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December 3, 2020

Growing Pains: When Healing means Letting Go (& How to do it with Grace).

When I hit my rock-bottom in addiction and decided to get sober, I kept hearing the same phrase repeated over and over in the rooms of recovery:

You only have to change one thing: everything. 

When I entered the path of intentional personal growth and healing, I heard the same words.

While drugs, alcohol, and unhealthy patterns were difficult to change, what pained me the most was realizing that everything included a lot of the people I called my friends. It included the people I had shared tears and laughter with, whom I had come to lean on for support in my most challenging times, and whom I called up to celebrate with when things went well.

In both situations, though, I could see how my social circles were no longer aligned with the person I was becoming. I was no longer interested in the same activities or in having the same conversations. When I  reached out to my friends to ask if they wanted to do something that I wanted to do, I only received radio silence in return.

Eventually, I had to come to terms with the fact that, as I was growing, I was outgrowing my social circles.

This was a painful realization. I felt abandoned, while also acknowledging that I was the one changing. I felt lonely and realized that I was choosing to turn down the invites that continued to come my way. The invites continued for quite some time, despite my regular excuses for turning them down, which made the process of letting go much more challenging.

I had a roommate early on in my personal growth journey who was on the same path. Any time I would emote about my dwindling social circle, he always said the same thing: “This path is lonely. Get used to it.” Then he would go back to watching his Alan Watts videos while teaching himself how to play the guitar.

Except I knew that wasn’t the case! I knew that it couldn’t be the case—so I took action.

I took stock of the person I was seeking to become. I asked myself questions like, where does she hang out? What kinds of activities does she enjoy? I answered these questions and filled my social calendar with a couple of events each week.

I felt awkward—out of my comfort zone—yet still, something kept calling me back to certain places and events, so I kept attending. I continued pushing myself outside my comfort zone, and after some regular attendance at one particular event, I decided to make my big move.

There was one woman who seemed to be at every event that I was at. She embodied the person I envisioned myself becoming. I approached her, and after some small talk, I awkwardly said:

“Sooooo, I’m looking to expand my social circle with people who are more aligned with the person I’m becoming. Would you be open to meeting for tea one day?”

She looked at me sweetly—with compassion that could only come from having been in a similar place at one point—and exchanged phone numbers with me.

That was how it began. We met for tea and shared stories. We developed a friendship that continues to grow and thrive up to this day. From that singular moment of vulnerability, I slowly grew into a new social circle that fit me better and supported me on the new path I was on. First, when I got sober, and again when I entered onto this path of intentional growth and healing.

I make it sound so simple, I know. Don’t be fooled—it wasn’t.

For months I struggled with letting go of my old social circle. I would occasionally accept an invitation, only to be reminded of why I no longer choose to spend my energy in those spaces or with that group of people. And every time I was reminded, I would feel a tug at my heart.

“Why? Why can’t I just grow my social circle instead of trading it? These people aren’t bad people.”

I have yet to find an answer to that question; I only know that letting go is what I’ve needed to do for myself. It’s what my intuition has told me to do.

Attachment is a theme that flows through my life like a river. Sometimes it’s in the background, gently running over rocks and reeds. Other times it’s full of rapids that grab my attention and force me to take action.

When action is required, I dive deep. I ask myself, “What is it that I’m clinging onto and why?”

Almost always, there is love, and I have to remind myself that letting go of attachment is not letting go of love. There are many people, animals, and items that I love, yet are no longer in my life—and I am no longer suffering from their transitions out of my life.

There’s also often hope for what a relationship could have been. Dreams for the future that never manifested. This is tough as well—and in this case—I remind myself that everything happens in divine timing. I allow myself time to grieve for the loss of unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and then I thank the Universe for holding me to a path where I know all of my hopes and dreams will ultimately be fulfilled.

Those first two steps are critical in getting to a place where I can really do the deep inner growth work of looking at what these relationships brought to my life and how I can continue to honor them while moving forward.

In my own life, I can say that I have friends today who I would not have connected with if it weren’t for previous relationships that ended. I’ve expanded my musical taste, my appreciation for film, and the comfort I have in my body. I hold life lessons from old friends and have learned so much about who I am and how I think and feel.

When I get to this place of gratitude for everything that these relationships have brought into my life, and I commit to carrying all of it with me moving forward, I become a fuller being. That feeling of fullness comes with a feeling of inner peace, as I realize that letting go of old relationships does not mean that those relationships no longer exist. Perhaps they don’t exist in a tangible sense anymore, but they live on within me, and I hold them with such reverence and love.

I can finally let go and move forward, onto the next chapter of this life and evolution of this existence.

I do not hold any resentments or ill-will toward my old friends, although a few of them may hold hard feelings toward me. I have come to accept that this is just the way life goes. We are dynamic, constantly-evolving beings, and it would be boring if everyone’s paths looked the same.

As I let go and move forward, I get to honor and appreciate the variety of paths folks take in their lives. There is nothing wrong with the paths my old friends have chosen for themselves; my path has simply diverged. And as we forge our paths in the myriad directions that exist, we can make this world a beautifully diverse place.

Today, I choose to embrace my growth and healing, which means letting go of anything that does not serve me on this path—and letting go hurts. I feel it in my heart every time I have to let something go that I’ve loved.

I remind myself that it is only a transition. That life is only a series of transitions, and how fortunate I am to be the dynamic, constantly-evolving being that I am.

~

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