I believe your healing depends on how you tell your story. We can re-write our stories of struggle and pain from a place of shame and blame or from a place of compassion and love. How we choose to write our story will have a profound effect on our ability to heal from our pain and be present in our lives.
This TED talk by Jo Harvey is a perfect example of how re-writing your story can save your life. Jo shares two stories of her addiction.
It started when Jo was 7. On a hiking trip, she was given her first drink. She liked the taste, and by the time she was 12, she had experimented with more alcohol and other drugs. In high school, she was introduced to cocaine. She became a party girl, one who didn’t remember most wild nights and spiraled into a deep addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Eventually, she gave up the drugs and went in for treatment. In the years since, Jo not only has been sober, but she’s dedicated her life to helping others through similar struggles. Today, Jo is completing a doctorate while working to develop alcohol and drug abuse prevention programs for her university.
Now she tells her story as the story of a struggle that saved her.
The difference between those two stories isn’t in the facts of her life — those didn’t change. But how she tells the story now is radically different because it is no longer dripping with guilt and shame. Jo used to be ashamed that she wasn’t the perfect all-American girl that her good grades and pretty appearance led people to believe. She was ashamed that she had succumbed to addiction and that she was struggling with substance abuse. And that guilt and shame shaped how she lived her life, as it does for many addicts.
In order to heal, she had to shake the shame, stigma, and fear to come out on the other side and share her true story: one of hurt and pain, sure, but also of healing and strength. Today, she has this to say about people who are struggling with addiction:
“They matter and are worth fighting for. Even the deepest wounds can heal, and at any moment we can let go of our shame and find peace.”
How will you choose to tell your story?