Taking Time To Learn From Yesterday

By Ken Wells - 01/04/2022


Series Two: Blog Ninety-Four

Life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood backwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Many times people disconnect their past from their present experience. In the addiction recovery world, there is a reference made about walking around the elephant in the living room. It highlights how denial fuels the function of addictive behavior.  In order to survive, an addict learns to live a pretend life by ignoring what is real and embracing what is fictitious.  This dysfunctional way of living paves a pathway toward addiction behavior. People learn to live a disconnected life.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha emphasized the importance of the interconnectedness of everything. He said for us to look at a leaf, that it contains the sky, the earth and the sun in terms of what it needs to grow. He said the birth and death of any phenomenon is related to the birth and death of all other phenomena.  The one contains the many and the many contain the one. Without the one there cannot be the many and without the many there cannot be the one.

Life is interconnected. It becomes a tapestry that weaves the healthy experience with the dysfunctional. It connects bitter with sweet. It couples joy with sorrow and success with failure. It is all intersectional.

Important studies suggest that people are biopsychosocial beings. This means that we cannot isolate our physical essence from our mind and we cannot separate the individual from the environment. The history of your environmental background is significant for you to better understand the struggles that you experience around addictive behavior. Studies show that growing up in a family with a lot of stress and relational isolation impacts children’s ability to learn. A child learns to dissociate from stress and anxiety in early childhood. Later the child easily connects the numbing out with addictive behavior.

Studies show that economics matter too. People who are poor face more stress than others. They are more likely to breathe polluted air, have less access to healthcare and be unable to address preventative health concerns, including emotional because they do not have the resources to do so. They are more likely to become a victim of a system that considers material things more important than connection as human beings.

All of this suggests it important to look backward in order to understand your present addictive behavior. Your addiction indicates a desire to escape stress and anxiety, not only present but historically. You will need to unpack childhood stress in order to release its destructive impact. Many parents have done their best while facing impossible circumstances.  Understanding your addiction, as not a result of poor choices but as a coping mechanism that evolved from unmet needs or abuse, will help you integrate effective treatment so that you can look forward without being dominated by addiction.

Studies show that you are actually wired for connection, love, and compassion. A supportive 12-step community can have a huge impact on long term sobriety. Here are some suggestions to help you reconnect your past with your present.

Connect with nature:  Take a walk through the woods. Notice the energy of life all around you. Slow your thoughts and connect  your awareness to the plant life, the birds in the air and the ants on the ground. See yourself as a part of the greater energy of life.

Connect with others.  Studies show that we have less contact, less intimacy,       and less trust with others than before. Call a friend. Take time to listen to what’s important in their life. Take time to share what is important to you.  Be willing to be vulnerable. Share what hurts and longings that are left unmet. Risk trusting that your friend cares about what matters to you. Put yourself out there and show that you care what matters to them.

Connect with what is meaningful in your work. Many experience their work as meaningless. There is no vision or passion. As a result, they turn to how they look, or the accumulation of things. But, they have no sense of value in what they do at their work. Determine to re-connect with making a difference in what you do for work. It may be something that others will not notice when you do it. You may not be rewarded financially.  Yet, finding meaningfulness in your work will help you re-connect with yourself.

Connect with yourself. Most people have had gut feelings that they ignored and wished they hadn’t.  This suggests that some people learn to separate from themselves. Two-year-olds know what they feel in their gut and express it. Gut feelings tell us what is friendly and what is dangerous. They tell us what is true and what is false. Take time to listen to your heart. Pay attention to your feelings. It will help you regain connection with yourself and integrate that connection with the world around you.

Being connected to yourself, others, and the world around you requires that you embrace the insights from the past while keeping eyes focused to the present moment. We are biopsychosocial beings that need healthy connection with all living things.

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