August 4, 2011

Learning from the Past

Adapted for personal use from August 3rd's Courage to Change in Al-anon)

When I was growing up, my problem family member furiously denied that there was dysfunction in my family. According to them, they were normal and if there was a problem it was us kids! Yet evidence of trauma, shame, held me back as early as elementary school and it dogged me in high school too. People thought I was just like my problem family member, until they got to know me. Very few people wanted to get to know me, which hurt me a lot. Thank goodness I stayed the course, and only chose friends who believed my truth.  Today, I know that many families have dysfunction around addiction or emotional wounds in a family member.  The shame that I experienced, was a symptom of a family dis-ease. As an adult I know I am not alone in having  a disastrous past. 

As a young adult,  when I began recognize the dis-ease in my family, my unfortunate past became the topic of all my conversations. Much later, in a Sister program I heard a member say that they "had learned to look back without staring."  I learned I was not alone either, in going  how  from denial to obsession. Either way, we may become trapped by loss of perspective and remain unable to live peacefully in the present. Unlocking the secrets of the past can offer many gifts, but the purpose of a backwards look is to recover from the damage done by addiction or emotional illness in our families of origin. Recovery and acceptance allow us to be aware of how the past got us here and then get on with living congruently in the present.

Today, with the love, support and encouragement of  12-step members, I am able to face the reality of the past, not to place blame or wallow in self-pity. Instead, the past is just another teacher.

There is much to learn from the past, but it is best that I not allow past hurts to smolder and destroy my "today."   Instead, I can ask Love to help me use my experiences to move forward and to make healthier, more loving choices than ever before.

"Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you." Aldous Huxley


  1. yes, I've taken comfort in the phrase, "look but don't stare"....sometimes it's hard not to.

  2. Oh indeed, look but don't stare... I find myself intrigued with problems sometimes, studying them as if I were DaVinci...... and then I have to remember how important it is to move on after I understand 80%!

  3. I revisit the past but don't dwell there. It is as the Big Book of AA says--I have learned to not regret the past or shut the door on it.


I welcome your thoughts. Keep me honest~