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Joe Budden’s Instagram declaration of love and promise to his partner Cyn Santana, and excitement over their pregnancy, is dope. It’s nice to see folks happy. Still, amazing pics aside, it’s important to remember that social media is only a highlight reel of awesome life moments. Making a relationship work—particularly after a history of trauma and drama—requires constant effort.

As a rapper and reality show star, Joe Budden’s issues are more widely known than those of others. He’s been accused of domestic violence,has spoken openly about battling drug addiction and is known for his fiery outbursts. It’s easy to write off men like him as those trapped in cyclical unhealthy painful cycles of depression, abuse and unpredictability—but that doesn’t have to be the case.

It’s important to know that men, people, can and do change. And if you are willing to do the work, you deserve the reward. But what does radically changing your life after decades of trauma look like? Lets put it this way, it’s harder than launching Google, Microsoft and Facebook, simultaneously. Why? Because you always have to be on. If you want any relationship to last, you must be willing to continuously work on managing your triggers. What makes you angry? What makes you yell? What makes you drink? What makes you sad? You have to be in constant state of mindfulness around the issues that set off the maladaptive coping skills (read: bad behavior) and make a commitment to tackling them head on, every single time. Bump days off. There are no moments off. The minute you sleep, you’re easily backsliding into easy outs: drinking, arguing, smoking, running away.

Making a relationship work—particularly after a history of trauma and drama—requires constant effort.

As hard as change is, it can be done. It’s also important to know that there are always more people rooting for your happiness than you can imagine. But every choice is up to you. Looking to revamp your life? Here are some tools to add to your chest.


No Caretakers

Ditch the attitude that someone else is responsible for your sobriety, sanity or overall happiness. Only one person has the power to keep you on the right track—and you wipe his or her butt every day. Appreciate the people who support, love and encourage you but don’t hold them liable for any of your choices, or the give them credit for the positive outcomes. It’s all on you.

Evaluate the Cycles

It’s time for a reality check. Where did you learn the bad habits you’ve been practicing? Who do you need to stop hanging out with? Who do you need to start surrounding yourself with?  What are the triggers? What interventions can help you create a lasting change? Make a commitment to being courageously honest about what needs to be done to crate the life you want.

Stay in Treatment

You don’t have to be chained to therapist’s couch, become a life-time support member to a weekly support group, or upgrade your medical deduction allotment…but you need to be realistic about the supports you need and how often you need to utilize them. This can look like weekly, daily, monthly or quarterly check-ins. Create a plan that works for you and be flexible when you require more support. The goal is to be good.

Add More Healthy Coping Skills

Stress can kill you quickly or slowly if you don’t learn how to manage it. Mastering stress sounds simple on paper—you find healthy outlets to help relieve it when issues arise—but practical wisdom tells us that it isn’t so easy. The reason is that different stressors require different ways to release them. For example, if you’re experiencing a financial strain, running may help but talking to a therapist or financial planner may be even more helpful. If you’re arguing with your mom, a long drive may alleviate some tension but you may need to zone out while listening to your favorite music during an afternoon when you can fully unwind. The key is to create a cache of things that help you de-stress and run through them depending in the issue.

Believe in What’s Next

Hope is powerful. There will be mistakes. And if you’ve been irresponsible in the past you’re likely going to have a lot of regrets. Make fair amends and look forward. Wallowing in shoulda, coulda, woulda isn’t helpful after reflection. Take your lessons, think about what’s on the horizon, and let that be your motivation to master what’s next.

S. Tia Brown is a journalist, licensed therapist and, most important, believes in love and the promise that it gives. Follow her @tiabrowntalks.