Forgiveness and Addiction

True forgiveness is when you can say, thank you for that experience.” -Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” -Oprah Winfrey

Forgiveness is an essential part of healing, addiction and the recovery process. But what is it exactly? It can seem vague or unclear. Also, there can be some hurts that are so deep the pain almost seems normal or just part of life. Forgiveness of these hurts may seem impossible or just confusing. Just looking at the deepest things that have hurt us can be in itself too painful to move past, let alone try to forgive. 

Sometimes, it helps to look at smaller things rather than big ones when trying to practice and understand forgiveness. For example, how do you forgive someone that yelled at you and said something nasty while waiting in traffic? It may be helpful to try to understand that they were not in a good place and to try to understand or empathize with how someone could react so strongly over something so unimportant as traffic. Maybe they were tired, maybe they were stressed, maybe they needed to get somewhere quickly to help someone out, maybe they had back pain…who knows!?!? But the point is trying to empathize and see from their (theoretical) perspective why they acted the way they did may be helpful for letting it go and not taking it personally. Maybe whatever they yelled at you in traffic was unkind or even insulting and hurtful, but it can help to understand their reaction was probably not because of you. Forgiveness involves letting go and accepting things that have happened, even if you feel like they should have gone differently. 

Taking this another step further, trying to forgive bigger issues is significant for addiction and recovery. Steps 8 and 9 in the 12-step process are about making amends and being willing to make amends to everyone you have harmed (unless it would harm them). However, an important part of the amends process should also include making amends to yourself for things you have done that hurt you or other people that have hurt you. The pain we cause ourselves or that others caused us, if we don’t find a way to heal from it, can be a trigger for addiction. So how do you heal from the pain you caused yourself while using, and the pain others have caused you…like if you had a rough childhood or an abusive family? How do you let go of that? 

For the ‘big stuff” it can help to remember this quote from Oprah Winfrey…”Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” This is another way of saying letting go of the past, or accepting the past. But the wording may be helpful for understanding it from another perspective… ‘giving up the hope that the past could be any different’ means not to fight or be angry at the past anymore. It means truly acknowledging what has happened and not resisting it.

So in this case, forgiving ourselves and others that have hurt us should be part of the amends. Ultimately, we forgive for ourselves so that we can move forward, so we don’t carry the hurt and anger around with us anymore for how we feel things should have been different. People that forgive are not only happier they are also healthier. They have improved mental health, physical health and relationship health. Improved mental health may mean reduced anxiety, depression, fewer negative feelings, increased feelings of power and freedom, increased ability to deal with trauma and stress and feelings of greater meaning. Improved physical health can refer to improved immune system functioning, decreased cholesterol and blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. Concerning relationship health, forgiveness is connected to improved and more committed romantic relationships and marriage, better friendships and familial relationships.

So try not to shy away from or disregard the importance of forgiveness. It’s an important part of the 12-step program and just a good practice for life. It gets easier with time the more you practice, and will make your recovery more successful.  

An important part of managing challenges during COVID is practicing forgiveness and living in acceptance. Forgiveness and letting go can be very helpful while you are working through your addiction. Silver Lining understands that you have spent a lot of time dealing with difficult emotions and triggers during your time using drugs and alcohol. These experiences impact your sobriety and a treatment plan for living your best life in recovery. Our policy of treating small numbers of people in each group allows us to get to know you and the exact type of help you need to learn to be kind to yourself and achieve your goals. We help you flourish now and in the future. Let our Huntington Beach location be where you begin again! Call us today for more information. (866) 448-4563.

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