According to Greater Good Magazine, “psychologists generally 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.” Forgiveness is a way of letting yourself release negative feelings in order to move forward in a positive way. When it comes to addiction recovery, forgiveness plays a huge part in the process. First, an addict must forgive themselves before they can full commit to sobriety. Second, the addict must release resentments they hold and forgive others, as well. Keep in mind that forgiveness is not making excuses or condoning actions. It is simply learning to release negative emotions within yourself in order to positively move forward with sobriety with a clear conscience.
Forgiving Yourself: Releasing Regrets in Addiction Recovery
The first person you must forgive when you enter addiction recovery is yourself. After all, during any addiction, you are your own worst enemy. Most addicts will have many regrets and hold much guilt when they begin treatment, so forgiving yourself is paramount to the success of your addiction recovery.
Some steps you can take to learn to forgive yourself include:
- Find clarity.
- Accept your past and realize that it is in the PAST.
- Practice gratitude and compassion for yourself and focus on handling current stresses in healthy ways.
- Identify your biggest regrets, then clearly define your morals and beliefs.
- Begin focusing on finding self-love.
- Develop a positive self-care routine.
Finding clarity is important because, in order to continue through a clear path of recovery and forgiveness, it is necessary to have a clear picture of what you are facing. Counseling is a great way to find clarity. It helps you to see exactly how your addiction happened and how it made you feel. It helps to bring to the surface how you feel currently, and, usually, anger will arise. It is important to seek counseling when you are finding clarity because you need to learn where to direct your emotions in a healthy environment.
Accepting your past and realizing that it should stay in the past is another vital part of learning to forgive yourself. You must accept that the things you did in the past, your past morals and beliefs, and your past addiction are not a reflection of who you are now. Acceptance of your past actions will allow you to forgive yourself for them.
Practicing gratitude and compassion for yourself allows you to start forming a healthy self-image. Be thankful to yourself for seeking help with your addiction and be compassionate toward yourself by understanding that the addiction recovery process is not easy. You may make mistakes. This leads to handling your stresses in healthy ways. Talk about your daily struggles. Keeping your emotions inside will only reinforce old habits of self-destruction.
Identifying your biggest regrets is crucial for self-forgiveness. These will be the instances that are the hardest for you to move past – your biggest mistakes. Remember that you are not the person who made those mistakes anymore. Therefore, you should define your current morals and beliefs once you identify your biggest regrets. Knowing the differences in how you behave and think now and how you felt and thought then can help you release any guilt that is held in your regrets to allow for forgiveness.
After you’ve released your regrets, you can begin focusing on finding self-love. Learning to truly love yourself is much easier if you surround yourself with supportive people. Addiction makes it hard to love yourself, so learning to do so is a key part of addiction recovery.
Developing a positive self-care routine is something that can help you develop and strengthen your newfound self-love. Now that your body is free from substances, you can put your energy into taking better care of yourself. A great positive self-care routine includes:
- Exercise. Exercising is a great way to improve both your physical and emotional health, relieve stress, and help you sleep better. Additionally, it releases endorphins that help to promote happiness.
- Healthy Diet. Learn how to properly nourish your body. Look into healthy diets and you may even find that cooking is a new activity you love!
- Rest/Relaxation. Sleep is not the only kind of rest your body needs. Relaxation is important. Whether you love taking long bubble baths or lounging in a chair and reading, getting relaxation is necessary for proper self-care.
- Associate with Positive Role Models. It is no secret that you must drastically change your friend group when you are in recovery, so, when you are building up a new social network, fill it with people that support and understand your sobriety. Having people around that have successfully recovered from addiction is great, as well.
- Meditation/Prayer. Meditation and prayer are both ways that can help you strengthen your faith and promote inner reflection, which can allow you to forgive yourself more easily.
- Find Meaningful Hobbies. Hobbies are important for sobriety, and the more meaningful the hobby is, the more fulfilled it will make you. Taking on hobbies that have meaning to you – like volunteering at a library reading to youth – can help you form lasting relationships.
- Maintaining Proper Hygiene. No self-care routine would be complete without proper hygiene. It is important to maintain body cleanliness because it helps you build up respect for yourself and your own body.
Forgiving Others: Releasing Resentments
While in the throes of addiction, an addict will blame many of the things that go wrong in their life on others. It is a common cycle that is seen in addicts – blaming others, holding grudges, and rationalizations. The addict will blame others for their mistakes and subsequently hold grudges against them because of it. Their rationalizations of their actions are rarely understood by others.
There are many resentments that are generally harbored by addicts.
- They resent other people for not living up to their high standards and expectations. Addicts tend to have lower expectations of themselves while keeping high expectations of others.
- They resent other people telling them what to do. This is called being “demand resistant.”
- They resent people because of trauma they have gone through at their hands – physical, mental, or sexual. While these resentments are often justified, dealing with the anger and other feelings associated with trauma with substances only adds to the addict’s suffering.
- They resent being let down by other people which usually happens when other people don’t behave the way the addict wants them to.
- They resent being lied to by friends and family; resentment in this case usually comes from the addict feeling that their family and friends are acting hypocritically.
- They resent experiencing injustice – whether it is real or imagined by them.
- They resent when their superiors abuse their power.
- They resent being manipulated.
- They resent when someone that they love does not love them back.
One important thing to remember about an addict’s resentments is that many of them are imagined, created, or a product of the paranoia that arises during addiction. Therefore, it is incredibly important to forgive others during addiction recovery.
Not being able to release resentments can cause the following:
- The negative feelings harbored within resentments can be used as an excuse for relapse
- Resentments allow an addict to not take responsibility for their own recovery
- Continuing to hold onto negative thoughts will reinforce and cause more negative behavior
- Inner piece cannot get attained while harboring resentments
- Not being able to forgive harms the growth of relationships while in recovery
One of the biggest things an addict must do while in their recovery is to recognize their truth. Being honest is the only way to reach sobriety. That said, here are following 15 steps are suggested for working through resentment:
15 Ways to Work Through Resentment in Addiction Recovery
- Practice identifying the underlying emotions that anger you.
- Be actively engaged with your anger and resentment.
- Identify how your actions and words may have factored into the situations you are resentful about.
- Practice expressing anger and resentment in different, healthier ways like keeping a journal, playing a sport, or exercising.
- Compassion for yourself and for others is a must.
- Resentment isn’t a group activity. Don’t join in with negativity from someone else.
- Make peace with your past.
- The more you understand your emotional needs, the more you can address them.
- Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you feel resentment towards.
- Be responsible for your own feelings so that you can them overcome them.
- Actually forgive people – including yourself.
- Work on personal language, using “I” instead of “you” to keep people from feeling accused.
- If you’ve been denying yourself physical connections because of your addiction, give yourself room to hug and heal.
- Ease your own anger by helping others in their day to day lives.
- Keep an open mind about the recovery process.
The Other Side of Forgiveness: Forgiving the Addict in Your Life
Addiction recovery does not only involve the addict – it also involves their family and friends. Forgiveness is not only necessary for the addict, but it is also necessary for their loved ones in order to recovery to be successful. As the loved one of an addict, you have likely been mistreated or harmed in some way. However, as they learn to forgive themselves, you must also learn to forgive them.
There are steps you must take in order to forgive the addict in your life, and they are:
Step One: Research addiction in order to understand exactly what it is. Addiction is a disease. It completely consumes the addict, and they become someone other than themselves. The use of drugs and alcohol literally rewires the brain. It is important to understand that addiction physically changes someone’s brain in order to be able to see that their actions have not been completely their own. This can help you forgive them more easily.
Step Two: Ask for patience and time. Although you now logically know that addiction is a disease that affects the brain, you will still struggle emotionally. The pain you’ve experienced during your loved one’s battle with addiction was real no matter what caused it. Let your loved one know that you need their patience and time while you work through your emotions and that you will give them your patience and time while they work through theirs.
Step Three: Establish healthy boundaries. In the beginning of your loved one’s addiction recovery, you may not feel comfortable allowing certain things. For instance, you may not want them around your children if your children were hurt by them. Furthermore, you may set boundaries like not wanting them to come into your home if they are not actively working their recovery. Boundaries are completely acceptable to keep you feeling safe. In fact, it can help keep the addict on track with their recovery.
Step Four: Do not have expectations. One hard truth you must accept is that your expectations are not what your loved one will be working toward. You loved one’s addiction recovery will be catered to their own struggle, and you cannot add expectations to that. Accept that your loved one may relapse and that it is not your fault.
These steps can help you get to the point where you can forgive your loved one as they forgive themselves. An addict’s support network is crucial to their recovery, so having you around is important. It will take time, but things will get better for both your loved one and you.
Forgiveness is a choice, and it is not always an easy process. While in addiction recovery, there are many truths that come to light, and some of them are very hard to deal with. However, an addict must focus on releasing regrets and resentments in order to successfully recover.
If you’re trying to get addiction treatment for yourself or for someone you love, reach out to The Hills for comprehensive and caring treatment that will help patients detox and learn the skills to cope with their triggers and their addiction. You have options, let The Hills be one of them.