Forgiveness is an often mentioned aspect of addiction recovery because many people struggle with this – both with themselves and with others. It’s incredibly painful to think of the damage that’s been caused as a result of drinking or abusing drugs, and this can easily translate into self-hatred and broken relationships. Unfortunately, we can’t always save the relationships that have been torn from addiction – but we can work towards forgiving ourselves in the process so that we can become better people and learn from our experiences.
Why Self-Forgiveness is Crucial
As human beings, we’re going to make mistakes – and we can’t hold onto them forever, because if we do that, we’re not going to be able to move forward in a way that benefits our lives. It never feels good to know that we’ve hurt people around us – those we love – but the only way we can reconcile the past is to make healthier decisions moving forward. C. Joybell once stated,
“I have learned that the person I have to ask for forgiveness from the most is: myself. You must love yourself. You have to forgive yourself, every day, whenever you remember a shortcoming, a flaw, you have to tell yourself, ‘That’s just fine’. You have to forgive yourself so much until you don’t even see those things anymore. Because that’s what love is like.”
A major part of self-love is learning that we’re not always going to make decisions that we’re proud of. Addiction can lead us down a treacherous path of anger, violence, self-harm, legal implications and more – but there is still time to change the direction. 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) promote the concept of connecting with a Higher Power – because He has a greater knowledge of our lives than we do. By ourselves, we can become completely powerless – and many find that when addiction is involved, a sense of chaos ensues.
Writer Maria Mooney once stated on Mind Body Green, a website that publishes information related to mindfulness, health, food, movement and more, that:
“Aspects of spirituality…contribute to overall feelings of health, well-being and meaning in one’s life.”
It isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it may take several years to a lifetime to practice the art of self-forgiveness, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit. If we can learn to forgive ourselves for all the mistakes and pain that we’ve caused ourselves and others, we can start not only taking responsibility for our actions – but we can also begin taking steps to ensure that we don’t make those same mistakes again.
Forgiveness from Others
One of the best ways to garner forgiveness from others is not only to ask for it but to own up to the decisions that we’ve made in the past and to acknowledge the pain that we’ve caused. 12-Step programs even suggest making a list of the people we’ve harmed and writing out apologies to them – so that they can take in what we have to say and respond in their own time; a 2016 study conducted by a researcher from California found that forgiveness from others is imperative in maintaining sobriety – and Step 8 of the program is considering one of the most challenging steps to complete in the 12-Step program, because individuals must apologize and attempt to make amends with those whom they’ve hurt from addiction.
Another way of gaining forgiveness is to truly work towards our own health and wellbeing. It becomes easier for people to accept and move forward from such painful life events when they can see that you’re taking major strides towards your mental, physical and spiritual health – and there are many things you can do to jumpstart your recovery journey:
- Surrounding yourself with people who support your recovery
- Maintaining sobriety
- Admitting to faults and vowing to yourself to become better
- Utilizing the tools and resources you’ve learned in therapy
- Actively participating in your 12-Step program and other recovery-related activities
As mentioned earlier, we can’t control how others are going to react to us – and if those we love no longer want to be part of our lives, even after entering treatment, the best response we can give us to provide them with the space they need and to work towards our own growth.
Becoming Stronger in Recovery: Beautiful Implications of Forgiveness
Once we learn to forgive ourselves, an entire world of growth and opportunity opens up for us. It suddenly becomes easier to form connections with others, because we feel worthy of having those meaningful connections – and we’ll find that we’re better able to support our friends in recovery because we know exactly what it’s like to be in their position. In 2015, the Greater Good Science Center from U.C. Berkeley explained several beautiful keys to forgiveness:
- We gain increased self-esteem and a sense of security
- We increase our capacity to deal with inner pain
- Greater empathy connects us to others
- We’re able to find more meaning in our suffering
- And more
Furthermore, our thought processes are more likely to become healthier and more productive – rather than feeling flooded in shame and guilt, we can feel responsible for our own actions and can become more proactive in thinking about what we are capable of rather than what we’re not. It becomes a much steadier flow of health and wellbeing – and building a connection to a Higher Power can only reinforce the notion of self-forgiveness.
Alone, we can only do so much – but with the help of a Higher Power, and with help from others, we can build a life filled with hope, love and meaning. The way we think about ourselves truly underlines our entire lives – and only once healing and forgiveness truly take place can we start living a life we’ve always dreamed of.
Seek Treatment Today
If you’re ready to begin taking strides towards your own recovery journey, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today. It’s never too late to begin healing – and you’ll find that happiness and health are closer to you than you may think.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers, and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.