Own Your Mistakes Before They Own You

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

My past is always haunting me and no one is letting me change.

I live in a small town. My big family is full of wealthy alcoholics.

When I was in high school, I partied wildly and became Homecoming Queen. I thought I had it made when I married a high school football star.

Wrong-o! He was mean and abusive to me and our three kids. One time I fought back and the police came. One officer knew us from high school and told us to “knock it off.” I was embarrassed, so I never reported any more altercations — until the night my son got into an argument with his dad, who threw a beer at him. I called the police again.

My sister was over and took my husband’s side. It was a mess.

I got a divorce and custody.

Then I moved, went to nursing school and now work at a hospital. My kids are grown and we’re close. I’m a completely different person now, but I can’t stop thinking about it all.

My sister tells people how terrible I “really” am. She knows some of my new friends and they told me how she’s trashing me.

She’s relentless about trying to destroy me and I dread her visits. I can’t sleep thinking about how she’s ruining my new reputation.

Haunted by my past

Dear Haunted,

We have a saying: “If you own your past, your past can’t haunt you.” This may feel like a difficult thing to do, however, it’s freeing.

Develop simple statements like:

• “My family has alcoholism running through it, and my past was rocky, until I decided to change it for the better. I’m so happy I made that decision.” (This acknowledges that you make your own choices and you’re in control of your happiness.)

• “Everyone has skeletons in their past, so I had a nice long talk with mine. Now there’s nothing in my closet but nurse’s uniforms.” (With a sense of humor, you diffuse the ugliness in your past.)

• “Healthy relationships are what’s most important to me in life. I’ve had unhealthy ones in my past, and I’m glad I’ve learned to discern the difference.” (This lets your new friends know that you desire to choose honest, loving and caring relationships.)

To your sister: “I’m not a threat to you, and my past is not a threat to me. If you can’t treat me with respect, then don’t visit.”

Bullies who haunt people with their past haven’t learned what you know: You can own your past so it can’t own you.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri