Then and Now: Integrating Two Pieces of a Dichotomous Self

Two sides of addictionSometimes as we get further away from our addiction, we begin to notice a disconnect between who we were and who we are. Recovery can bring with it an entire lifestyle change including new friends, new associations, new values and new ways of interacting with our environment. It’s not uncommon to feel as though there is a dichotomy between two versions of our self; a division between who we were in the past and who we are in the present. And, naturally, we might feel as though our past self is out of place in the way we live our life now.

It can be tempting to tuck that part of us away; to erase that part of our history and pretend it didn’t happen. And that makes sense – we aren’t that person now and don’t want to be judged based on something some people don’t understand. Maybe we have our own lingering feelings of shame and guilt surrounding the lifestyle we used to lead and we continue to pass judgement on ourselves. But the decision to erase our past comes at a very high price. To leave an empty hole where there was once a series of adverse events from which we grew strong is to do a disservice to ourselves and to those who know us.

We all come from different walks of life and bring with us different experiences, coping methods, strengths and weaknesses. Despite these differences, one consistent theme among those in recovery is the embodiment of perseverance, survival and toughness. The ability to overcome addiction and the adverse experiences often associated with it tells a story of strength. To minimize or ignore our experiences is to minimize or ignore the strength which developed as a result.

We owe it to our current selves to embrace our history – that is, our entire history – the good and the bad; the things we look back on with pride along with all the things that summon up those sneaky feelings of shame and guilt. Because without those things, we would not be who we are today. Today, we are survivors. Today we are determined to become better people, focused on healing. Today we have the capacity to be teachers, advocates, and friends who understand.

In order to harness the potential of who we are today, we must not only accept, but embrace all facets of our dynamic self. When we accomplish this, we eliminate the division between our past and present selves and transform our strength into a force of true power.