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Forgiveness and New Beginnings

Demond Tutu—a South African theologian, a human rights activist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—has this to say about forgiveness:

Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.

It is a powerful idea—and it applies to your recovery journey. After all, regaining your sobriety is a new beginning. And a spirit of forgiveness—for others, but also for yourself—can enable a series of new beginnings that can help protect your sobriety.

Let’s take a closer look at the power of forgiveness in recovery.

It Is Important to Forgive Others

Even though you are newly sober and have a lot to be grateful for, there is a good chance you are also carrying around some anger or hurt feelings. Maybe you are angry at family members who never seemed to believe in you or hurt because some of your loved ones didn’t come to your aid when you were struggling with drugs or alcohol. Maybe you are angry at the people you used to hang out with who encouraged and enabled your substance use problem. Maybe a close friend hurt your feelings while trying to show tough love.

No matter the situation that has led to your anger or your bruised feelings, the best thing you can do for your recovery is to find it in your heart to forgive those who have hurt you. Sometimes this might involve some difficult conversations (during which you may well discover you have as much to apologize for as you do to forgive). Other times—and we are thinking here most specifically about folks who may have fueled your substance use disorder—you may be best served by letting go of the relationships as well as the anger.

It Is Important to Forgive Yourself

As upset as you might be with other people, we would not be at all surprised if the person you are most angry at is yourself. Your substance use disorder may have come at a heavy cost in terms of your relationships, your opportunities to succeed at work or school, your physical and mental health, your money, your time, and more. You might be angry with yourself for all of the things you lost and all of the people you disappointed or hurt. 

Forgiving yourself, however, is absolutely essential for your recovery. If you allow yourself to wallow in bad feelings, you—somewhat ironically—put yourself at risk of a relapse. When you forgive yourself, you are better able to leave the past in the past as you focus on the present and build a better future.

Forgiving Can Be Easier Said Than Done; Therapy Can Help

You might wholly agree with us that forgiveness is a great thing. You might also think that it is absolutely impossible to put into practice.

Obviously, it would be wonderful if you could simply decide to forgive someone or yourself, and that would be that. But that is seldom how things shake out. Forgiveness can take work, dedication, and patience—and often it is made more possible by therapy. Doing the work in therapy can help you move toward your goals regarding forgiveness while helping you maintain your sobriety.

Do You Need to Forget When You Forgive?

One more important note: While you have probably heard the phrase “forgive and forget,” that is not necessarily what we are advocating for here. Forgiveness is a powerful practice in recovery, but it can also be important to remember the situations, people, and temptations that led to the development of your substance use disorder. You don’t want to obsess over such things, of course, but you also don’t want to return to the people and things that fired up your substance use in the first place.

We Are Here to Help You Get Sober

When a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it can seem like their whole world is falling apart—and there is no way to put it all back together.

Fortunately, however, there is a way to reclaim your sobriety and rebuild your life. French Creek Recovery Center—located in Meadville, Pennsylvania—provides personalized treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. The process starts with medically supervised detoxification in a safe, temptation-free environment. Detox is followed by a rehabilitation program that includes individual and group therapy as you learn strategies for maintaining your sobriety over time. And as your time in residential treatment comes to an end, we provide a continuum of care that ensures you have the support and resources you need as your recovery journey gets started.

You might be hesitant to get the help you need for any number of reasons. We believe, however, that in the end you won’t be able to forgive yourself if you don’t take the opportunity to regain sobriety and your life.