We used substances because of the pain. Then in our addiction, we inflicted pain on the people we love most in our lives. That made us try to numb the pain more. It is a vicious cycle that is created, and maybe it felt like it would never end. Until we were brave. Even braver than we have ever been. We took the steps to enter recovery. That was the first step toward our healing from the pain.
The power that heals the pain is forgiveness. In our cycles of addiction, there are three levels of forgiveness that we should strive for. Each level will bring more healing, not just to us, but also to those we love.
Ask for Forgiveness from Those We Have Harmed
There is a reason that this is part of the 12-Step process. We must acknowledge all those that we brought harm to when we were using our substances, writing them down. We must not only ask for forgiveness but also do our best to make amends wherever possible. In doing this, we show our Higher Power, those we have harmed, and ourselves that we are truly sorry and are committed to making things right as much as possible.
This process can be very powerful for those that we have harmed. Perhaps they have heard us apologize a thousand times, only to keep doing whatever we did to harm them. Now we are apologizing, showing them physical retribution where possible, and truly asking for their forgiveness. They may not believe us, but this time it really is different.
Those we have harmed may not forgive us. That is their own emotional process, and we need to respect that asking for forgiveness does not mean that we will get it. But the power of this level of asking for forgiveness lies within us. We have done our best to clear our conscience and to demonstrate our sorrow and repentance. We have asked for forgiveness, and for us, that is the empowering part. We only have control over ourselves.
Forgive Those Who Harmed Us
Many of us had people in our lives who harmed us, even before we started drinking or using drugs. For many of us, it was this pain that made us want to use substances. It hurts. It is difficult not to blame or hold grudges, especially for childhood traumas or violence against us.
However, this painful burden will be ours to carry until we choose to forgive and let it go. The person who harmed us probably doesn’t even know about our suffering. Maybe they harmed us because they were abusing substances. We might want to hurt them back, cause them pain in return for ours. Or at least maybe get some justice.
Only justice doesn’t solve anything. Many people who get justice report that the pain is still there. Perhaps there is some solace in knowing the person is in prison or whatever, but our pain will still be there until we take matters into our own hands: forgive.
Forgiveness doesn’t always come overnight. We were hurt, sometimes very, very badly. Often, we did not even do anything wrong, we were just victims. That hurts. But as we move forward in our recovery, and as we ask others to forgive us, we can heal, and at some point, whether it be a simple realization or something we actively work on very hard for a long time, we can forgive those who hurt us. We will know when we have forgiven them because our burden will be gone, and our pain lessened or even gone. This is so powerful.
This level of forgiveness is the hardest. As human beings, we often judge ourselves the most harshly. We can bring ourselves to forgive others, but forgiving ourselves is a whole new level. We hold onto our mistakes more than we hold onto happy memories. We cling to our past as if it is going to protect us or something, when in fact, clinging to our past is often keeping us from being happy.
Recovery provides us with a chance to look deep in the mirror of our souls and learn new ways of looking at ourselves. The process is incredibly difficult, but at some point, we can look at ourselves in that mirror and say “I forgive.” We have to let go of the pain, let go of the blame and guilt, and let go of our past actions. When we have asked for forgiveness from others, there is no more need to hold onto our errors. We can forgive and forget and wipe our slate clean. Because recovery is hard enough without carrying all of our guilt around.
Forgiveness carries the power to heal us from the vicious cycle of pain in active addiction. It makes our burdens lighter, it helps repair relationships and helps us learn to love ourselves again. We can start our forgiveness process when we choose to give ourselves the gift of Making the call today helps lighten our burdens tomorrow. To speak to one of our admissions experts, call (805) 719-7954.