Learning to Forgive Yourself

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Do you have a hard time forgiving yourself? Are you struggling with your inner critic even after undergoing detox and treatment for addiction? Self-forgiveness presents a challenge to many people who are recovering from addiction. You are not alone in this feeling. There are practices to help you forgive yourself to achieve holistic wellness.

The Mind’s Tendency to Live in the Past

Even when without the influence of addiction, it can be hard to move beyond past mistakes. Drugs and alcohol may have led you to lie, cheat, steal, or act aggressively towards family and friends. Many addicted individuals unfortunately become verbally and emotionally abusive to the people they love.

If you understand how hurtful these past behaviors were, understand also that you were under the harmful influence of drugs and alcohol and you are not that person anymore. It can be easy to let guilt, shame, and regret take over and isolate yourself because of the damage they may have caused. Addiction, regret about the past, and isolation form a vicious cycle that might seem hard to break.

Detox Your Past in the Recovery Community

One way to stop the tendency of reliving the past during recovery is to reveal what your past was like during 12-step meetings. They are designed to be a time of honesty and self-reflection with a support network. Honesty must come before self-forgiveness. You need to come to terms with reality before psychologically detoxing. Talking about emotional pain and regrets can be like bringing beams of light into the dark corners of your past. The only way to dispel shame is also to let it out in the open through honest communication.

At a structured 12-step meeting, you can rest assured that there is a recovery community willing to listen. Everyone has past regrets and shame, which is why you support each other. Expressing regrets is a way to reckon with the past, but the more important step is moving beyond it.

Being in a recovery community and hearing similar experiences can alleviate the negative effects of isolation. There are many ways you can get involved, such as showing compassion to others’ needs or being of service to others in small ways. The 12-step fellowship is a communal space where everyone matters. You can help do small tasks such as refill coffee for others or put chairs away after meetings. Community service can move you past a sense of guilt and help you regain a sense of agency for positive change.

Resentment and Self-Forgiveness

The 12-step model centers around forgiveness for your recovery journey. For example, steps 8 and 9 ask participants to become willing to make amends to people who they have harmed. Being able to practice this can remove a sense of self-resentment. Researchers find that facilitating forgiveness in addiction treatment can be effective in preventing relapses. Forgiveness of others and yourself can be positive to recovery because it neutralizes negative emotions, which are known triggers for relapses.

Self-forgiveness involves genuine acknowledgment of and accountability for wrong-doing, which includes a key component of self-acceptance. These behavioral shifts may set off motivational changes that are good for self-care. Taken together, these actions help relinquish negative emotions. To a certain extent, we as humans need to practice self-forgiveness with accountability. It is good for our overall health.

Practical Suggestions for Self-Forgiveness During Recovery

If you truly want to find freedom from not just the influences of drugs and alcohol, but from your feelings of guilt and shame from past mistakes, then you need to practice self-forgiveness regularly. Below are a few practical suggestions:

  • Be aware of moments when your mind wanders to a place of guilt and shame. Remind yourself that the past no longer defines you. Refocus on current recovery tasks, such as healthy daily routines and physical exercises.
  • Commit to honesty with your recovery community, especially people in your 12-step meetings. Share what you are struggling with emotionally, which can shed light on that dark corner. Doing so is a healing process. Do not keep your emotions bottled up.
  • Fully commit to the recovery process. Committing to sobriety means that you are far removed from the pull of addiction. When past guilt comes back and haunts you again, tell it that you are committed to sobriety. The present defines you, not the past.
  • Have patience with your recovery progress, because patience is both a cause and a symptom of self-forgiveness. Do your best to celebrate small victories. Affirm the good in yourself and others.