Importance Of Forgiveness

Apart from the addiction itself, one of the hardest aspects of recovery is shame. You may feel that what you’ve done is unforgivable, that you don’t know how to begin to move forward, to ask forgiveness of others, or even to forgive yourself. You may prefer to pretend it never happened, or even pull away from loved ones and those that have memories of your addiction because it reminds you of your painful past. However, the difficult step of forgiveness is crucial to providing closure to those you’ve injured, just as it’s essential to your own complete recovery.

What it comes down to is that you can’t control what you’ve done before, but you can control what you do today, and what you do every day going forward. Each day is a new chance to be the person you’ve always wanted to become. It won’t be perfect, and you’ll make more mistakes, but you’ll keep trying to improve yourself and your life – and that’s the point.

Slowly, you can rebuild damaged relationships, forgive yourself, and lead a much healthier, happier life going forward. You can truly find freedom in recovery.

You want to remember that you’re human. We all make mistakes; there’s not a single one of us that hasn’t. Pushing away those that you’ve wronged robs them of a resolution and deprives you of the opportunity to truly heal. You can’t change the past or rewrite history. You have to accept that they will never forget and may always resent what you’ve done. On the other hand, they may forgive you, and endeavoring to forgive yourself is an important step in your recovery. 

Seeking Forgiveness From Others

To seek forgiveness from loved ones, you must first acknowledge that you have wronged them, that you sincerely regret your actions, you must apologize, you must genuinely attempt to make it right, and you can’t stop there.

  • Don’t be defensive.

You cannot approach this process from a defensive position. They are entitled to their recollection of the events that transpired and to their own personal feelings and takeaways about those events. 

  • Listen.

You must listen to how they feel, and acknowledge those feelings. They need to feel that you understand how and why you’ve hurt them so that they can believe you when you express how truly sorry you are.

  • Give sincere apologies.

You cannot expect to be forgiven if you’ve never truly apologized. Until you do so, you haven’t properly acknowledged the event or demonstrated sincere repentance. Oftentimes, because you’ve rehashed an issue many times, you may feel as though your apologies are implied. That’s not necessarily true. You need to say them, and someone else may need to hear them.

How can you make it up to them? How can you demonstrate true repentance and remorse? You can’t undo the damage, but you can repair it as best you can. You can also show them in your words and actions that you’re sorry for what you’ve done and that you do not plan to repeat your mistakes.

  • Know that, with loved ones, it’s a continual process.

You may have made amends, but that isn’t the end of the situation. You have to continually earn their forgiveness and rebuild their trust, as well as the relationship itself. You have to be consistent, follow through on what you say you’ll do, prove that your apologies were genuine, and show them how important they are in your life.

Forgiving Ourselves

While others may forgive you over time,  as you work to continue to earn and deserve that forgiveness, the most difficult forgiveness to receive may in fact be your own. Self-forgiveness in recovery can feel impossible. How do you even begin to forgive yourself for something that you feel is terrible? How do you forgive yourself for hurting someone or causing harm?

This comes back to feeling that what you’ve done cannot be forgiven, or that you don’t deserve that forgiveness. You may feel that, in order to make amends, you have to dwell on what you’ve done. That you don’t deserve to forget it. You may feel you have to punish yourself for the wrongs you’ve committed. 

However, this will not improve your life or your current or future relationships with loved ones. Punishing yourself will not allow you to move forward or to truly make things right, which is ultimately your goal. Furthermore, you don’t deserve it. If someone wrongs you, you don’t force them to dwell on the mistake; you discuss the issue, get an apology, gain closure and a new understanding of one another, and you move on. You should try and show yourself the same kindness you would show the ones you love most.

So, you know it’s important to learn to forgive yourself after addiction. Where do you start?

  • Face the facts. 

It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand, to forget what you’ve done and never reflect on it again. If you do this, the trauma will follow you, never truly allowing you to move on, plaguing your daily life. You need to admit what you’ve done, and admit that it was wrong. You need to seek forgiveness and amends from the ones you’ve wronged, and then rest assured in the knowledge that, while you can’t undo it,  you are continuously working to repair the damage and do your very best moving forward, both for others and yourself. 

  • Allow yourself to grieve.

Your past mistakes may have been traumatic for both others and yourself. By reflecting on past transgressions, you bring them back to the surface and may again experience the stages of grief. This is expected, even healthy. By allowing yourself to feel and move through these stages, facing them, and learning from them, you can truly move forward.

  • Don’t demonize yourself.

Again, you’re human. You made a mistake. You can’t undo it, but you can purposefully live each day going forward in a way that seeks to make amends and to be the very best person you can be. You’ll have setbacks, and you’ll start each day anew.

  • Learn from the mistakes.

By facing up to what you’ve done, you can truly evaluate what actions were wrong and what led you to take those actions. What triggered that in you, and how can you plan to avoid circumstances like that going forward? What did you learn about yourself and others? Most importantly, how can you make it right?

  • Don’t surround yourself with bad influences.

While you do want to make amends and seek forgiveness, you also need to recognize those people and situations that trigger your addiction and bad habits and be brave enough to distance yourself from those influences. Instead, seek out those that help you to move forward. Seek situations that help you to heal and people that can relate. Seek people that bring out the best in you, and seek to bring out the best in them as well.

  • Don’t dwell on the past.

You have to face the past to move forward, yes. You don’t, however, have to live in the past. Doing so can be harmful and impede your ability to progress and improve your life and the lives of others. You need to think of the future – make plans for what you hope to accomplish and where you plan to go in your life. You need to allow yourself to accept what you’ve done, to enjoy your life, and know that you will do your very best from this day forward.

Bottom Line

Forgiveness isn’t something you can check off a list, it’s a journey and something for which you will continually strive each and every day. When it comes to forgiveness in recovery, It’s important to seek the forgiveness of others and, perhaps most importantly, to learn to support and forgive yourself. You aren’t perfect (no one is!), but you’ve come an awfully long way! You’re taking control of your life from here on out.

Whether you’re at the forgiveness step in AA or at this stage on your recovery journey, it’s important to remember that you’re not going through it alone. At Oregon Trail Recovery, we’re here to help! We have highly trained staff and a dedicated recovery process. We can aid in your journey to forgive and move forward. Contact us today for more information. We’re here to help you, 24/7.