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You Can Only Change Yourself

You Can Only Change Yourself

Many an alcoholic or drug abuser has pondered the imponderables in his life: How am I ever going to quit drinking, stop using drugs, stay away from bad influences, and just say no when I have so much going on in my life? People in residential alcohol treatment clinics often share their war stories about the so-called loved ones who have put them through hell.

Maybe you had a parent who abused you or deprived you when you were growing up. Some adults—both men and women—live with a spouse or partner who beats them. Emotional and financial abuse can be just as punishing as any physical abuse. Perhaps you were the lone voice of sanity, growing up in a houseful of parents, uncles, or brothers who drank like crazy.

One man told this story: “My father was sick, and he was in and out of the local hospital’s intensive care unit. I was using drugs, and I went to him in the hospital for drug money. I felt pretty bad about that, so I figured he would feel better if I sobered up. Then I realized I didn’t want to get sober, so I thought maybe I should die, so that my dad didn’t have to worry about me anymore. Then I realized that my death would kill him. My next thought was that if my dad died, he wouldn’t have to watch me getting high and dragging myself through the day struggling with withdrawal and cravings.  When I started going to 12-step meetings, I realized that nothing I did would change things for my dad, but I could work on improving myself. And that’s how I got committed to recovery.”

A woman in recovery related how a neighbor visited her often, and she always felt annoyed that each time the neighbor came over she asked her to go to church with her. This woman did not want to be bothered with going to church; she had been raised Catholic and attended Mass every week when she was growing up, but as an adult she was hung over on most Sunday mornings. So she was always trying to come up with excuses to avoid going without admitting the real reason, and she also wondered if the neighbor could tell when she was drinking in the middle of the afternoon or if she had a hangover. Finally she told the woman that Sunday mornings were always bad because her husband was so mean to her; she made up a whole story about how she was painting the living room on her own because the husband wouldn’t help her and the paint was giving her a migraine. The neighbor looked at her and said, “You can’t change anyone. You can only change yourself.” To this day, the woman doesn’t know how much the neighbor knew about her drinking or her bad marriage, but she did realize that she had to quit making excuses and take responsibility for her own life.

For every person who drinks or uses drugs because he’s been abused, beaten, or deprived, there are people who experience those same roadblocks and still find their way to the road of recovery. You may need to learn that you can’t change what’s in your past, and you can’t change your family members; you can only change yourself. You can move forward from the negative past, and with the help of professionals at a residential alcohol treatment clinic, you really can make your life better.  

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