“Forgiving others while you’re in recovery is something you do for yourself. Forgiveness gives both parties a second chance to re-establish relationships, let go of negative feelings and move forward in a healthy manner. … Put more plainly, forgiveness allows you to take responsibility for your own sobriety.”
Why Does Forgiveness Matter in Recovery?
Quite a lot has been said about forgiveness in recovery. This may seem to make little sense. After all, what does anger, blame, and resentment have to do with drinking too much or using other substances? A lot, actually. Often, chemical dependency is exacerbated by something else, such as trauma, abuse, or neglect. For some people, this can be an initial catalyst for substance use that later gives way to the disease of addiction. Along with other mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, chemical dependency is often categorised by a sense of “spiritual absence” that feeds on resentment.
Forgiveness is a major part of recovery because as long as you remain angry at the people who have hurt you in the past, you’re inflicting new suffering on yourself.
Anger isn’t good for you. It has been linked to high blood pressure, high cortisol levels, and increased risk of heart attack. More importantly, for the purposes of recovery, it keeps you focused on negative feelings. Deep resentment can keep you from feeling positive emotions and seeing the world at eye level. Moreover, anger and resentment can also keep you feeling like a victim. It’s giving someone who has hurt you in the past the power to keep hurting you. Other times, it blinds us to how we have caused harm to others and disrupts our ability to own our mistakes. However, in recovery, we are given the ability to face and let go of that anger.
It’s important to remember that forgiving others isn’t something you do for them but rather something you do for yourself.
It’s possible that by forgiving someone you can repair your relationship and be happier as a result, but it’s just as possible that you may need to forgive someone you legitimately never want to see again. It may be someone you’re better off not having in your life or perhaps even someone who has passed away. Forgiveness is a spiritual principle that simply means choosing not to be angry any longer. From that stance, we come to stop wasting energy which perpetuates that pain.
Sometimes forgiveness isn’t easy. The tendency to hold onto resentment is strong.
When someone hurts us, we don’t want to forget, lest we let it happen again. However, it’s possible to learn the lesson without carrying anger. Think of all the times you must have fallen down while learning to walk. You’re not angry about it, but you still learned to walk. It may help to try to see things from the other person’s point of view. It’s easy, for example, to be angry at an abusive parent, but if you understand that person better, you can start to forgive. Perhaps she was abused as a child, or perhaps she had a mental illness. There’s a French proverb that goes, “To understand all is to forgive all.” Most of the time, others don’t hurt us to be mean; they just can’t do any better. Understanding this allows compassion to take the place of anger.
When we uncover our own mistakes, that compassion increases even more.
Finally, it’s important to forgive yourself as well. Many people persist in self-destructive behaviour because they feel a deep sense of shame or guilt and they feel like they deserve to suffer. You can never move on if you insist on beating yourself up over past mistakes. It limits our ability to be present and destroys our chances of being helpful to those who may need your support. Recovery requires practice that involves consciously confronting the truth, amending our behaviour, and giving of ourselves wherever we can. Everyone does things they’re not proud of. All you can do is recognise that you did the best you could at the time and try to do a little better tomorrow.
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