Forgiveness in Recovery: Learning How to Accept Your Faults and Continue
Many of us struggle with self-acceptance. We may even hold grudges against those we feel did us wrong. These feelings often lead to self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. But, learning forgiveness in recovery builds a positive and fulfilled future.
What is Self-Acceptance?
Self-acceptance is the complete acceptance of yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is easy to accept your good qualities; however, our less-desirable qualities are harder to accept.
Some people think self-acceptance means you are who you are and you shouldn’t change. But, that is not true. It simply means being aware of who we are, both positive and negative, without negative emotion or judgment.
The Importance of Letting Go of Grudges
Resentment and bitterness over our past become an obstacle to finding true happiness in life. Although we may have been mistreated, learning to forgive those who hurt us is the only way to heal. Furthermore, when anger and bitterness take over, it affects our ability to see anything positive.
Common Grudges Held By People Struggling with Substance Use Disorder
You don’t have to use drugs or alcohol to hold a grudge. But, people how misuse drugs or alcohol are full of resentment and anger. They typically have a list of grudges that justifies their behavior.
It is easier to blame others for the reason they struggle with substance use disorder. To others, the reasons may be irrational, but to the person misusing drugs or alcohol, it makes perfect sense. Furthermore, some people take these grudges to their graves.
Common grudges include:
- People didn’t live up to your standards. While you have low expectations for yourself, you have high expectations of others.
- Angry that others are telling you what to do. Many who struggle with substance misuse are defiant against others telling them what to do.
- I was traumatized by other people. Trauma such as abuse and rape can cause justified anger. However, using drugs and alcohol is an unhealthy coping mechanism.
- Friends and family have lied and let you down.
- I was a victim of manipulation.
- I was wronged in a relationship.
What is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness is a deliberate, conscious decision to release feelings of resentment and anger toward someone who has wronged you. It is a choice you make even when the person doesn’t deserve your forgiveness.
Many of our grudges stem from childhood. Maybe a parent struggled with substance use disorder and wasn’t there for you growing up. Or, perhaps you were bullied throughout school. Do you think the bullies let their actions affect them daily?
We don’t forgive people so they can heal. We forgive people so that we may heal. While we are not responsible for what happened to us or how people hurt us, we control how we react, forgive, and move on.
How Does Forgiveness Help With Self-Acceptance?
When you struggle with substance use disorder, you often say and do things out of character. As a result, you often feel shame and embarrassment. And, while you may be quick to forgive someone else’s behaviors, you may be harder on yourself.
Here’s the thing. None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes and are sorry for the things we have done. But, when you have compassion for yourself and forgive yourself, you are practicing self-acceptance.
Why is Forgiveness in Recovery Crucial?
Without forgiveness, we remain angry and resentful towards those who have hurt us. This anger isn’t hurting others, but it is hurting us. In fact, anger is linked to high blood pressure, high cortisol levels, and increased heart attack risk.
Without forgiveness in recovery, anger keeps you focusing on the negative feelings of the past. But, to maintain recovery, you must stay in the present, and that means forgiving those who hurt you.
Moreover, anger continues to make you a victim. It gives the person who hurt you the power to keep hurting you. It also stops us from seeing our mistakes and how we have hurt others. But, with forgiveness in recovery, we learn to release the grudges and anger.
How Does Forgiveness in Recovery Break The Cycle of Substance Use Disorder?
Substance use disorder is commonly the result of pain, trauma, and anger. Whether the pain is self-inflicted or caused by someone else, the cycle will continue if you don’t find forgiveness in recovery. But, this is much easier said than done.
Forgiveness in recovery and self-acceptance will take work. It takes looking inside yourself to understand, accept, and let go of the emotions holding you back. Ignoring these feelings and covering them by misusing substances allows them to fester and build. But with commitment, you can achieve self-acceptance, forgiveness, and Recovery for Life.
Steps to Self-Acceptance and Forgiveness in Recovery
Self-acceptance and forgiveness are crucial to your mental health, well-being, and recovery. While forgiving yourself and others doesn’t mean you condone the behavior, it does mean you accept what happened and are moving on.
While maintaining life in recovery is the goal of treatment, it all starts with ending substance misuse. A big hurdle in treatment is overcoming the feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. But, forgiveness in recovery is crucial to preventing a recurrence of use.
But, forgiveness takes work. And without the proper tools and skills, you may fall back into the same patterns that led to substance misuse. There are 5 simple daily steps to forgiving yourself and building a healthy future.
Journal Every Day
Recovery is full of ups and downs, and you will experience a range of emotions. Journaling can help you get these thoughts and feelings out. When negative thoughts and grudges pop up, write them down. This holds you accountable for these thoughts and feelings.
Your Past Does Not Define You
You struggled with substance use disorder. But, you learned from it and accepted it. It doesn’t define you, and neither does anything else that has happened to you.
Self-acceptance is a big part of forgiveness in recovery. The shame you feel because of things you did during your addiction will no longer have power over you after you forgive yourself.
Show Yourself Compassion
It can be easy to show compassion for someone else when they make a mistake. But, showing compassion for ourselves can be challenging. Once you do, it eases the negative thought patterns that lead to drug or alcohol misuse.
Look at where you were. Now, look at where you are. Be grateful for how far you have come. Fighting a substance use disorder is hard, and you are doing it!
Being grateful for your present life helps bury the negative thoughts that fuel substance use disorder. Holistic therapies such as yoga and meditation can help cultivate mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude.
Making amends with those you have harmed is part of forgiveness in recovery. Making amends is crucial to healing the negative feelings about the past and overcoming substance use disorder. Reaching out to those you have hurt along your journey heals not only the guilt and shame but also builds a support system.
A support system is a group of people who encourage your recovery and support you in your weak moments. Making amends and asking forgiveness from those you hurt shows your willingness to change. And, those who forgive you will likely also be your biggest supporters.
Substance use disorder is a chronic disease. So, recovery is a lifelong process. It won’t always be easy, and there will be good and bad times. But, without patience and self-acceptance, your recovery will be at risk.
Just know the bad times don’t last. Even if the bad times include a recurrence of use, it is not the end of the world. It is a mistake, and when we learn from our mistakes, we avoid repeating them. Having a good support team is crucial during the bad times and can help prevent a return to drugs or alcohol.
Loving Kindness Meditation for Self-Acceptance and Forgiveness in Recovery
The Loving Kindness Meditation or LKM is a popular technique to reduce stress and boost well-being. Regular practice of LKM increases your ability to forgive, connect with others, and accept yourself. However, it takes practice to allow yourself to receive and send love to yourself.
While there are various ways to practice this meditation, they all use the same core operation – sending kind intentions and love to yourself and others.
Try the following simple loving kindness meditation technique.
- Sit quietly and comfortably. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, and take deep breaths.
- Imagine you are experiencing physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. You have perfect love and gratitude for yourself. You are perfect just as you are. Focus on this inner peace – breath out tension and breath in love.
- Repeat 3 or 4 positive affirmations such as:
- I am happy.
- I am loved.
- I am healthy and strong.
- I will give and receive appreciation today.
You can either keep the focus on yourself or slowly move your focus to loved ones. Feel your love and gratitude for them, sending them positive affirmations. It can also be helpful for forgiveness in recovery to include those you feel harmed you. Sending them love can help you reach a higher level of forgiveness.
Healing Shame and Guilt at Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center
Are you or a loved one struggling with substance use disorder? Are the grudges you hold stopping you from lasting recovery? At Sana Lake Behavioral Wellness Center, you learn the importance of self-acceptance and forgiveness in recovery. Contact us to find out more.