My Past Does Not Define Me -- And Neither Does Yours

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
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Before I was 19 years old, I had successfully completed and dropped out of a total of four rehabs for substance abuse. Five, actually, if we are counting the behavioral center I was admitted to at 14 years old. And, at the risk of sounding like a complete and utter train wreck, I also struggled with an eating disorder, self-mutilation, and suicidal thoughts.

Of course, if you were to meet me today, you would have no idea. My inward, as well as outward, scars have healed, are hidden and now concealed with the title of a loving mother, wife, and daughter.

I’ve traded early morning withdrawals for my kids’ early morning wake-up calls. A weight scale only triggers me for my own personal reasons, and I don’t allow one to take up space in our home. The marks on my arms that were once red are now a translucent silver and white.

Without saying a word, it’s apparent to me and the ones who love me the most that I’ve changed for the better.

But then there are others who ostracize me for a past they will never understand. The ones who truly believe a person could never evolve into something greater than who they were at their lowest of lows.

We, as humans, have gone to the moon. We make life-like robots. We love and mourn each other unlike any other mammal. And yet, there are some who truly believe we are incapable of personal growth and change.

Well, I am not here for those uptight people; I am the proof that debunks their faulty theory.

To be frank, I say screw them. Because my story — which possibly causes my reputation to take a hit when it’s spoken — isn’t for those who are unreceptive to hearing my painful words. I speak on behalf of the underdog, the strung-out, the ones who the world has seemingly forgotten. I do so because I’ve been there.

I’ve felt like most everyone has given up on me. I’ve been so depressed that I just wanted to end it. I’ve been looked down on in the past for who I was, and then looked down on again in the present when others refused to see my noticeable transformation.

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But now, it’s difficult for me to even care what another random individual wants to believe. Because these people, the ones unwilling to accept that a person could ever evolve into something different from what we once were, are not the kind of folks I want in my circle.

I want the ones who get me. They don’t have to have a rocky road relatable to mine, and they don’t need a lifetime full of triumphant life stories. But they do need to be able to see me for who I am today while acknowledging the path that brought me here, judgment-free.

I’ve spent years feeling bad about myself. So now, I refuse to surround myself with those who would attempt to put me down due to my past. Because when you’ve finally realized your transformation’s worth, the one you alone completed, you don’t allow another who stomps all over your accomplishments to hang around.

You realize that you are not a product of your past — despite how ugly it may be.

You are not the same alcoholic.

You are not the same person who made a horrible, awful mistake that nobody — including yourself — will ever forget.

You are not the same person who purged after every meal.

You are not the same bigot as the parents who raised you.

You are not the same insecure person.

You. Are. Not. The. Same.

You are worth more than what you’ve done, what you’ve been through, and what you have overcome.

Let go of the people so keen on keeping you frozen in your worst place in time — they are not worthy enough to share your new light.

This life can be so wholesome, do not waste it trying to prove to someone what’s already been proven to yourself… we aren’t given nearly enough moments to throw them away on trivial matters such as this.

Acknowledge the fact that you are allowed to grow, change, and be your best self. Own your mistakes. Admit your failures. Boast in your accomplishments. Encourage others. And please, block out anyone who tries to silence your story or reduce you because of it.

Because when we share what we’ve overcome, not only are we lifting a burden off ourselves, but we are lightening the load of another’s. We bring hope in a hopeless individual, and we are a testament to the change they one day hope to see in themselves.

Freedom doesn’t always come without a battle. A battle you’ve already won, I might add. And shame carries no place in victory.

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