by Hope Andersen

Several years ago, I worked part-time during the holidays at a bookstore. I could not help but notice how many of the bestsellers featured stars of a popular remodeling show. This made me think of all the doctor’s offices I had been in over the past decades as my husband battled – and survived – near fatal liver cancer.

And as I have struggled with my own mental illness.

In all these doctor’s offices, what always played in the waiting rooms were episodes of Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper or some similar home improvement show. It makes sense. America is obsessed with remodeling. We are also addicted to recovery and self-improvement. If we aren’t changing the paint color on our walls, we are revamping our diet and exercise programs, all in the hopes that we will achieve that perfect state in which the world (and ourselves) looks and feels just right.

That got me thinking about remodeling not just a house, but a life, and how there are many similarities between the two. Putting these two ideas together, I wrote a memoir/self-help book titled HOW TO REMODEL A LIFE: a guide to living well with alcoholism and bipolar disorder. The book, culled from forty-plus years of sobriety and a quarter of a century in recovery from Bipolar 2, compares our inner journey of self-transformation to the outer dealings of renovating a home.

The process of remodeling a home begins with dust. In construction, it is that all pervasive dust that manages to find its way under plastic sheets and into your very front teeth. In remodeling our lives, we unleash emotional…
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In the following paragraphs, I will give you a taste of the book’s content by sharing a summary of my first chapter with you.



The process of remodeling a home begins with dust. In construction, it is that all pervasive dust that manages to find its way under plastic sheets and into your very front teeth. In order to remodel our lives, we unleash emotional dust or debris – the cumulation of past experiences that brought us to this point in our lives where we simply had to make a change. When I stopped doing drugs and alcohol at the age of twenty-six, I had already amassed a history of wreckage that needed to be cleaned up. I used the following tools to heal relationships and make peace with my past.

Surrender – over the years, I have had to surrender again and again, in every area of my life. I have had to let go of resentments towards people and jobs, dreams and goals that were ego-driven, unreasonable demands on myself and others, self-centeredness, fear, superiority, depression, self-pity, taking myself too seriously and not taking myself seriously enough, to name a few.

Letting go is an on-going, spiritual practice. It is the wrench that loosens the pipe that has been tightened to the extreme and cut of flow. It is not difficult. It just takes willingness. And yet, we hold on so tightly to what we know, even if it causes us pain and suffering. So, how do I let go? The simple act of unclenching my fists and opening my palms to the Universe was a small but mighty beginning.

Don’t blame anyone. Not even yourself. You are where you are and you can move forward as long as you are not carrying a sack full of resentments and regrets. If you are an alcoholic or you suffer from a mental disorder, you are not to blame. You cannot help your genetics, but what you can do is make good choices from here on out. Carrying regrets and blame is useless. All they do is drag you down. There is a difference between blaming yourself and taking responsibility for your actions.

Find a Buddy. Quickly. Someone you can vent to when the world is driving you crazy. This might be an individual or a group. Anyone who can help you stay on course and listen to you when you just need to spew off. Then find another buddy whose advice you respect and whose suggestions you will take to remodel your life. This buddy will help you gain perspective and see the bigger picture.

Be Still and Trust.  Transformation takes time. For everyone. You aren’t the only one growing and changing. Your behavior has had an impact on those around you. Let them whirl. But don’t whirl with them. Rest assured that everything is working out the way it is supposed to.

Laugh. Another valuable tool is learning not to take yourself, or life, too seriously. Laughter puts the past into perspective. It takes away the sting of shame and remorse. It lightens the emotional load that is unleashed with the onset of recovery. It works.

Subsequent chapters touch on the following topics and each is followed by a set of tools similar to those outlined above.

-Setting a firm foundation (for recovery)

-Letting light in (making a spiritual connection)

-Updating the hardwired mind (replacing negative with positive thoughts)

-Fixing faulty plumbing (finding healthy diet and exercise programs)

-Raising the roof (examining work options)

-The master suite (engaging in self-care)

-The guest room (making space for relationships)

-Establishing curb appeal (being authentic)

-Color my world (finding a fresh perspective)

-The swing in the backyard ( playing! Enjoying life!)

No matter what you suffer from , if you are looking for a way to make your life more purposeful and enjoyable in 2023, pick up the tools in my toolkits and begin to remodel your own life. Make this the year that your renovation becomes complete!*

HOW TO REMODEL A LIFE: a guide to living well with alcoholism and bipolar disorder is available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, from and at independent bookstores everywhere.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect all or some of our beliefs and policy. Any links on this page do not necessarily mean they have been endorsed by Defying Mental Illness

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