Forgiving yourself is not easy.
Though you may have heard the supportive responses to your countless apologies, you still can’t seem to shake that heavy feeling in the pit of your stomach – the guilt of your past actions and the knowledge that you’ve wronged someone.
And for many addicts, it’s true – you probably have hurt people. Whether it’s through physical or verbal harm directed at them explicitly or if it’s emotional and intellectual abandonment, substance abuse is typically the cause of a great amount of pain.
But despite all the tribulations of the past, one thing now and will forever remain true – you deserve forgiveness.
How Do I Forgive Myself?
Contrary to popular belief, addiction does not stem solely from a desire to relieve boredom or simply have a good time. Yes, abuse can start from these particular emotions but full-fledged addiction is a continuous pattern of behaviors that tend to cover up experiences and emotions, not just create them.
As an addict, then, the process of forgiving yourself requires reaching back past the outbursts, past the drug abuse, and into the core reason you continued to use in the first place. This is where forgiveness has to start. Only after the root is healed can you truly forgive yourself and begin to grow anew.
Acknowledging Your Emotions
The first step in the healing process is starting to really examine how you feel in any given situation. What makes you especially angry or defensive? Which experiences do you avoid because they are too hard to handle? Who or what causes you to feel ashamed of yourself?
Depending on your level of substance abuse, this process might be especially difficult for you. It’s likely that you may have dealt with these kinds of emotions by numbing yourself with drugs. As such, you may not be used to confronting the feelings that bubble to the surface.
But no matter how uncomfortable you may feel, try your best to really think about your feelings and where they’re coming from. It may be helpful to think of them as something separate from yourself that you can look at objectively. Or you could try mindful meditation to help yourself become even more aware of your emotions.
Delve Into the Past
The next step is tracing back your addiction to why it started in the first place. This part can take a lot of work and is likely best done under the guidance of a trained therapist during rehabilitation counseling sessions.
During your sessions together, you and your counselor may discover that your addiction is partly the result of past trauma or maybe from too lofty of expectations from parents or your spouse.
The truth is, however, that these types of counseling sessions are rarely like they appear in the movies. Addiction is a complex disease that, more often than not, can’t be traced back to a single cause. Thus, once you’ve narrowed down one feeling you’ve been trying to numb there will likely be more. Counseling, then, can be a long and continuous process.
One of the biggest takeaways, though, is learning how to forgive others. Whether it’s an abusive father, a neglectful sibling, or an emotionally distant spouse, you need to be able to forgive others before you can even begin to forgive yourself.
Once you’ve learned to acknowledge and deal with your own emotions and have found a way to forgive the people in your life who have wronged you, you can finally begin the process of forgiving yourself.
Easier said than done, right?
Just like recovering from the physical side of addiction, the mental recovery is based on gradual improvement. The change certainly won’t come overnight, but if you become a little bit more forgiving each day, you’ll be on your way to full recovery.
Start by recognizing and actively eliminating self-chastisement when you don’t deserve it. When it comes to looking back on your actions while under the influence, let yourself acknowledge that you were physically impaired and were incapable of thinking straight.
What’s more, once you realize that addiction is a disease not a choice, you can start reconcile your actions and begin to move on.
The most important realization you can come to in recovery is that no matter what happens, you are imperfect. And that means you’re likely to make mistakes. But guess what? So is everyone else.
So give yourself a break.
Forgive Yourself and Begin to Heal
Now that you have the tools you need to overcome your own feelings of shame, you can continue the process of emotional healing that will lead you to a life free from the clutches of addiction.
And remember, just because you aren’t perfect doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a better life.
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