Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

By Stan Bumgarner M. Div., Counselor

The Roman god Janus is depicted as a head with two faces. One face looks backward, the other forward. He is the god of doors, gates, beginnings and endings. He represents change. He sits in the present, studies the past, and looks to the future.

nashville-alcohol-drug-treatment-cumberland-heights-blog-janus-photoHence, January is the first month of our calendar and a period of great transition. The first of the year is a time to reboot, to make resolutions, to identify bad habits and replace them with healthy new ones. Some are glad for a tough year to end and a fresh new one to start. I imagine more than a few folks resolve each year to never let alcohol, weed or whatever their drug of choice is touch their lips again.

Unfortunately, anyone who has ever tried to lose weight, quit smoking, drinking or drugging knows making the decision is more difficult than the actual business of change. Even those of us with strong will power find addiction’s voice very persuasive. “You don’t have to stop today,” it says. “You can stop tomorrow.” This cycle will delay positive change for weeks, months and even years.

Life experience teaches us we cannot just leave the bad behind merely by deciding to. We may decide we want to walk through the gate to the other side. The gate may even swing open for us. But until we choose to step forward into the unknown and embrace change, we remain in exactly the same place.

Entering the 12-Step recovery process and working the steps with a sponsor is a proven effective way of accomplishing the change we must experience to overcome a variety of addictive behaviors.

Step Twelve states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of working these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

A recovery friend of mine once pointed out the powerful meaning of this language by placing emphasis on “the.” When we work the steps we come out on the other side a different person, healthier, more self-aware, more emotionally mature.

The best piece of advice anyone receives in 12-Step recovery is to take life one day at a time. Use the past to inform and to motivate, not to regret or suffer Janus had a good idea of how to live—learn from the past, look to the future, remain in the present.

Stan graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2006 and worked for the Tennessee Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services teaching ministers across the state. This led him to become an alcohol and drug counselor, a position he currently holds as primary counselor for the Cumberland Heights Extended Care program for men. Stan is a regular speaker at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clarksville, the father of thirteen-year-old twins and active in his own 12-Step recovery.