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Perhaps the best answer to the question, “How do I let go of my past?” is, “What are you holding onto about the past?” When we break it down, the logic of it goes missing. The past is not tangible. We might have tangible reminders of the past, but those are simply tokens, not a piece of time. Time is not tangible, it is slipping by us one second at a time. Yet somehow, we hold onto it and when we have a good “grip” on it, we cannot let it go. Sometimes we do it willingly. Other times we do it without noticing. Either way, do it to such an extent that we become controlled by it. Then, we are tasked with letting something go that we aren’t sure why, or how we are holding onto. How do we do it?

First, we have to recognize what we are holding onto and why. Holding onto the past has a benefit for us, even if the consequences of not letting go are bringing us pain. Somehow, we benefit from clutching tightly to the events, stories, beliefs, and ideas of a time that is now behind us. It might help us maintain a sense of control of ourselves or others, give us a sense of confidence, or keep us guarded against the things that make us feel insecure.

Once we recognize what it is we are holding onto and why we are holding onto it, we can decide what we want to do with it. Often, in realizing the object of our grasping, we realize that it doesn’t serve us. What we have held onto for so long suddenly has no purpose in our lives anymore. We begin to let it go, whatever it is, however we need to.

Letting go takes time and it takes work. If we are lucky, we might experience letting everything go all at once and never being haunted by it again. Often, this is not the case. After spending so many years tightly holding on, attaching ourselves to our past, and dictating our behaviors by the past, we develop habits. Habits are hard to change. With persistence and a dedication to our recovery, we can navigate the ups and downs of letting go. Some days we will let go entirely so as not to remember what we were holding onto in the first place. Other days we will find ourselves clinging tightly again and have to remind ourselves that we can let go. We will be okay.