, presumably, we were “better” people. 

This tends to get us depressed and discouraged— became many of those patterns don’t FEEL like “choices” to us. 

We do what we have to do to get through the day. 

Many of us have lived for YEARS doing what we have to do just to get though the day. 

People who think that destructive coping patterns in our lives represent well-considered, voluntary “choices” don’t understand— or don’t care— what it’s like to have to manage overwhelming emotional or physical pain every day. 

All of which is to say: the patterns we’ve developed over the years to cope with what we need to cope with, aren’t our fault. 

Nobody asked for the physical or emotional pain you were handed from Day One. 

Shaming and blaming ourselves for our painful patterns isn’t going to get us anywhere. Shame and blame don’t tend to change behavior, except in the very short term, and under extreme duress. 

That said: even if we’ve gained perspective on the fact that there are reasons that make sense behind our destructive patterns of thinking and behaving— it IS on us to do everything we can to change those patterns so they don’t rob us of a future. 

Once upon a time I had to come to terms with the fact that I am extremely vulnerable to addiction to certain behaviors and substances. 

For a long time I hated and blamed myself for that fact. It took me years to develop any kind of perspective about the fact that my vulnerability to addiction was influenced by many, many factors OUTSIDE of myself that I couldn’t POSSIBLY control— regardless of how upstanding my “character” was or wasn’t. 

Learning more about what addiction is and why people are vulnerable to it helped me to get past the self-blame and self-shame trap, and helped me begin repairing my relationship with myself. 

However: even if my vulnerability to addiction is “understandable,” even if I can have compassion for myself and my struggle…it’s STILL on me to set limits on that behavior. 

Being vulnerable to addiction may not be my fault. But my recovery IS my responsibility. 

No one else is going to do it for me. 

That’s true for any pattern of thinning and behavior that is harming us in the here and now. 

Those patterns MAY be understandable. They MAY even have been unavoidable, given the genetic and environmental hand we were dealt growing up. 

But no matter how much insight or compassion we develop for our patterns…it’s STILL on us to change them. 

We have to love and respect ourselves enough to do what we need to do to live a life that is safe and stable here and now. 

We CAN’T stop at “well, it’s understandable I’d do this thing, given what I went through.” 

We CAN”T stop at, “but this thing helped me get by in the past, there’s a REASON I still do it.” 

We have to be real about thought patterns and behaviors that WILL damage our lives and relationships. 

We have to have as much compassion and concern for our future as we have for our past. 

Avoidance gets a bad rap.

Avoidance isn’t always bad. 

If we can’t yet handle a thing, it’s actually pretty smart to avoid it until we have the tools, skills, and focus to handle it. 

We’re told over and over again that avoidance will only make a problem worse. 

Really? I think trying to rush into a situation we’re not equipped to handle is a lot worse than avoiding doing that. 

Trying to “process” a traumatic memory that we’re not yet stable and skilled enough to process is a recipe for getting triggered and overwhelmed.

Trying to confront someone when we’ve not yet developed the assertiveness and self-talk skills to handle the pressure that comes with confrontation is a recipe for feeling small and getting hurt. 

Trying to hang out in a bar when we’re in recovery from alcohol abuse is a recipe for relapse. 

Having your drug of choice in the house when we’re in recovery from substance dependence is a recipe for relapse. 

In each case, avoidance is the SMART strategy. 

I don’t know where we got this idea that we always have to confront our biggest stressors and worst memories and most acute sources of pain, or else we’re “running” from them. 

A big part of recovery is being real about how safe and stable we are right now— not how safe and stable we “should” be, or how safe and stable we wish we were, or how safe and stable we want other people to think we are. 

When we’re not safe and stable enough to do a thing, the intelligent thing is to avoid that thing. 

There’s no shame in avoiding a situation we can’t handle at the moment. 

There might be a voice in your head telling you you need to be “tough.” That you need to “suck it up.” 

Chances are, if you’re reading this, the only reason you’re ALIVE is because you HAVE been tougher than you ever should have had to be. 

There’s nothing “tough” about exposing ourselves to situations and people who will only trigger us. 

No amount of “sucking it up” will magically give us coping skills we haven’t learned or practiced. 

Don’t get me wrong: recovery asks us to look at LOTS of hard stuff. 

Recovery asks us to do plenty of stuff that is uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and often exhausting. 

There are times in recovery when we have to engage instead of avoid. 

But “avoidance” in general gets a bad rap. 

When in doubt: err on staying safe and stable. 

Trust me: you will get PLENTY of opportunities to confront unpleasant realities in recovery. 

We DON’T need to go rushing in to triggering situations or leaning in to awful memories just because we want to “get it over with” or prove how much those things clearly aren’t affecting us. 

A lot of people struggle with the fact that we’re simply not ready to do a thing— until we are. 

We’re not skilled enough to do a thing— until we are. 

We’re not stable enough to do a thing— until we are. 

Often that process— of getting stable and developing coping skills— can’t be rushed. 

We’re not going to suddenly develop an amazing insight that will slingshot us so far forward in recovery that we don’t need to pick and choose when and how we confront the tough stuff. 

Avoidance is a tool. Use it intelligently and honestly. 

You deserve to NOT feel like sh*t.

You have the right to set boundaries with people and situations that make you feel like sh*t. 

That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy. Or maybe even possible, in some cases. 

But you don’t have to have any better or other reason to set limits with certain people or situations than, “it makes me feel like sh*t.” 

There are certain people and situations in our lives that make us feel uncomfortable— but we choose to continue engaging with, because they have some benefit to us. 

I’m not always comfortable with my diet or fitness regimen, but I keep it, because I value the benefits they give me in how I feel and look. 

I’m not always comfortable with clinical psychology as a profession, but I continue to engage with it because it gives me the chance to do work I highly value with people I love. 

But there’s a difference between people and situations that make us uncomfortable, but which are connected to some upside we value in our lives…and people and situations that do nothing but make us feel like sh*t. 

Everybody reading this has certain people and situations in our lives that just make us feel lousy. Small. Incompetent. Unattractive. Unloved. 

But we often hang on to these people and situations, for a variety of reasons. 

Maybe we feel obligated to hang on to certain people or situations because of our history with them. 

Often we feel obligated to engage with certain people because of our familial relationships with them. 

Sometimes we feel obligated to continue engaging with certain people or situations because we fear setting limits will invite confrontations that we don’t feel ready for, or we otherwise want to avoid. 

You’re not weird or silly for hanging on to a person or situation out of guilt, anxiety, or social pressure. Almost everybody in the world has been in that position at some point in their lives. 

Setting limits in those situations doesn’t come naturally. 

But we can learn to set those limits. 

We can learn to cope with the anxiety that setting those limits will trigger. 

We can learn to put ourselves, our quality of life, ahead of our fear of confrontation, our fear of backlash, and our fear of retaliation. 

Reading that sentence may have scared the living sh*t out of you. 

There are some people who might have read that sentence and said to themselves, “there is no way me or may quality of life is worth the hassle that would come with setting that kind of limit.” 

I’m here to tell you: you ARE worth the hassle. 

Confrontation is scary. Especially if we grew up with complicated, painful relationships. You’re not “crazy” for being anxious about it. 

The bottom line is: you shouldn’t have to put up with situations and people in your life that make you feel like sh*t. 

You shouldn’t have to live in fear of setting limits with your time and energy. 

It may take some work, patience, and time to develop the skills and confidence you need to start setting limits with situations and people who make you feel like sh*t— and there’s no getting around the work and time this requires. 

But you’re worth it. 

You’re worth the hassle. 

You’re worth the work, the patience, and the time. 

Your quality of life is important enough to not spend one more second than necessary tolerating a person or a situation that makes you feel like sh*t. 

No matter what that voice from your past is whispering in your ear— or screaming in your face— as you read this. 

Your job is to do your part. No more; no less.

Your job is to do your part. No more; no less. 

We can’t change the entire world. We can’t change our entire lives. 

But we can play a part. We can contribute to the forces that WILL change the world. We can contribute to changing our lives. 

All we can do is what we can do— and it’s on us to do that. 

Don’t let what you can’t do, keep you from doing what you can do. 

There are lots of factors that go into addiction— many of which aren’t in our control. There are genetic and systemic factors that contribute that our vulnerability to addiction that we couldn’t control if we tried. 

But the fact that we can’t control those genetic and systemic (and cultural and situational) factors doesn’t mean we have ZERO control over our vulnerability to addiction. 

We have SOME wiggle room in our choices. 

We have SOME control over what to focus on and how to talk to ourselves. 

There are lots of factors that go into our vulnerability to trauma and dissociation. We did NOT have the choice over “whether” to be exposed to the kind of trauma that results in PTSD— and we didn’t have the choice for our nervous system to “opt out” of being traumatized. 

But the fact that we did not control what happened to us, doesn’t mean we have ZERO say in how we respond to and cope with our post traumatic and dissociative symptoms. 

We have SOME wiggle room in the skills and tools we learn and use. 

Even in the midst of intense abreactions and dissociative episodes, we have SOME control over our focus and our self-talk. 

Many people approach how we deal with our struggles as all-or-nothing: they assume we either have complete control over our experience, or no influence at all. 

They think that it’s either our fault we’re struggling as much as we are— or that we have no control anyway, so why bother trying. 

Recovery isn’t black and white like that— because life isn’t black and white like that. 

Recovery will NEVER ask you to try to control or influence something you just can’t. 

In fact, recovery is VERY often about accepting what you can’t influence— and being realistic about what you CAN influence. 

(There’s a reason why one of the most popular recovery tools is the famous Serenity Prayer, which reminds us that there are things we can and can’t control— and that it takes wisdom to tell the difference.) 

It’s vey difficult, when we’re down a rabbit hole of hurt and hopelessness, to remember that there really ARE things that we CAN control and influence in our life— even if those things don’t seem very big or important right now. 

Pain and fear very often try to convince us that we shouldn’t even bother trying to change anything in our lives. They’ll whisper in our ear (or shout in our face) that what we do simply doesn’t matter— so we may as well not try. 

It’s not true. 

The stuff you CAN do right here, right now, may not seem like much in the grand scheme— but we don’t need it to be. 

Start with the inside of your own head. 

Start with how you consciously, intentionally talk to yourself. 

Start with the language and metaphors you use with yourself. 

Taking purposeful charge of your focus, your self-talk, and your metaphors— no matter how hopeless or overwhelming the situation seems to be— is the first step to feeling more in control. 

Making the inside of your head a safer place for yourself is always worth the effort. 

Don’t worry about solving all the problems. 

Don’t worry about “fixing” the entire situation. 

Don’t worry about changing the entire world. 

Focus on doing the teeny, tiny thing you CAN do- right here, right now, inside your head. 

No more. No less. 

We’ve lost more than we thought– and we’re more hurt than we realized.

Recovery is very often about grieving— which is confusing sometimes, because often we’re not quite sure what we are or should be grieving. 

Many of us think about “grief” primarily in the context of losing a person or a pet who was in our lives. 

Most people have at least a few of those types of losses in our lifetimes— but the feelings of loss we experience often seem to be disproportionate to what we lost. 

The truth is, recovery often puts us in touch with losses other than death. 

As we come to terms with things that have happened to us and things that were denied us, we start to realize we’ve lost more than we realize along the way. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of safety. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of belonging. 

Maybe we lost, or never had, a sense of possibility. 

Sometimes we get up in our head about whether our life experiences were “bad enough” to produce the struggles and symptoms we experience today. 

What we remember may not “seem” like a recipe for the kind of fallout we’re now experiencing— which can mess with our heads. Because, well, we ARE experiencing EXACTLY what we’re experiencing. 

Part of the struggle is realizing, as we regain control of how we feel and function, that we were more hurt than we thought— and that we’ve lost more than we realized. 

You’re not wrong for experiencing the love and safety you didn’t experience, as a loss. 

You’re not wrong for being angry or sad that you didn’t get the chance to explore and develop your identity in safe, supportive relationships. 

You’re not oversensitive or overdramatic for feeling exactly as hurt as you feel— whether you remember every second of your past, or whether you are missing entire years from your memory. 

Mourning the past we should have had and the person we could have been is a complicated task. 

You might have a voice in your head demanding to know why you think you “deserved” certain things growing up— after all, life is unfair, who is anybody to think they “deserve” anything there than what they got? 

It’s not a sense of entitlement that feeds the grief you’re feeling. 

It’s the instinctive knowledge that any person, any kid, should have a baseline level of safety and support that makes it possible to develop who they are and explore the world. 

Some people don’t even realize that the fact that they DIDN’T get that safety and support significantly impacted their beliefs about who they are, what they can do, and what they deserve. 

We’ll never have a better past. 

Our past will always be exactly what it was. The goal of recovery isn’t to change that. 

In recovery, we change how we RELATE to our past. 

We challenge the negative beliefs that our past “taught” us— that we somehow “deserve” to suffer, that we don’t have a right to be happy or be ourselves. 

And in recovery we mourn the life we could have had. 

We mourn the love we didn’t get. 

We mourn the safety we didn’t feel. 

We get in touch with our right to BE angry at what happened to us. Our right to acknowledge, no, I didn’t deserve to be hurt. I didn’t deserve to be ignored. I didn’t deserve to be excluded. I didn’t deserve to be shamed. 

Building a new life often happens while we mourn our losses and tend to our emotional wounds from the past. 

You have the right to acknowledge exactly how hurt you were, and are. 

You have the right to grieve and mourn. 

Even if the losses you’re grieving and mourning aren’t that straightforward.