It is almost impossible to emerge from years of devastating and debasing substance abuse sincerely believing that you were able to maintain a solid level of morality and integrity while active in your addiction. Most people do not sober up and initially think to themselves, “Hey, at least I’m still a really good person!” In fact, it is usually quite the contrary. Most individuals will sober up and finally realize how corrupt and iniquitous they have blindly been acting for the past several years of their lives, and feelings of overwhelming guilt, shame, and self-loathing will almost simultaneously take hold. Addiction tends to go hand-in-hand with many unethical behaviors, including lying, cheating, stealing, and completely abandoning any previously upheld set of moral and ethical guidelines. Obtaining drugs and alcohol becomes top priority, and because the substances ingested are mind and mood altering, we find ourselves engaging in behaviors and activities we previously may have avoided at all costs. It is easy to form negative opinions of ourselves based on past actions, and frequently the most difficult person to forgive is the one who has ultimately done the most seemingly irreparable damage – ourselves.
The Healing Powers of Self-Forgiveness
Self-forgiveness is an absolutely crucial element of wholesome recovery and maintainable sobriety. Few things are as fulfilling on the journey of self-healing, and without a deep and sincere forgiveness of self, it is almost impossible to begin releasing resentments towards others. It is important to make the distinction between unfavorable behavior as far as the differences between the personality and the soul. While our personality can alter and change depending on our circumstances and our behaviors, our soul remains a constant, and is not negatively affected by years of morally degrading substance abuse. In order to practice self-forgiveness, we must understand that we are not bad people simply because we engaged in ‘bad behaviors’ and may have totally disregarded our previously practiced set of moralistic values. Once we sober up, we are able to make an honest evaluation of our past behaviors, and differentiate between what we did out of potential character defect and what we did solely because of our mental obsess=ion revolving around substance use. Taking personal responsibility for our actions coupled with a clear and serious intention to better ourselves is the first step in thorough and lasting self-forgiveness.
We Must Forgive Ourselves in Order to Forgive Others
Forgiveness is, in a sense, reclaiming your power. You are releasing the burden of judgment and antipathy, freeing yourself from the stifling weight of resentment. This does not only go for forgiving others – but also forgiving yourself. Try to understand that a dedicated change in personal behavior and a steadfast return to your values and ethical standards confirms that you are not a ‘bad’ person – simply that you have briefly lost your way, and are devoted to thorough change.