How to Forgive Yourself and Others in Recovery
by Doug Sutherland
When we first get into recovery some of the hardest work we will have to do is learning to be able to forgive ourselves for letting ourselves and others down. This includes the idea of self-love and self-care which can be hard to get your head around when many of us don’t even like oursleves very much because of our behaviours when in active addiction or due to low self esteem.
In order to be able to do this sucessfully, we first need to take responsibility for what is ours, what we did and why we did it, and what is not our responsibility.
This can be a difficult process to go through. Think of a specific event or incident which causes you discomfort then answer the questions below with this incident in mind. When answering them, think about your emotional state at the time. Were you angry, hurt, scared or were you feeling weak and vulnerable? How did you behave and react?
What part did you play in creating this?
Did you contributed to your own sense of victimhood?
Were there moments that you refused to listen to your own internal warnings?
How did you dismiss your feelings?
How were you dishonest with yourself?
Did you undervalue yourself?
Were you fearful that if you spoke up, people might get angry or reject you?
Did you give away your power?
Forgiving Your Enemy Exercise
In recovery you may be encouraged to “pray for your enemies” or anyone who may have harmed or hurt you. This may seem like a strange idea, and initially you may have a powerful negative response to this idea.
So why would you be encouraged to do this? What would be the benefits to you if you did this and how would you do it?
If we think about ourselves and our behaviours while in addiction, how do you think it would feel if you knew that someone had forgiven you for some of the things your not very proud of?
Forgiving isn’t about saying that the behaviour was ok, or accepting excuses for the way people may have treated us and then letting them do it again and again.
We will need to practice Self-Care, this may include setting boundaries with people and saying no in order to protect ourselves from future hurt.
What it is about is recognising that although this person may have hurt you, if you hold on to this hurt, you are the one who is in pain not them. By forgiving those who have hurt us the first thing that happens is we no longer need to carry that hurt within ourselves.
Answer the questions below while trying to think about what you might need to do in order to be able to forgive others. (Try and be specific about the feelings.)
What hurts you the most, explain why?
Have you hurt anyone one who loves you?
If you have hurt someone who loves you, how does it feel knowing this?
How do you think it would feel if this person forgave you?
Do you believe you deserve their forgiveness?
If the idea of forgiveness goes againt your beleifs about who you are and whether you see forgiving someone as a weakness or a strength ask yourself these questions. The answers may surprise you.
If you had to describe love, what would you say?
Apart from romantic relationships, who do you love?
Who are you more like, your mother or father?
Who do you wish you were more like and why?
Have you been a good Son/Daughter, friend or partner?
Do you wish you’d been better?
Nurturing the ability to forgive others takes courage, trust in self and the understanding that forgiveness is not about surrendering our own personal power but rather it’s about reclaiming it. We get to choose who, how and when to forgive those who have hurt us. With the knowledge that if we do this honestly and sincerely we are the ones who will benefit first.
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