When we have wronged others, especially loved ones, or experienced harmed ourselves, we often seek forgiveness as a way to find peace within ourselves and our community. You may have felt out of control and injured others and yourself during your struggle with substance abuse. It may help to know that this is normal. Since substance abuse affects our behavior, we can cause harm regardless of our intentions.
Another common feeling in recovery is a sense of shame or embarrassment for the chaos we create in our lives, especially as a result of substance abuse. In recovery, we must face what we have created and take responsibility for it. We can do this by finding ways to apologize and seeking forgiveness from others and ourselves.
Forgiveness From Others
An essential step of recovery, as seen in The Twelve Steps, is compiling a list of those we have wronged and making amends if it does not harm others. In this step, we seek forgiveness for our mistakes by first taking responsibility for them. We then approach those for who we are looking for forgiveness. While we hope that others can forgive us, this is not always the case, and it is not under our control whether they forgive us or not.
However, a lack of forgiveness can cause a lot of pain. When we take responsibility for our actions, ask for forgiveness, and then it is not accepted, we may not receive the relief we hope for in mending the relationship. This often causes a significant strain on us and can cause us to believe the recovery process is disrupted due to the lack of forgiveness from others.
Still, it is helpful to remember that recovery is about reconnecting with ourselves and taking responsibility for what is under our control, which is ourselves, not others. We must understand that others are not required to forgive us. We can control our current and future actions, but not our past. Looking back can help to heal wounds within ourselves, and looking forward can help to see how we can make an effort not to cause further harm.
Finding a way to forgive ourselves is similar to the process of forgiving others. In both cases, forgiveness involves admitting an objective wrong and freely forgiving. It is not ignoring, forgetting, or trying to excuse a transgression but instead genuinely owning up to the mistake.
The Challenges of Self-Forgiveness
Part of the challenge of forgiving ourselves is that it takes self-acceptance for pieces of ourselves we are not proud of. It is easy to show and see the parts of ourselves we are proud of, along with our accomplishments and strengths. However, it takes a true internal shift to allow ourselves to make mistakes and accept that we have made mistakes in the past without punishing ourselves.
When we are unable to forgive ourselves, we are often overwhelmed with feelings of shame. These feelings work against our recovery by creating feelings of hopelessness, depression, and overwhelm. For some, there can be a temptation to return to substances to escape these feelings. For others, it may feel like there is no out, no way to stop making mistakes, so it is not worth the effort to continue with recovery.
Either can be detrimental for our loved ones and us as part of a cycle that can keep us from continuing on the path to recovery. If we are overwhelmed, one way to help is to find a treatment facility or group where we can learn the skills needed for forgiving ourselves.
How Important Is Forgiveness?
When we can forgive ourselves, we can see all parts of ourselves, the proud moments and the mistakes. This allows us to see the mistakes we have made, how they have come about, and what we can do in the future when navigating similar situations. It is through forgiveness that we can release feelings of shame about our pasts, which creates freedom in creating how our future can look.
While it may differ depending on where we are in the process, forgiving others and ourselves is an essential aspect of recovery. Research has shown that forgiving others and ourselves can improve recovery and that forgiveness gets easier over time. The more we learn to accept and forgive, the more we can continue to do so. Forgiveness is a skill, and many of us who have struggled with substance abuse can improve when we learn this skill by asking for forgiveness, forgiving others, and forgiving ourselves.
Recovery is an ongoing process where we learn skills that can help us find peace and hope in our lives as we make life-altering changes. An integral part of this process is forgiveness for others and ourselves. Being stuck in a cycle of shame and escape is often a piece of what keeps us using substances, making forgiveness necessary in recovery. While we often seek forgiveness from others, making amends is not under our control, and sometimes, others cannot provide true forgiveness for our mistakes. Forgiving ourselves is equally as important but often more challenging. Self-forgiveness requires making an internal shift that is often aided by the help of community support and a treatment program that helps us learn the skills needed to acknowledge and accept ourselves. 449 Recovery is here to help those struggling with substance abuse and forgiveness. Call us today to learn more at (949) 435-7449.