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Advice: How Can I Get Past the Past?

Hara Estroff Marano gives advice on letting go of the past, post drug addiction.

When I was nearing 18, my stepfather died and my mother fell into a depression so deep I didn't think she'd pull through. Already traumatized by loss, I turned to drugs. My mother's brother took over her life and obtained a restraining order against me. After six months, he packed up and went home and proceeded to neglect me for the next six years. I am now met with accusations and contempt from him. Despite my several attempts to reconcile, he sent me a three-page attack listing every fault and misstep since I was a child. I responded with a long, defiant letter, because all I want to do is get on with life, but he won't let the past go. I felt good getting all the poisonous thoughts off my chest. But once again, I am shunned by family when I really need tools, help, and advice to cope better. How can I get beyond all this baggage?

You've managed to get yourself off drugs, so you do have some survival skills. And, yes, it's time to gather more tools and information to get on with life. It's not clear how you are supporting yourself or what education you have. Even if you are working during the day, you can take evening classes at a community college. You will get more than a textbook education; you will find people who are also gathering life skills and can share what they've learned. Getting everything off your chest likely didn't feel as good for your uncle as it did for you, even if it was payback. So, no surprise that there are consequences to your action. Your uncle jumped into your life to save his sister, your mother; for that he may think he is owed eternal gratitude. He may not realize how doubly traumatized and lost you felt at the time. Always uneasy dealing with you, he is hardly more kindly disposed now. Will it ever get better? Who knows, but it's worth being a mensch and demonstrating in your behavior toward him just what you would like of him now: a new, constructive relationship. Ask your uncle for help in the kindest, most sincere way. He could turn you down (he may not know how to give what you want) but at least you could be proud of acting honorably. At some point, each of us has to decide who and what we are, and our actions must follow from that choice, independent of how miserably anyone acts toward us. Whether or not your uncle responds to your request positively, you need more sources of support. Seek out a men's group in your area; it will help put you on the fast track of gathering life skills from others.