In light of National Recovery Month, we will focus on two important topics that are not commonly discussed in relation to recovery: forgiveness and the difference between sobriety and recovery.
“National Recovery Month is a national observance held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Now in its 31st year, Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those living in recovery”.
Our team at Quest2Recovery believes in celebrating recovery daily as addiction recovery is based on progress, not perfection. Each new day is one step forward in the right direction.
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
— Lewis B. Smedes
Forgiveness is an important lesson to learn, not only in recovery but also during many stages of life. Forgiveness is an intentional and voluntary process characterized by letting go of any negative energy from our inner selves that was aimed at other individuals and/or aimed towards ourselves. People forgive each other for small and large mistakes all the time. We are taught from a young age to value forgiveness to be successful in our personal and professional relationships. Without forgiveness, we will harvest ill feelings such as resentment, anger, jealousy, and bitterness, negatively affecting our mental health. Letting go and forgiving another individual is not about that individual, but about us. We are letting go and freeing any negativity from our hearts and minds. Forgiveness in recovery can be a bit more complicated as often, we are not only offering forgiveness to others, but we forgive ourselves for our past actions, thoughts, and mistakes.
Dangers of harvesting resentment in recovery
Addiction can be fueled by past abuse, trauma, and hurtful actions by others. It can feel threatening to forgive those who have hurt us, and it can also feel scary to forgive ourselves for our bad decisions. However, harvesting resentment in recovery can be very unhealthy and often lead to relapse. Sobriety usually starts with forgiveness as harboring anger and resentment can lead to anxiety, increased stress levels, and a weakened immune system. When you were using drugs or alcohol, you may have been able to cover up any negative feelings with your addictive substance of choice; however, now that you are in recovery, you cannot use these unhealthy vices as a crutch. As a result, you are more prone to feeling every type of emotion during recovery, both positive and negative.
Resentment and addiction
Individuals struggling with a substance use disorder can often harbor feelings of resentment, guilt, and anger, which can worsen their already present addiction and even lead to a co-occurring mental health addiction such as depression or anxiety. Without forgiveness, there is resentment, blame, guilt, hurt, and grudges. The most common grievances associated with addiction include the following:
- Unrealistic and high expectations of others while holding low expectations for themselves
- Resentful towards other people who are trying to help, give advice, or offer encouragement
- Anger associated with past trauma
- Jealousy of others
- Anger associated with being wrong by others in the past
Forgiveness: an opportunity to begin anew
Forgiving others is not only about letting go of negative feelings, but it also provides the opportunity for growth within new relationships. It can give you a fresh start, a do-over. Of course, you have the option of giving those you forgive second chances, but you also have space to allow for other people to enter your life. A strong support system is necessary for a successful recovery, and by forgiving others, you create space and compassion for new relationships.
The importance of self-forgiveness
Accepting your mistakes, acknowledging your emotions of guilt and shame, learning from your past experiences, sharing your lessons and feelings with others, and making up for your past mistakes through actions are all significant steps in self-forgiveness. Forgiving yourself for your addiction and the associated behaviors that go along with it can greatly impact your recovery. Self-forgiveness can boost your self-esteem, which can result in healthier lifestyle choices and self-care routines. Self-forgiveness can allow you new growth opportunities. Self-forgiveness can allow you space for healing and compassion. Self-forgiveness can allow you to hold new relationships. And most importantly, self-forgiveness can allow you to succeed in recovery.
Have you taken steps to forgive yourself and others? If not, what is holding you back?
Seeking help, forgiveness, and recovery at Quest 2 Recovery
“Our philosophy at Quest 2 Recovery is simple: heal the mind, body, and spirit in a family-like environment. We believe in a holistic approach to treatment, one that caters to each individual’s distinct needs. As a trauma-based treatment program, we believe in resolving the underlying issues that brought the onset of substance use. Our team of clinicians helps each client identify the faulty belief systems stemming from childhood, then psych-educate clients on the symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders to understand and alleviate the power of certain triggers”.