One of the hardest and most deserving gifts one can give themselves during their recovery is forgiveness. Regret can be one of the most overwhelming emotions when someone first becomes sober. Those first few weeks or months of sobriety are when one can finally process the gravity of their previous choices and decisions and how it might have affected their family, friends, career, or their entire life trajectory. There are a lot of “if only I did this or didn’t do this” or “why did I do that to myself or someone I loved?” Let us be real, people in active addiction often make stupid decisions that they would not normally make if they were not in that position to begin with.
So, what now? These choices were made, and the frustration, guilt and regret are setting in. At some point in our life, maybe when we did not have the right tools, we became accustomed to the wrong tools and, as a result, we may have acted in ways we wish we had not. The good news is that someone who is in recovery has those tools now or is actively working on gaining them this very moment! Having these new tools means new opportunities to thrive and live out relationships as we truly desire. People often tend to hold themselves to such high and strict standards that they find no reason or justification to forgive themselves.
AA or NA might not work for all of us, but it works for some of us. The 9th step in the 12-step process is making direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. I asked one of our awesome counselors, Matt Peterson, who is in recovery himself, what forgiving himself and others means to him. He said, “So, the 9th step, making amends to those who I’ve harmed, was a powerful step for me. Before the amends process, I walked around in constant fear. I had hurt, stolen from, and lied to so many people that I was scared to be in public. Righting my wrongs has allowed me to conquer that fear and mend relationships that I cherish today.”
Those that truly love you will be happy to see you well, and most likely forgive you and welcome you back into their lives. There will always be those that might not forgive you, and that is truly on them. Dr. Suess might have said it best, “those who matter, don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.” There is truth in that.
A bit more insight about forgiveness from another person in recovery,
“I truly believe that my recovery is stronger today because I was finally able to forgive myself for everything I did throughout my active addiction. Not wanting to ever put my loved ones through that again, motivates me so much.”
Be aware of your inner dialogue. You may not even realize how negative your inner dialogue is, which is why it helps to become more aware of what you are telling yourself. Speaking truth to yourself is a large part of the process of forgiving yourself. Also, do not forget to give yourself credit. You did not come this far, to only come this far. The hardest part is over, and the best is, honestly, yet to come.