The first time we hear about having to forgive people when we get sober, we’re instantly turned off by the idea. For addicts and alcoholics, the relationship with resentments is an intimate one. Resentment is a reason to drink, a reason to use, to stay angry, and to keep a distance from others. Having to let go of a resentment and face the emotions beneath it is intimidating. We could never admit that we have been hurt and disappointed. Yet, one relationship and one amends at a time we learn how to forgive those who have hurt us, and be forgiven by those we have hurt.
A majority of the time, men in recovery forget about one person they need to have a talk about forgiveness with: themselves.
Self-hatred and self-loathing come with addiction. We hate ourselves for causing so much damage to our bodies, our minds, our lives, and the lives of those around is. Guilt and shame take over. Rather than be present and proud of ourselves for finally choosing to get sober, we hate on ourselves for what we didn’t do, how we didn’t act. Being stuck in the past makes us unable to see the profound miracle of being sober in this very exact moment. Instead, it keeps us focused on the past. Staying stuck in the past not only doesn’t solve the past, it doesn’t let us move forward. Nothing changes until we forgive ourselves.
Forgiveness is a process. It begins with becoming aware of what it is you hold against yourself or another person. After coming to realize the nature of your resentment, you have to let it out. Either through journaling, talking to a sponsor or trusted recovery peer, or a counselor, your feelings about the situation must be communicated. Next, you have to ask yourself for your own forgiveness. It might sound weird but it is a very spiritual and life changing experience. Like with other amends, you ask yourself what can be done to try and right the wrongs, fix what is fixable, and make a commitment for the future. Getting and staying sober is one of the greatest “living amends” you’ll ever make to yourself. Self-love and self-forgiveness, however, will carry you through your sobriety.