In the years since I first sobered up and began living a different, more positive, service oriented kind of life I now realize that those years were not wasted at all. I learned a lot. All those experiences have given me a unique ability to relate to folks that are suffering through some of the same things and it has made me more understanding, more compassionate and accepting of others.
But I sure didn't feel that way initially! I felt like a total loser! Like I had this wonderful gift of life and I totally blew it. Because I had hit bottom rather hard in my life, I truly hated myself and all I stood for. It was hard for me to think anything positive about myself for a very long time. That opinion that I was worthless, that I was a bad person ran very deep into my conscious and sub-conscious mind. Nearly 5 years later I still struggle mightily with self-esteem and I have to work on it daily.
But did I really WASTE those years that I drank and drugged?Today the answer is much easier for me: nope. I know now that in some ways those experiences have become a gift. GIFT!? You probably think I'm nuts but I'm serious. I would not be as understanding, compassionate and loving if i had not experienced that period in my life. The stuff happened, I cannot take it back and make it go away.
But I can USE those experiences and though that can be challenging, that indeed is where the reward lies: In taking what I learned, what I've experienced and instead of hiding it, getting "over it", today I choose to USE it. I use those thoughts and feelings from that time in my life to understand and try to help others.
And in doing so, in being open and sharing that experience, other doors of opportunity for growth and healing have been opened up to me. So what I discovered is that in trying to help others, I also found that I was helping myself. How cool is that?! That aligns perfectly with my previous statements in previous posts that you can't keep what you have in recovery (growth, healing, etc) without giving it away (helping others).
So the conclusion that I arrived at quite some time ago was this was not wasted time, wasted energy, wasted feeling, actions, thoughts, etc. It isn't wasted if you can use it for the good today. Some may argue this point, that's fine but for me, this is my reality and it feels good to be using those experiences to help people.
It wasn't easy at first trying to live positively, using that old pain and heartache as examples of what not to do but as time passed it became more natural. It took a great deal of trust but with practice it comes naturally to me right now and is just part of how I live my life today. And I would be lying if I didn't admit that I wasn't sure at first if I could find it in myself to open up to strangers and be honest about who I am, but it's worked out wonderfully.
So Soul Wastage? I think not but it was a legitimate question and one that I had to face early in my recovery and yes, it is still a question that can and does pop up in the back of my mind even today. But today, after much time, growth and healing I actually have an answer to the question: Did I waste my life back in the day? Nope...