Can I Forgive Myself? Self-Acceptance and Healing During Recovery Programs
While making the decision to get help for your addiction is the first step to living a healthier life, there is another component just as crucial to your treatment as that first “yes”–and that is a true sense of self-acceptance. There are so many complex and difficult emotions that accompany an addict on his or her journey to recovery, and without that ability to look inside yourself and say, “I love me for everything I am, good and bad,” those emotions can easily take over.
These negative emotions–guilt, shame, hatred, fear–they often stem from a deep-seated dislike of self–an issue that can only be truly cured from the inside out, with the help of experienced professionals in recovery programs. Identifying that sense of discomfort you have with pieces of yourself is often difficult, because sometimes, we don’t even know why it is there. Thankfully, alongside a great support system and wide-ranging resources and activities in recovery, you can get to the roots of that discomfort–and reap the wide-ranging benefits of self-acceptance.
What is self-acceptance?
While this question seems like it has an easy answer, truly implementing and incorporating it actively into your life can be difficult. Accepting yourself is not just passively saying, “I am what I am,” or remaining in the same emotional space for fear of growth and change; instead, you must view self-acceptance as an opportunity to not only love the parts of yourself that have caused you pain, but to also focus a lot of attention on the things you appreciate about yourself. While it may be easy to confuse self-acceptance with self-esteem, these two things are quite different: self-esteem has much more to do with feeling great about the things we like about ourselves, or our esteemed qualities; self-acceptance is much bigger than that–it requires an embracing of all our qualities, esteemable and not, good and bad, beautiful and ugly. To begin accepting those things, though, we must first identify them.
Jennifer has been successful in abstaining from alcohol, but the shame she feels toward herself still lingers: she knows that this is something she must continue to address in therapy. Jennifer discovers through a writing activity in a group session that she feels some of this shame because she has lost many close friendships during the course of her struggles, due to an extreme fear of being rejected for her addiction; that same fear makes her feel unworthy, inadequate, and sad. She recognizes that these pieces of her don’t feel good, and she commits to continually address them during treatment and recovery in her individual therapy sessions.
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So how can I accept those things I might not love about myself?
Know, first and foremost, that adhering to a pattern of self-love is difficult for everyone. We are our own toughest critics, and sometimes it simply feels easier to continue to exist in the same way we have gotten used to existing for so long: not forgiving ourselves for past mistakes; not trusting our instincts. I mean, let’s be honest–not having to think about or feel things that pain us doesn’t seem so bad. But, with great work comes great reward, and accepting the aspects of yourself you don’t like as important parts that need to be nurtured is the first step–listening to what they have to say and working with them is next.
While understanding that this is a key component to your treatment might be easy, understanding whymight not. Why should I begin to love the things that I hate about myself? The answer is simple: because they are parts of you. Sure, it will feel strange at first, acknowledging that your flaws and faults are things to be loved, but that’s exactly what unconditional love is. And that’s exactly the type of love that will carry you through difficult times in treatment, recovery, and life–and it’s coming from you. Isn’t that an amazing concept?
Jennifer has already acknowledged her feelings of unworthiness and inadequacy, and understands that instead of pushing them away, she should treat them with the same compassion and respect as enjoyable feelings. In listening to what those emotions tell her and talking about those feelings to her therapist in individual sessions, she realizes that while they’re scary, they are parts of her–and she is beginning to love all of those parts.
Don’t forget to actively appreciate what you love about yourself.
While accepting yourself for all of your faults is important, perhaps the most important piece is to truly appreciate the pieces of yourself that you do love. What do you enjoy doing? What activities always fill your spirit with happiness? Embrace these things, and the parts of you that love them. If you simultaneously feed those parts of you while also giving love to those that you might not, you are giving yourself the gift of self-acceptance.
Maybe you absolutely love hiking. Maybe taking care of and being around animals fills you with joy. Maybe you’re an extremely talented writer or artist. These things are you, they are beautiful, and they should be nurtured actively. Not only will you feel fulfilled in the moments during, but you will be left with a sense of pride and confidence that you made a conscious choice to feed your soul with something that is healthy for your heart, mind, and spirit. The more those positive emotional experiences occur within you, the stronger you will be when feelings of self-loathing, guilt, or shame pop in.
Admitting that treatment is needed is hard, and recognizing that there is a deep disconnect from self that must be fixed is even harder–but both are necessary to your recovery and future. Taking the first step to treatment is the hardest, but a lifetime of self-love is worth it.
Shame is a difficult feeling to cope with, and forgiving yourself can be extremely difficult. With support and treatment at Alta Mira Recovery Programs, you will learn how to love and accept yourself wholeheartedly. We have a team of compassionate, reputable addiction treatment experts in various disciplines who are dedicated to helping people break free from substance abuse. Please contact us today.