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The Essential Role of Self-Forgiveness in Addiction Recovery

Many recovering addicts have a much easier time accepting and forgiving others than they do themselves. Once you are working on your sobriety goals, you may find yourself with a host of unfamiliar new emotions to work through, not least of which are anger, shame or resentment surrounding the harm you did to yourself in active addiction.

Why You Need to Forgive Yourself

When your addiction controlled your life, you probably did some things you’re not proud of today. You may have lied, cheated or stolen to maintain your reliance on your substance of use. Maybe you dropped out of school or got fired from your job because you couldn’t keep it all together. Perhaps you got arrested for a DUI or something else related to your substance abuse. Or, you prioritized drug use or drinking to the point that you sabotaged your relationships with friends and family members.

Now that you’re sober, it can be painful to look back on these self-destructive behaviors and realize that you can’t go back and undo the mistakes in your past. However, it’s essential for your healing to let go of negativity toward who you used to be. Although you shouldn’t try to bury or erase your history, dwelling in the past leaves you incapable of making progress toward your future.

Being an addict doesn’t make you “less than” anyone else. You’re not a bad, weak or immoral person; you’re a person with a disease, and you deserve a chance to get better. Instead of viewing yourself through the lens of things you have done wrong, you should consider all the progress you’ve made in recovery so far, and the steps you have taken toward shaping yourself into a better person. Continually punishing yourself isn’t merely unproductive, but can also set you up for a relapse.

Ways to Forgive Yourself

One constructive way to begin to work through your feelings is to keep a journal of your emotions from day to day. Writing is not only therapeutic, but also helps you see the progress you’ve made. Since you never have to share your journal with anyone else, it becomes a safe space for you to express your feelings with complete honesty.

In addiction, you likely learned to hide your feelings, both by masking them with drugs and alcohol and by being secretive and evasive with others. Now that you’re sober, it can also be tremendously beneficial to unburden yourself by talking with someone else. Whether you have a therapist or counselor you see regularly, or a sponsor or friend you feel comfortable confiding in, one-on-one openness can help you learn to practice honesty and give you a new perspective on life.

It’s also helpful to establish a habit of recognizing all the things you’ve done right. At the end of each day, review what you accomplished and give yourself a pat on the back for things that went well. If nothing else, at least you resisted the temptation to fall back into substance abuse for another day. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s OK. You are doing your best to change your life for the better and form new, healthy relationships with the people you love. You can’t go back and change your past, but if you strive to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, you will be able to make better decisions for your future.

Renew Yourself at Vista Taos

Vista Taos is a healing sanctuary for adults who need to recover from substance use disorders without judgment or shame. At our nationally accredited, family-owned addiction treatment center, we offer holistic therapy for a range of substance dependency, and we provide the foundation for healing you mentally, physically and spiritually. Contact us today to learn more about getting started.

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