“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and hanging on.” – Havelock Ellis, British physician, writer and social reformer who studied human sexuality (1859-1939)
Life is filled with daily challenges, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s awfully hard to see past our current difficulties and disappointments, much less find satisfaction in the present. And yet that’s just what we should be trying to do: focus on the present, the here and now. After all, this is the only time and place where we exist. We can’t revisit the past and the future is as yet unknown and certainly not here. How, then, do we achieve balance and happiness in life when so much is constantly going on that may throw us for a loop?
Havelock Ellis has it right when he muses that we need to walk the fine line between letting go and hanging on. Let’s take a closer look at what this might mean for those of us in recovery.
We carry a great deal of baggage from our past dark days of addiction. There’s not a person among us who doesn’t have things they regret and wish dearly they could do over. Since that’s not an option, many of us cling to those stinging, painful memories and allow them to detract from taking action today to help us get stronger in recovery, to find peace and happiness and satisfaction. This just cannot continue. The only way we’ll ever get past the past is to acknowledge what we’ve done, forgive ourselves, resolve to make amends, and move on.
This is, however, much easier said than done. We can and should rely on our support network, our sponsor, friends, allies, loved ones and family members in our goal of moving beyond the past. Some of these people will be ones we’ll need to make amends to. Some may not be receptive, but most will in time. In any event, they will be instrumental and invaluable as we try to overcome the past that haunts us and stands in our way.
Now for the part about hanging on – what’s this all about? When we first entered recovery we may have only had a vague idea of what would be in store for us. We may have penciled a few goals during our relapse prevention phase of rehab and added to it now and then in the subsequent days, weeks and months. Sometimes, though, we’ve found ourselves up against a wall, not really making much progress and constantly running into obstacles. It can be tough to hang on to our vision, to keep after our goals by working on them despite the hardships.
We also need to hang on to our beliefs, our hope for the future, our desire to live happily and well in sobriety.
Knowing when to let go and when to hang on is a practice that we’ll get better at over time. Don’t expect it to be easy, not at first. There will also be times, no matter how long we’ve been clean and sober, when we run smack into something that overwhelms us. But if we’ve established solid relationships in our recovery network, amassed a varied toolkit of successful coping mechanisms, worked on enriching our lives both spiritually, emotionally and physically, we should expect to be able to weather any unforeseen storm.
As always, learn from every experience, for there is much of value that can benefit our ongoing recovery efforts.