A while back @911well posted the following tweet, “Don’t bring up the past of a person who is trying to improve their future.” Days later, @CreationNA posted a similar tweet, “If someone is working on themselves or changing for the better, it’s unnecessary to keep bringing up their past. People can become better.”
These two Twitter posts have me thinking. There are several people I wish met me after I had been in Al-Anon, a recovery group for friends and families of alcoholics. I am grateful I had them as friends prior to the program because they were there to support me even when my thoughts and behavior was less than my best.
On the other hand, they may never fully know me at my best and this thought makes me a bit sad.
A few months ago I had dinner with two friends who knew me prior to Al-Anon. I hadn’t seen them in a couple years. Over the course of a couple hours, I began to realize I was a very different person than the woman they used to know. It was an eye opener to see how far I have come, but it was also an eye opener that they may always know me as the person who thought, said or did xyz.
I need to clarify; these are friends- true friends. They did not bring up my past in an effort to make me feel bad about it. My past came up in reference to their own lives and challenges they were now going through. As I listened to the changes in their lives I heard many familiar topics and sentiments. I knew then, I have truly changed. Everyone changes over the years, but I was definitely not the person I used to be.
My feelings about certain people or past events were not the same. My outlook on life was not the same. The way I communicate, the way I cope, it’s all different. There are so many things that are different that even if I shouted them from the rooftop they would be almost unbelievable to the people in my past. When I mentioned one of these differences the look on their faces and the tone in their acknowledgements were trying to be positive, but also almost one of disbelief as well.
I felt like I had lost a connection with these two women who I love and value as friends. However, the dynamic of the friendship has changed. They were no longer my soundboard and support group for all the negativity that swirled in my head prior to Al-Anon. You know that saying misery loves company? I could no longer identify with the person they used to know and they could no longer identify with the person sitting at the table. While I listened and contributed to the conversation in my new style I realized the relationship hadn’t evolved in a way that they were able to see- I was now the soundboard.
There is a big part of me that wants them to know the new me. Know that I am a better person. But telling someone you’re a better person is not the same as them experiencing it for themselves. It’s not the same as having them let go of the past. It’s not the same as having their approval, love and acceptance of the person I am today.
Maybe if they didn’t live an hour away and I saw them more often they would come to know who I have become. What it boils down to is that the approval, love and acceptance I seek must come from within. And I do truly love the person I am becoming, the changes I have made in my life.
However, I grieve they knew the old me. I grieve the fact that they may never fully know the better side of me. The thought in my head is that they will always be waiting for the old me to show up again. I guess I have more work to do on myself if I still fear the worst. They may not have been thinking this at all, but it was where my thoughts went. Maybe I am the one who fears seeing my old self again.
Now that I see it in writing, it’s true. I do fear seeing my old self again.
A part of me feels like maybe there is an amends to be made, but I haven’t identified exactly what I need to apologize to them about. I am sorry for all the negativity I subjected them to. I couldn’t have been much fun to be around.
I don’t like the person I used to be. I need to forgive myself. I didn’t know any other way to communicate prior to Al-Anon. I didn’t know how to choose positive thoughts or healthy coping skills. I’m sorry I didn’t know a better way to live and that I brought myself so much unhappiness. I was the best person I knew how to be at that time, but I was not at my best.
I’m grieving the loss of the connection I used to have with these women, I look forward to reconnection with the hope they can come to know the new me. I am also hopeful the connections I make in the future will know the better me.
I deserve better and the people around me deserve better. I am better and I will continue to work the Al-Anon program to improve my future, one day at a time.