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4 Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

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3 years ago today, my world came crashing down. 3 years ago today, the blinders were ripped from my eyes. I still had a long way to go before I let God clear the scales off my eyes completely, but it started 3 years ago.

When my entire world crashed down, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to turn. I was paralyzed with indecision, fear, and shame. The shame was by far the worst and most destructive emotion that I felt, but fear was a close second.

Shame and fear were wrapped up into one huge feeling that was hard to separate, though. Fear of being found out. The shame that comes with being a complete and utter failure at life. This wasn’t a cutesy “#adultingfail” failure, it was a massive, soul-crushing failure. Life was teaching me some serious lessons.

I couldn’t just change my life in a positive, calm manner. HAHAHAHA. No. That’s not how I do things. Or at least, it’s not how I used to do things. I barreled through life, mostly doing whatever I wanted, and at the same time doing very little of what I truly wanted. That doesn’t last. It can’t last.

The struggle and pain that I went through (much of it caused by my own stupidity and stubbornness) made me better. Would I go back and change anything? Uh, DUH. Yes. I would do a lot differently. That isn’t possible, unless somebody has access to Doctor Who for me. I’ll have to settle for a list instead.

If I could talk to the me of years ago right now, there are 3 things on my mind that I would say.

4 life lessons I learned the hard way (but you don’t have to):


It’s not enough to simply admit that you screwed up. Fix it.

Don’t sit around moping about what a crappy person you are. Don’t beat yourself up and shame yourself into paralysis. Admit it when you’re wrong, let yourself feel that terrible emotion, then dust yourself off and fix what you need to fix. Get help fixing it if you need to, I’m not saying that you have to be perfect here.

Pride often keeps us from admitting we’re wrong in the first place, and then fixing it. Sure, we may be crappy people, but who cares? “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best,”, right? No. I hate that quote. Sorry, Marilyn Monroe. That’s stupid. Nobody can handle me at my absolute worst, not even myself. When I’m at my worst, I need to be left alone and I need to get my crap together. It’s nobody else’s job to “handle” me.

Which leads me to life lesson number two…

You are not responsible for anybody else’s actions, and nobody else is responsible for your actions.

There is a point where you end and they begin. Treat people with basic respect, and treat them like adults. Your husband, wife, brother-in-law, sibling, or parent is not your child. You are not responsible for raising another adult. Seriously, you’re not that important and all-knowing. They have already been raised, and if it isn’t sufficient for you, either change your attitude or move on.

You are not responsible for everybody and everything. It’s not a badge of honor to be a martyr. Get over yourself, and let some crap go.

Accept what you can’t control. Change what you can.

The good old Serenity Prayer. Stop getting so wrapped up in things that you can’t control, and focus on what you can. Find a boundary, and hold it. Find your part in every situation that troubles you, and fix it. You have a part somewhere. At the very least, you can leave the situation. At the very most, you might be the problem itself. Listen. It’s ok if you’re the problem. It means you can fix it. Be thankful, apologize and fix your part, and move on.

Don’t wait for life to knock you out before you get this through your thick head. Please.

Be grateful. For the love, BE. GRATEFUL.

Do you really have to lose almost everything in your life before you truly deep-down appreciate the things you have? Good grief. Be grateful. Thank God every single day for giving you life, love, a warm bed, a family that adores you, and so many other blessings.

Gratitude colors every other part of your life. You can’t be wrapped up in anxiety about every single situation if you are grateful for what you have.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12

Lastly, don’t be stubborn about this. It only brings pain, or at least lessons learned the hard way. It’s a shame that often, the people who need these lessons the most are the least likely to pay attention. We’re stubborn.

We think we know it all. We don’t know it all. It’s ok to screw up, and fix it. It’s ok to let somebody deal with the consequences of their own actions. It’s ok to only focus on what you can control. It really will be ok. Now, if only I could hop in a Tardis and let myself know this years ago. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that jazz. Youth is wasted on the young. Insert more cliches.

Now go forth, and keep being awesome.


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Sitting on top of Pike's Peak in Colorado, a little over 2 years sober.

Hi! I'm Ashley, and my sobriety date is May 6, 2015. I write to share my experience, strength, and hope in recovery. On any given day, you can find me developing websites, writing, or chauffeuring kids around.  Read my story...

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