Addicts undergo a great deal of pain during the recovery process. Guilt, shame, anger, disappointment, and regret are just a few of the many emotions that enter into the equation. What’s critical to overcoming these and other feelings that can impede your journey to recovery? Forgiveness. Here’s a closer look at the role of forgiveness in addiction recovery, along with tips for seeking and finding forgiveness.
According to Greater Good Magazine, psychologists define forgiveness as “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
As an addict, you may have done many things you’re not proud of. You probably did things that hurt yourself and hurt others. While letting go of these things and making peace with them may seem impossible, it is the best pathway forward.
We’ve all heard the phrase “forgive and forget.” Keep in mind that forgiveness in recovery is not about forgetting. Rather, it’s about learning from your mistakes and moving forward. You’re not absolving yourself of the bad acts you might have done or absolving yourself of blame for them; rather, you’re absolving yourself from carrying that anger forward. In that sense, forgiveness in addiction could be better served by words like “recognition” and “acceptance.” In letting go of the things that don’t serve you, your recovery, or anyone else around you, you’re also letting go of the things that are standing between you and healing.
Forgiveness of Self
For people who have struggled with addiction, forgiveness can be a loaded word. Mostly because in the case of substance abuse, forgiveness often needs to be sought in the hardest of places: from within.
The first step in forgiving yourself is understanding the nature of forgiveness—specifically, that the question of whether or not you deserve forgiveness is irrelevant. Rather, think of forgiveness as a gift you’re giving to yourself when you’re ready to move on and move forward.
This will require some introspection. In order to understand and let go of your pain and the emotions causing it, you have to understand them. Working toward clarity is important. Ignoring or diminishing your feelings will only cause them to fester. Acknowledging and releasing them can help you let go. This won’t be easy. A 100 percent commitment is necessary to truly heal.
In addition to harboring bad feelings toward yourself, you may harbor negative feelings toward others as well. Loved ones may have let you down or disappointed you. Forgiveness also means letting go of expectations about how people should have or do behave and instead, accepting them for who they are. The more you can focus on the positive, the more you can commit yourself wholly and more happily to your recovery.
Forgiving yourself also means treating yourself kindly. Self-care is a great way to show yourself kindness— especially because addicts often neglect this critical aspect of life. Healthy eating, spending time outside, spending quality time with friends, and incorporating soothing bedtime rituals are all ways to show self-care.
Seeking Forgiveness from Others
As an addict, forgiving yourself is the hardest part. However, you’ve also got to make amends with the people you may have hurt along the way. While this can take a certain degree of humility, know that you will feel more at peace with your life when you’ve taken this important step.
The first step in asking for forgiveness is accepting responsibility for your part in causing the other person pain. This is not a time to make excuses or give explanations, but rather, it’s an opportunity to admit your transgressions in a straightforward and honest manner. While this can be hard, it’s a critical part of the process.
Next is a step many people overlook: actually asking to be forgiven. Perhaps you asked this person for many things during your time as an addict: to cover for you at work, to borrow money, to overlook a missed commitment or obligation. This is not about asking for something in that sense. Nor is it a time for negotiating or reconciling. Make it clear that you’re asking for forgiveness and nothing else.
Lastly, be prepared to listen. You may be dealing with a person who is angry and not ready to forgive. In this case, it can be hard to listen to their fury and pain, or even rants, without being able to speak to the situations raised or to defend yourself. This, however, is the price of forgiveness. Reminding yourself that you’ve forgiven yourself can make this situation easier. And keep in mind that a loved one may not be able or ready to grant you forgiveness. However, in earnestly asking for it, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve done everything you can at this point. In time, their answer may change.
While it can be hard, forgiveness is a necessary part of your healing journey. The counseling component of your addiction recovery program can help you reconcile the feelings that support forgiveness. If you are ready to take the leap to a sober life and more fulfilling relationships, Harris House, a leading drug rehab center in St. Louis, MO, is ready to help. Call us to learn about admissions today.