In a well-known Disney movie, The Lion King, Rafiki hits Simba in the head with his stick. Simba exclaims “What was that for?” To which Rafiki replies “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.” Simba muses “Yeah, but it still hurts.” Rafiki wisely states “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” Rafiki then takes another swing at Simba, but this time, he ducks.
We too, need to learn to let go of our pasts, learn from them, and then move forward. While who you are today is a reflection of who you are yesterday, it doesn’t determine who you will be tomorrow.
Accept the Past
In order to move forward, you need to accept the past for what it was. You cannot change the past, and you cannot change the fact that we are affected by it. However, you also have to learn to be OK. This is going to take time. Trauma and addiction actually change the way our brains work — and it takes time to allow our brains to change again. Take the time you need, but be careful not to dwell on your past while doing so.
Make a Change
If you still live in the same place, spend time with the same people, listen to the same music, etc. as you did when you were using drugs or experienced a traumatic experience, those situations can make you remember more than you would like to. As you try to let go of your past, find ways to switch up your routine. Take a different route home from work, start hanging out with new people, find new music to listen to, etc. This allows your brain to make new memories to slowly replace the old ones.
The surest way to let go of the past is to live in the present. Start appreciating the everyday, and take time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. By living in the present you accept life for how it is and focus on making it the best you can, not wishing for a tomorrow that will never come or holding tight to a past that is already gone. Start being mindful of the things that you do, even if it is something as mindless as doing the dishes or talking to a friend. Really start to appreciate the moments that you get to have every day, and live in the moment.