Whether it’s because of shame, embarrassment or fear, sometimes it’s harder to forgive ourselves than to forgive others.
Forgiving yourself is a crucial step toward recovery from substance use disorder. When we forgive ourselves for our past mistakes, no matter how severe, it enables us to begin the steps of healing and moving on.
Practicing self-forgiveness takes time and effort. If you’re ready to begin, here are steps you can take to begin familiarizing yourself with self-forgiveness and start practicing it in your own recovery from addiction.
The value of self-forgiveness in recovery from substance use disorder
Addiction often involves a vicious cycle of losing control and committing acts you don’t want to, or doing things you know you shouldn’t be doing, but can’t seem to stop. This cycle can lead to many confusing emotions, including intense guilt and shame.
When you practice self-forgiveness, you give yourself grace to let go of those negative emotions and forgive yourself for whatever choices you made in your past.
4 tips for practicing self-forgiveness
Forgiving yourself for the past requires patience; it won’t happen overnight. Here are four suggestions for how to begin to move forward, grow and heal.
- Talk about your experience
Sharing your story and talking about your experience with other people can lead to greater healing. This might be uncomfortable if you wish to avoid wallowing in the past or revisiting painful memories, but keeping your mistakes, experiences and choices bottled up can cause emotional turmoil. When your history is brought to light, you can free yourself from the hold those memories may have on you.
Recovery groups, meetings with your counselor and even trusted family or friends can provide you with a safe space to open up. Sharing your story with others allows them to validate that despite any past mistakes, you are worthy of forgiveness and another chance to choose a different path going forward.
Once you realize your choices in the past don’t define who you are in the future, you can begin to practice self-forgiveness and move toward renewal and freedom.
- Examine your conscience
Taking a look at your choices can help you practice self-awareness and show you the areas needing more attention or determined care. Perhaps you’re in the habit of making the same mistake again and again and it’s hindering your progress. By becoming more aware of your actions, you will become more in tune with yourself in the moment and more in control of making or avoiding certain choices.
In turn, this self-awareness helps with self-forgiveness. Acknowledge the strong effort you’re putting into changing your life, and recognize that each step (whether forward, backward or lateral) is part of your journey. Hopefully, doing so will allow you to be more merciful with yourself when examining your mistakes.
- Challenge your inner critic
If you’re like many other people suffering from substance use disorder or in the early stages of recovery, you might hold negative beliefs about yourself, such as, “You’ll never be able to change your life.”
The goal is to challenge this voice in your head and make treating yourself with kindness and compassion a habit. You strip your self-critic of its power when you contradict your negative inner voice with uplifting and encouraging thoughts.
- Rebuild relationships
Have you lost valued relationships while struggling with addiction? Perhaps loved ones needed to set boundaries and maintain distance to protect themselves from hurt, no matter how much they care about you. Ideally, as you progress in your recovery journey, you’ll be able to rebuild those relationships.
Reaching out to people you may have hurt to make amends might help you practice self-forgiveness. Instead of mourning their loss, you can take action and ask for forgiveness as you, too, practice forgiving yourself.
Reach out to Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling for additional help
At first, self-forgiveness might not come naturally. Forgiving yourself takes time and practice, as well as an understanding of what it means to let go of those emotions of shame and guilt. While you can begin to practice self-forgiveness during recovery on your own, having professional guidance is incredibly helpful.
If you are seeking additional help with self-forgiveness, or any aspect of addiction recovery, our counselors at Mazzitti & Sullivan are here to help. Call 1-800-809-2925 or visit our website for more information.