Letting go is a phrase that is banded about in therapy classes, self-help books and splashed across inspirational face book pages. Very recently someone asked me what letting go was and exactly what did it mean. This got me to thinking about what it has meant to me.Letting go has not been a sudden release and overnight phenomenon. It has been a gradual process of coming to terms with reality, acceptance of that and relinquishing control over it and people. I hasten to add that it is not a process devoid of emotion. On the contrary, there has been anger, bitterness, sadness, hopelessness and fear.
For many years, I was in a state of denial and clung firmly to my dreams and ideals for the perfect life that I had planned. In my case, my life had to become completely unmanageable and out of control in order for me to see my situation for what it truly was; an utter shambles. Was I lying to myself? No, denial was a blanket that protected me until I was ready to face reality and have the strength to deal with it. Rock bottom is the place at which people find themselves and it is often there that they shout, ‘Stop!’ We reach a point where we simply will not accept one more argument, one more incident of abuse, tolerate one more lie or remain compliant for one more second. In that moment, I found my voice and I said, ‘No more.’Oh yes, reality hit big time and there was no hiding from it anymore. It was at this point that the proverbial sh** hit the fan. Family emotions and tension were at an all time high, logistics of what to do and where to go had to be considered, financial chaos was looming and could not be ignored. I have read somewhere that keeping busy during times of crisis is beneficial and that is precisely what I did. I threw myself into dealing with our situation and catering to the needs of my children. ‘First things first’ was the slogan that got me through those first few days and weeks. It was not a time for reflection and what ifs. It was very much a case of doing what had to be done to survive.
As the year went on, life became more routine and stable for the children and me. This was the time I took to reflect. As a co-dependent of an alcoholic, my life had become unmanageable and my thinking had become distorted. In effect, I knew that I had become ill and would remain ill if I did nothing to seek recovery. I had come to terms with reality and I had accepted the situation in which I found myself. I knew how hard it was to try to change myself and fully accepted that there was no hope of my changing anyone else against their will but was it truly possible to let go completely? I needed to learn how to let go of the people, illnesses and situations which were beyond my control. It was at that point that I chose to look for help. It’s true that when you are ready to look and ask for help; you will find it.
I ordered myself a whole stack of books from Amazon, (2 of the most helpful being: Codependent No More by Melody Beattie and Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend.) got my daily dose of positive inspiration by Liking helpful Face book pages, spent time with family, friends and fellow church members, took my cares and worries to God and joined Al-Anon. (A support group giving hope for families and friends of alcoholics.) Through immersing myself in this programme of care, I set myself on the road to recovery and headed in the direction of 'letting go.’
Eighteen months on, am I fully recovered? Ha! No, but I am definitely on my way to recovery from co-dependency. Old habits die hard and occasionally ‘unhelpful thinking/over thinking/attempting to control’ tendencies arise but I am able to recognise them and make attempts at preventing these lapses from becoming full blown dramas. I have tools which enable me to continue letting go and allowing life to happen. Turning my life and will over to God on a daily basis, removes the need to control and gives the power to God. (Please use the term ‘Higher Power’ if you have a problem with the word God.) Let go and let God! Hearing others sharing their stories of courage, strength and hope gave me courage, strength and hope that my life could be better. If others had found serenity, despite having been in similar situations to mine then I could find it also.
For me, letting go is an ongoing process of staying on my recovery road, choosing a life of serenity over control and filling myself up with all things helpful instead of dwelling on the negative and ‘coulda, shoulda, wouldas.’ Accepting reality, facing it with all the painful emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one and the loss of that much hoped for dream life makes way for the process of letting go. I firmly believe that forgiving also plays its part in receiving the gift of detachment which enables the ‘letting go’ process to take effect. Sometimes it involves forgiving the apology that you never got and this truly does bring peace.
This is what 'letting go' means to me. What does it mean to you? Are there things/people/situations that you just can't let go of? What's stopping you?