Forgiveness in sobriety is difficult. For those of us who love an addict, it can seem like we’re always forgiving them for past indiscretions with no end in sight. And for those who are addicts, the feelings of self-loathing and shame feel like impossible obstacles to overcome. Hence why it becomes easier to continue using. As humans, we tend to get stuck in our memories and have a hard time moving on. The more we think about the past, the stronger the attachment is, and the harder it becomes to let go. Sometimes, we even get scared to forgive because we don’t want to be hurt again. Other times, we feel that the person who hurt us deserves to be punished.
As difficult as forgiveness can be, it’s essential to your recovery from substance abuse. You’re doing it for yourself. Once you make amends, you can put the past behind you and move forward with your new, sober life. Whether you are struggling with forgiveness in sobriety for the first time, or you have been battling this for a while we are here to help. Here’s a closer look at the role of forgiveness in addiction recovery, along with tips for seeking and finding forgiveness.
What is forgiveness and how does it happen? We talk so much about forgiveness, hear so many motivational quotes, and yet it seems that we all have radically different ideas about what it actually means. We want to know how to forgive and yet it can be very hard to achieve or practice something that we don’t really understand.
Forgiveness is different for every human being that lives it. And forgiveness in sobriety can be particularly complex. For some, it comes on suddenly, blessedly, without having to think about or try and create it. For others, it’s a more deliberate process that requires effort and practice. And for others, it’s a permanent destination and once discovered, never slips away. But it can also be a feeling that comes and goes and ebbs and flows. There’s no right way to find or live forgiveness. Any path to and version of it will do. And yet, despite the fact that there are infinite paths to and colors of forgiveness, certain key components exist in its sentiment. There are aspects of forgiveness that are essential to its basic nature.
And so the question follows: What actually is forgiveness? And its partner inquiry, What is forgiveness not?
Forgiveness is Not Saying …
-You were not hurt by what the other person did.
-Your pain is gone.
-You are back to being the person you were before it happened.
-Life can now pick up where you left off, you feel the way you did before, as if what happened never happened.
-You excuse the other person’s behavior.
-You no longer view what happened as important.
-You share the blame for what happened.
-You can never forget what happened.
What Forgiveness Is
Forgiveness is about goodness, about extending mercy to those who’ve harmed us, even if they don’t “deserve” it. It is not about finding excuses for the offending person’s behavior or pretending it didn’t happen. Nor is there a quick formula you can follow. Forgiveness is a process with many steps that often proceed in a non-linear fashion.
The Importance of Forgiveness in Sobriety
The beginning of the addiction recovery process typically begins with a wide range of emotions. Some of the strongest being feelings of shame and guilt. Self-forgiveness is a helpful way to cope with these powerful, negative emotions, making it an integral component of the overall recovery process.
Guilt and shame are natural parts of human life, so it’s important that you do not beat yourself up further for being unable to relinquish these emotions. The recovery process will ask you to come face to face with these feelings and ultimately to forgive yourself if you wish to complete treatment successfully.
Forgiveness frees you from the guilt associated with your past. If you have struggled with addiction, you may blame yourself for missing out on important events, harming your health, or neglecting responsibilities. However, this blame and guilt can keep you trapped in the cycle of negative thinking and self-image. When you begin forgiving yourself, you free yourself from this burden.
How to Cultivate Self Love and Forgiveness in Sobriety
Address Your Pain
It’s important to figure out who has hurt you and how. This may seem obvious. But, not every action that causes you suffering is unjust. For example, you don’t need to forgive your child or your spouse for being imperfect, even if their imperfections are inconvenient for you.
To become clearer, you can look carefully at the people in your life—your parents, siblings, peers, spouse, coworkers, children, and even yourself—and evaluate how much they have hurt you. Perhaps they have exercised power over you or withheld love, or maybe they have physically harmed you. These hurts have contributed to your inner pain and need to be acknowledged. Doing this will give you an idea of who needs forgiveness in your life and provide a place to start. If you are working towards self-forgiveness, begin by evaluating when you have let yourself down.
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Negative self-talk is a major stumbling block to self-love during forgiveness in sobriety. Seeing yourself objectively can stop the rush to judgment. Next time you do not rise to the expectations you have for yourself, take a moment to pause and reassess. Be mindful of the difficult emotions that arise. Forgive yourself and recognize that you are only human. See if you can identify how to do it differently next time. Be grateful for the opportunity you had in the first place and for your persistence to try again.
Finally, accept yourself. You are not perfect. And yes, you likely could have done better. But chances are, you did just fine. And often, that’s more than enough.
Talk With Others about forgiveness in sobreity
Sitting down and sharing with another human being is often the best form of release for forgiveness in sobriety. Choose someone who will not be judgmental or who has gone through similar experiences to you.
Set specific goals
Set narrow and humble recovery goals. Initially, the goal is to stay sober, one day at a time. The next goal might be to become less depressed. After that, the goals can become specific. If you say you want to be a good dad or be there for your family, it’s important to ask what that looks like and how you’re going to get from here to there.
Acceptance is a vital part of recovery. Coming to terms with ourselves and our lives is the essence of acceptance and without it we will struggle to find true serenity. It means admitting that you have made a mistake and accepting that what has been done is done. It also means acknowledging your emotions of guilt and shame, which can be hard if you’re used to living in an invalidating environment. Dwelling on your mistakes is pointless unless you learn from them and resolve to do better in the future. By accepting that you’ve made a mistake, it will help you move forward.
Forgiveness in Sobriety with Harmony Ridge Recovery
Recovery is the time to turn around the negative thoughts and practices you engaged in during active addiction. Now is the time to learn about self-love and how to implement it into your daily life to help you maintain recovery for the long term. As you practice forgiveness, you will see that this is a gift to yourself. And ultimately, you will learn to forgive yourself while also taking responsibility for your actions. If you need guidance during this time, Harmony Ridge Recovery is here to help you.