A part of addiction recovery
Addicts and alcoholics in early recovery experience the healing and freedom of forgiveness.
During active addiction, alcoholics may have heard about forgiveness, and they thought it was great for those who needed it. However, one of their goals in life was to avoid needing it. They felt like the person who said, “I’d admit my faults if I had any!”
In recovery, the forgiveness they used to admire in others began to knock at their spiritual doorstep. They discovered many new things about forgiveness for themselves.
Gradually, as the alcoholics progress in their recovery, a painful truth becomes clear: to be human needs forgiveness. Some of them rebelled by saying, “But I don’t deserve forgiveness.”
In twelve-step fellowships, or while talking to an addiction therapist, the addict realises that forgiveness is never earned or deserved – it is freely given. Forgiveness is for giving. And, paradoxically, they have to do something wrong to have this worthwhile experience.
But the task of forgiving oneself remained monumental. The addict’s self-esteem was at its lowest. Their spiritual resources were still new. They kept going to twelve-step meetings and began to see themselves in others. They learned they had not committed any unusual wrongs.
They heard others describe their pasts – just as marred and irresponsible as their own – with a sense of peace and serenity. They were no longer stooped over with the burden of guilt; they had their heads up.
When they asked how this could be, they were told it could come about by letting go of the grudge they held against themselves. Those who were religious sought this forgiveness or letting go, through a church, a temple or a synagogue.
When they did not find instant relief, some of them felt it was too difficult, and they would never be able to do it. “There’s got to be something wrong with me,” or, “It worked for them, but not for me,” were common statements.
Then they were reminded of the nature of spirituality – it is a process more than an event. They learnt to be “willing to grow along (forgiveness) lines.” They would grow into being forgiven.
They also discovered that, perhaps, the most challenging part was accepting forgiveness from others.
As the alcoholics work on their recovery, they discover the burden of guilt to lighten. They found relief. Some found it more quickly than others. But it came. They began to see themselves as human and needed forgiveness, and the war within became stilled. They let go. The past was at rest.
Accepting themselves, as they are, as imperfect human beings, has been of central importance in their addiction recovery. For some, this proves to be a real challenge until they let go absolutely.
Although they are free of their bad feelings about their past behaviour, grandiosity often overcomes them with the attitude that they are different.
They are saying that they need forgiveness for their past, but they will never need it again because they will change into someone who does not need it.
The addict tends to make self-acceptance conditional. They reason, they will accept themselves only if they are as they think they should be. And they are doomed to self-condemnation. Their perfectionism keeps them thinking that they are never good enough.
Alcoholics are their own worst judges. If they are going to accept themselves, they need to accept themselves totally and unconditionally.
They need to befriend those aspects they have so hated and condemned. This way, they can describe their past with their heads held high and a sense of peace inside.
One quality of forgiveness many recovering alcoholics discover is that it unites them with all of humanity. They are united in their need to b forgiven and in their need to be forgiving.