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Beyond healing (7 – 12 months)

“Until you heal the wounds of your past, you are going to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex; but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life.” Iyanla Vanzant

Once we reach seven months we have generally done the bulk of our healing. We may like to start letting people get a little bit closer to us. At this point you may encounter an inner battle that fears another attachment may undo all the hard work you’ve just put into your healing. If you’ve done things right – this is normal! It means you’ve rebuilt your self-worth and established yourself enough to realise there is something worth protecting. The biggest mistake people make is at the end: thinking their healing stops here, that they don’t need to do anything anymore, that they can go out and date again and life goes on … and then they fall back into old patterns. Particularly where they’re at risk of repetitive compulsion (reliving the same toxic relationship – with different people – over and over again in other relationships with the hope of a different outcome). There are several things you can do to not only stop yourself from falling into past patterns, but also take your lessons forward with you as you continue to evolve.

What people are asking:

– How can you step away from codependency patterns and the need to need others so that you feel strong, independent and comfortable on your own?

– Once you’re ready to date again, how do you stop yourself from jumping into a relationship straight away?

– How can I be sure the next person isn’t going to be the same as the last person?

1. Continue positive habits: Something that really helped me (and particularly now that I’m helping others) was keeping not of what steps I took that really worked for me and within that, what the practical strategies were. This forms the basis of most of what I do now. So while everything is still fresh, list all the positive coping strategies you’ve learned through your experience and through your healing journey. This helps keep everything fresh. This list will be something you can reflect back on at a later point if you choose to, or feel you need to. Keep it positive and practical – what worked for you in your healing? Do this before you get into a relationship with anyone else, as you need to still be fully focussed on yourself.

Have weekend refresher retreats for yourself where you go over some of the healing strategies that were particularly important in helping you connect with yourself. And remember to celebrate the milestones! You don’t want to keep going over old ground, but it’s really empowering to reflect on what you’ve been able to achieve. From my experience, recovering from codependency, love addiction and narcissistic abuse – all at the same time – was the most difficult challenge and is now my greatest achievement; even above a significant weight loss. Breaking these patterns isn’t easy – and remember, we need to keep the healthy habits we’ve created.

How can we stop relapsing back into old habits and patterns? It takes a while for new habits to really take hold – particularly when we’re dealing with deep-seeded patterns from the past. This is why I recommend continuing to go over your healing notes – even five to ten years into your healing journey. Remind yourself how you found yourself, what helped to connect with yourself (such as being honest with yourself, being your best friend, staying present), and what helped you to empower yourself through difficult times can really help shift how you do things going forward. As you continue using these theories in other areas of your life, they become habits and you start to retrain your subconscious to reach for these healthy strategies first.

2. Regular self-care: Another mistake people make is letting go of their self-care. Instead of ramping it up before dating someone else, they think “OK, I’m ready to find someone else and they can take over from here”. It’s really important that you keep up the effort: you are worth the effort you put into yourself. It’s when you stop looking after yourself and you expect someone else to do it for you, that you will feel disappointed and betrayed: by you.
In fact, instead of preparing to step things down as you start to see someone else, it’s actually better to step things up with your self-care. Make more committed plans to spend time on your own and catch up with yourself – just to check in and see how you’re going. Start dating yourself – it’s a practice that continues to promote your independence. Remember to take yourself the places you have always wanted to go, do the things you have always wanted to do – you don’t need to wait for someone to do it with you!

No matter what, I have a 100% me day at least once a month after my experience. This was something I picked up in my healing and it’s something I’ve continued years later. It helps keep me grounded, but also ensures I’m looking after myself and that I know exactly what I want in life and that I’m going after it in the right ways. It’s a ritual that definitely contributes a lot to my ongoing happiness in a relationship. It’s about loving and respecting myself equally or more to my partner – I need unconditional love, I deserve it, so I give that to myself. My partner is a support in the process – not the supplier of my unconditional love.

3. Live self-aware: Now that you’ve built up your self-trust, you’re continually checking in on yourself and you have your boundaries in place, you are all set to live a life of complete self-awareness. Know when you’re open to a relationship and when you’re being closed. Trust your judgement on people as they come into your life. When you see crazy coming, cross the street – don’t offer to help.

You’re familiar with your gut instincts and the warning indicators when things aren’t right. It really helps to list all of these things down and what they meant to you – so you know what to look for, and what they mean as they come up. As we right things down, it helps the information to sink into our memories.

Continually check in with yourself, and also be aware of how your surroundings are making you feel. What makes you feel good? Move towards that. What makes you feel anxious, nervous, guilty, shameful or any other negative emotion? Move away from it. Make sure you have more things making you feel good in your life, than are making you feel bad.

Remember, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with according to Jim Rohn, so make sure you are spending your time with the best. Make sure they’re either where you want to be or a step or two higher, so they can keep motivating you to move forward. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with under-achievers – it just means you need to spend more time with people who light you up, rather than those who dim your shine. And remember to do that for yourself. If you’re dimming your shine, if you’re being too hard on yourself, if you’re not feeling happy – check in and try to correct it. You get one shot at life: make it as good as you can – make it what you want it to be!

Let go of what you thought life would be and embrace that you know what your life could be.