06 Jul How Do I Forgive Myself After Addiction?
The behaviors associated with addiction often lead to guilt, shame, and regret. You may even have shame surrounding your addiction itself. Simply becoming sober does not make the guilt, shame, and regret disappear. You will need to learn to forgive yourself to heal from that level of pain. Self-forgiveness can be one of the most difficult components of recovery for any man. How do you forgive yourself after addiction?
Is Self-Forgiveness Necessary in Healing?
The healing process includes the reduction of negative emotions, especially those that are aimed at yourself. Reducing negative emotions helps to prevent the further use of drugs or alcohol, which are often used to numb or escape these negative emotions.
When you work to forgive others and receive forgiveness from others, you can significantly reduce these negative emotions, but harboring negative emotions toward yourself puts you at significant risk of relapse. To truly heal from addiction, self-forgiveness is necessary.
How Do I Learn to Forgive Myself?
Forgiving yourself typically takes time; the process is not magical or immediate. The pain and shame did not accrue overnight, nor will it go away overnight. Having patience is the first key to learning to forgive yourself.
In addition to being patient, you will need to learn to truly be responsible and accountable to yourself for everything that you have done. Once you have taken accountability for your actions, you will need to learn to accept yourself for who you are, regardless of what you have done. Learning to show compassion to yourself is another part of self-forgiveness. All of these steps are not simply one-time events. They must be repeated over and over throughout your life to continually practice self-forgiveness.
Learning the Meaning of Accountability
Seeking any type of forgiveness requires a measure of accountability, but self-forgiveness requires you to look in the mirror and be accountable to the person looking back at you. Sometimes, that is even more difficult than being accountable to other people. While you may fear disappointing others or letting other people down, owning up to your own actions for your own benefit can leave you feeling even rawer and more exposed. There is no hiding in the mirror.
Practicing the Art of Self-Acceptance
During treatment for addiction, you learn to make amends and seek the forgiveness of others as part of the healing process. Somehow, this can seem easier than forgiving yourself. In a 2017 study published by the National Library of Medicine, the authors differentiated between forgiveness of others and forgiveness of self by the addition of the element of self-acceptance, including a “commitment to change.”
Accepting yourself as you are is one of the biggest challenges that you can face. In active addiction, you lived in shame, blame, and guilt–some of which may have even come from external sources. All of these negative judgments about your behaviors only worsened how you viewed yourself.
Self-acceptance is learning to see yourself exactly as you are and to accept yourself without these judgments. When you find things in your behaviors that you do not like, you have the power to change them, but you do not need to shame or blame yourself for them. Simply be accountable and make the changes to become who you want to be.
How Do I Practice Self-Compassion?
Compassion is a beautiful word that describes the motivation you feel to relieve another’s suffering. Compassion is motivated by love, by altruism, and by understanding. When you apply that love and motivation toward yourself, you empower yourself to relieve all of your suffering and open yourself to an unlimited amount of healing.
One of the easiest ways to invoke self-compassion is to think about how you would treat your loved ones–how you would love them, defend them, and do anything for them. Self-compassion is including yourself in that list, being willing to treat yourself like you would treat the people you love the most. Instead of putting yourself last on the list, put yourself first. Self-compassion is an outward expression of self-love.
The Benefits of Finding Self-Forgiveness
When you are able to forgive yourself, you release all of those negative emotions and allow yourself to truly heal from all the blame, shame, and guilt you or others put on yourself. This healing helps prevent relapse and helps you maintain your mental wellness as well as your recovery. Forgiving yourself frees up all of that negative energy that was weighing you down during active addiction and helps you to move forward mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.