Letting Go of the Past: Victim to Survivor

Recovery involves learning to release emotional pain and past wounds. Emotional injury is often cited as a significant reason for self-medicating and turning to substances; it can often ruin a person’s personal and professional life.

Numbing pain from the past to cope with stress creates additional stressors as our body becomes accustomed to substances as a coping strategy. Working through toxic emotions acts as a power grab from anyone inflicting injury to us emotionally or physically. Removing ourselves from further harm can reduce our reasons for relapse.  

Taking Responsibility

Placing a reason for self-destructive behavior on someone else, we give ourselves unlimited permission to revisit the source of hurt, making them the excuse for subsequent negative consequences. The trigger for another drink, for example.

This keeps us in victim mode long after that person or situation has gone, providing a permanently open doorway into substance misuse.

Accessing our professional and peer support network, our wellness goal should identify the source of emotional hurt, followed by engaging in the work necessary to manifest a purposeful transition from victim to survivor.

In the war between ourselves and the source of hurt, empowerment is critical when lowering our risk of returning to previous behavior. Ask yourself how badly you want to hand over your power and your control back to your source of pain. 

Easy Does It

Give yourself time. Our cognitive processors and stress responses are hardwired to generate defensive responses. We may blanket every stressful situation as a trigger for relapse. Reforming ourselves into survivors takes time and purposeful planning.

Begin by working with your cognitive therapist. Explore ways to reframe thoughts, for example, taking a breath and thinking calmly about the particular context of a stressful moment. In the case of residual or unmanaged anger, your therapist and support group play an important role in helping you work through anger responses in constructive, non-damaging ways.

None of the above suggests an overnight absence of emotional outbursts, stress, or difficulty coping with relapse temptations. With professional help, learning to see ourselves as survivors instead of victims teetering on the edge of collapse every other minute involves learning to process areas of our life that may have been suppressed until now. 


Storyboard your life as you want to see it; you may be familiar with vision boards. Take pictures from magazines or the internet and stick them onto a board or a scrapbook. The images that you select are meant to reflect elements of the life you envision a year or two from now.

Storyboarding your life is similar, except you can add notes between the pictures, effectively creating a narrative for a particular point in your life. For example, you may place a picture of a house in the middle of the storyboard, adding notes reflecting this is the sort of home or town you wish to live in when you are sober for five years. Going further, with storyboarding, you might write something reflecting what that day might be like. 


Wellness goals should help identify emotional hurt sources, working with you to cognitively transition from victim to survivor. Viewing ourselves as survivors rather than victims positions us as winners, not someone battered about by life’s circumstances. When faced with temptations or relapse triggers—in the war between ourselves and the source of hurt—empowerment makes us less likely to return to previous behavior. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains’ inspiring landscape, the Detox Center of Colorado offers a solution-based transitional residence program aimed at accountability, recovery, and reclaiming ourselves.  No matter how far on your journey to substance abuse or mental health recovery, we look forward to helping you explore the range of supportive treatment and aftercare options available to you.  Call the Detox Center of Colorado at (303) 952-5035.  It may be the best thing you do for yourself today.

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