We, as humans, are not perfect. Far from it to be exact. Throughout our lives, we are going to make countless mistakes and do things that we will regret, either right away or down the line. While it is important to learn from our mistakes it’s also important that we don’t beat ourselves up over and over about it.
Being able to forgive oneself is a very important skill to have. Not only is it a valuable tool to have when it comes to preserving our mental health, but without being able to forgive yourself, you truly can’t move on and learn from the situation.
This is particularly true for those in recovery. When people suffer from addiction, they tend to make a lot of mistakes and put themselves in situations where they not only need forgiveness from others but also from themselves. In fact, self-forgiveness in recovery is one of the steps in the 12-step recovery program. It’s important to understand the concept of self-forgiveness, why it is so crucial in recovery, and some ways in which you can practice self-forgiveness in recovery.
What is Self-Forgiveness?
Self-forgiveness is the concept of forgiving one’s self from past mistakes. Continuing to metaphorically kick yourself and beat yourself up over things that happened in the past not only prevents you from moving on but can take an unhealthy toll on you mentally. For a person who is in recovery, that can be very dangerous as it can increase the chances of a relapse.
The Importance of Practicing Self-Forgiveness in Recovery
Self-forgiveness is a crucial step in the overall recovery process. Once a person begins the recovery process, they often start to think back to all the wrongs they committed while they were using.
This could range from hurting family or friends either mentally or physically, committing crimes, or even just the guilt associated with using and abusing substances in the first place. When the realization starts to hit in regards to all the bad things a person has done it can be pretty rough mentally. It can lead them to question many of their decisions and start to feel bad about themselves. This, in turn, can lead to an increased chance that the person might begin using again and relapse.
Self-forgiveness also can go a long way in seeking forgiveness for those around you that you might have wronged like friends and family members. After all, how can you expect others to forgive you for past transgressions if you can’t even forgive yourself for them?
How Can I Practice Self-Forgiveness?
Forgiving yourself takes time and practice. While telling yourself that you will forgive yourself is all well and good, to actually do it requires work. Nothing is going to change with the snap of a finger. That being said, there are certain things you can do to actively practice your self-forgiveness and work on bettering yourself both physically and mentally. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Accept Responsibility For Your Past Behavior
Reliving your past is no easy task. There are likely going to be some things that you wish you could forget. While simply forgetting them might seem easier, in the long run, it is actually more detrimental than beneficial. As the philosopher, George Santayana once famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
This basically means that without self-reflection and the ability to accept responsibility, you can’t truly move on and learn from your previous transgressions. Additionally, in order to ask for forgiveness from others, you first must ask forgiveness from yourself. The only way to do this is to accept responsibility for the things that you did so you can learn from them and prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
Write Down Your Thoughts and Feelings
Using a journal to share your thoughts and feelings is another vital tool taught and encouraged during the recovery process. That’s because throughout recovery a person is likely to experience a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Having a journal is a great way to keep track of said thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that you can better understand and analyze them.
This includes writing down all the ways you might have harmed yourself and others whether it was intentional or unintentional while using. Not only will this help you out when it’s time to seek forgiveness from others, but it is also an important tool for self-reflection. It helps you make sense of everything going on and allows you to express your emotions in a safe space.
Seek Forgiveness From Those Around You
As we have mentioned many times, you can’t expect others to forgive you if you can’t forgive yourself first. That being said, it is important to ask for forgiveness from those who you might have wronged.
Knowing that you hurt someone close to you as a result of your addiction can be difficult to process. It can lead to feelings of shame, regret, and guilt. While experiencing these feelings is part of life, not addressing them in a healthy manner can lead to someone turning back to drugs or alcohol again. By seeking out those you might have wronged and asking for forgiveness, it allows for the guilt to subside.
Additionally, it might also result in gaining valuable supporters for your overall recovery process. It’s also important to remember that not everyone might be open to forgiving you right away. For some, it might take them a little while to get over what happened, while some people might never forgive you. This is okay. You can’t control their actions and feelings; all you can control are your own.
Patience, Patience, Patience
This brings us to patience. It’s important to remember that recovery is not something that happens overnight. A person who is in recovery today will be in recovery for the rest of their lives. This means that not everything needs to be “fixed” overnight. That includes things like seeking forgiveness from others in addition to yourself. Learning to be a more patient person can help you better implement the “one day at a time” strategy needed to help in the recovery process.
Share Your Feelings With Someone Else
We addressed the importance of journaling and how it can be therapeutic and can allow for self-reflectance. After journaling has been completed each time, you might still have some questions. Or, you might even just want to discuss what you wrote about with someone to help you better understand it all.
Talking to someone about what you are going through can also be a great way to work through some of your internal problems and better understand what you are feeling. It can also be a great way to learn how to love yourself again which is another crucial step in the self-forgiveness process.
Who you chose to talk to is completely up to you. You can talk to someone you might have made friends with at your AA meeting or while you were in treatment, you could confide in a friend or family member that you feel comfortable talking to about everything, or you can seek out professional help and talk to a counselor or psychologist who might specialize in working with those in recovery.
Want to Know More About Self-Forgiveness in Recovery?
Nobody is perfect. It’s ok to make mistakes, but it is also important to use those mistakes as a teaching tool and learn from them. The first step in that process is to forgive yourself for your transgressions and then learn from them.
During your recovery process, you might suffer a setback and relapse. It’s important to remember that a relapse can happen to anyone and that if it should happen you are not alone. At New Directions for Women, we understand just how complicated the recovery process is.
Everyone experiences the process differently and what works for one person might not work the same for another. That’s why we create custom treatment plans designed for each individual. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and can benefit from one of our treatment services, contact us today.