The importance of forgiveness in recovery

Regardless of how much time has passed since you were harmed or wronged by someone, it can be challenging to genuinely forgive. However, forgiveness is an integral part of addiction recovery, and being able to set aside past hurts is an important aspect of long-term treatment. notes that the person holding a grudge is almost always the person most negatively affected by it, and that not being able to let go of old frustrations can lead to relapses. While it may take significant time and effort, and may require the help of a counselor trained in forgiveness, letting go of past hurts is critical for long-term sobriety.

Understanding forgiveness 

The concept of forgiveness is something easy to grasp at a basic level. People forgive one another for small and large indiscretions all the time. In general, children are taught the value of forgiveness at a young age, which builds a foundation for having productive professional and social lives. However, in the context of addiction, forgiveness can be a bit more complicated. Addiction can be fueled by past abuse, trauma, and hurtful actions by others. It can feel threatening to forgive people who have harmed you in such detrimental ways. Many addicts also struggle to forgive themselves for past bad decisions. Holding onto such resentments can be toxic for a person in recovery, and therefore needs to be addressed with forgiveness.

With that said, forgiveness generally means letting go of anger, frustrations, resentments or other negative feelings in relation to another person. Whether it be a family member, close friend, co-worker or stranger, forgiveness requires releasing any built-up unhealthy emotions that you may have harbored for a person in the past. A person who has been victimized may be understandably hesitant to forgive the painful indiscretions of others. A counselor trained in forgiveness and trauma can help you find empowerment and peace in the process of forgiveness.

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Why forgive? 

Addiction Treatment Magazine points out that there are numerous health benefits to forgiveness. Specifically, the source notes that harboring anger can encourage you to be in a constant state of anxiety, which then can cause numerous physical health problems. Too much stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular issues, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and other potential ailments.

Not being able to forgive others also can take a major emotional toll. A person recovering from addiction must find emotional sobriety, which means reaching an emotional state where you’re not relying on drugs or alcohol to address negative feelings. Therefore, letting go of past hurts in many ways allows you to nip negative emotions in the bud. In the long term, emotional sobriety is a critical aspect of maintaining physical sobriety, which is why forgiveness is so important.

For these reasons, forgiveness allows people in recovery to reach a better state of physical and emotional well-being. This in turn allows those in recovery to better cope with strong emotions and eliminate frustrations from the past that may trigger the urge to relapse.

Forgiving others 

Forgiving others while you’re in recovery is something you do for yourself. Forgiveness gives both parties a second chance to reestablish relationships, let go of negative feelings and move forward in a healthy manner. Alcohol Rehab notes that forgiveness also allows those in recovery to develop compassion, alleviate toxic feelings of bitterness and better enjoy their sobriety.

Remember that recovery is an opportunity to begin a new phase in your life, starting with your sobriety. To truly start anew, it’s imperative to forgive all those about whom you harbor negative emotions, so that no one can stand in the way of your recovery. Similar to how co-occurring disorders must be addressed for addicts to be successful in treatment, buried grudges that may be related to addiction should also be faced to fully recover. Put more plainly, forgiveness allows you to take responsibility for your own sobriety.

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Forgiving yourself 

Holding feelings of anger or frustration against yourself can be even more harmful than begrudging others. Those in recovery are certain to remember some of the lowest points of their addiction, which may raise emotions of guilt, anxiety or shame. In accordance with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s important to make amends with those you have wronged wherever possible in order to better be able to forgive yourself.

While making amends is a big part of forgiving others and yourself, the timing can be somewhat challenging. If you approach others too soon in your recovery, they may hold reservations about forgiving you, but if you wait too long it may seem overdue. Truly forgiving others involves letting go when necessary. Rebuilding bridges with those you care about will take time, and fully forgiving others, as well as them forgiving you, will be an ongoing process.