When I let go of my career as a junkie at 16 years old, I experienced a distinct sense of grief. Even though the life I was facing had more hope and promise than I had ever before experienced, I was letting go of a huge part of my life and myself. Misery, despair, disappointment and hopelessness were comfortable.
Most of all, I was giving up a crutch that gave me freedom from experiencing real life. Alcohol and other drugs were an escape for me. They temporarily freed me from worry and pain. However, they also freed me from happiness, meaningful friendships, accomplishment and hope.
At that time, I didn’t see the new beginnings. Letting go of drugs was an end. One that I believed would be followed by emptiness and an ability to exist without being harassed by authorities. I had no idea what I was in for.
I distinctly remember the moment I realized I had opened the door to a world of possibilities. I had been clean for about 6 months, and the support group I was attending to help me stay clean had elected me to be their chairperson. It took me by complete surprise that a group of people had enough faith in me to entrust me with that responsibility. It was the first time that I had considered that I could make a worthwhile contribution to… well, anything.
Since that time, I continue to surprise myself by making contributions in my work, my volunteer activities, this website, my family. The difference is that I have learned to make conscious choices to close doors in my life in order to open new ones. I have learned that, though we often fear and resist change, we are amazingly adaptable creatures. And in my personal experience, that adaptability seems to improve with age.
Sometimes the greatest blessing we receive in life is the loss of a job, a home or a relationship. Sometimes giving up something small, such as a television show, a minor habit or a particular dessert opens a door that will change our life forever. All progress, personal development and spiritual growth requires change. All change requires letting go.
Being on the lookout for the new beginnings makes the endings much easier. I choose to focus on the fact that I have been living a clean and spiritual life for over 17 years rather than focusing on the fact that I have not used alcohol or other drugs for over 17 years. Instead of saying that I left my job 2 months ago, I say that I became self employed 2 months ago. It gives me more hope and faith, and reduces the temptation to try to take back that which I had let go.
Whether giving up drugs, changing diet, or giving up a habit of foul language, we will experience a grief process. Focusing on the new, positive things will aid in surviving that process much better than dwelling on the loss.