Can there be forgiveness in alcohol and drug recovery?

There are many different alcohol and drug recovery programs that address substance use and in almost all of them forgiveness is an important part of the process. Forgiveness in alcohol and drug “recovery” is as relevant as all other aspects, because if you do not learn to forgive yourself and others, you may  have trouble moving forward in a healthy way.

During your time of substance use, you no doubt were responsible for pain and suffering by your actions and words. The relationships around you may have been damaged, you may have brought financial distress to your family and friends, your work relationships were hindered, not to mention the physical, psychological and emotional damage you inflicted upon yourself.

Perhaps there are feelings of resentment that you may be harboring toward your family and friends for not responding to you the way you wanted or thought they should have.  If you lost your job, your home, or your family as a result of your alcohol and/or drug use, you could have some unresolved feelings that need to be addressed. Holding onto feelings of resentment, guilt, shame and hurt can chain you to a troubled past, and prevent you from moving forward. 

Although religions speak of forgiveness, forgiveness is really an emotional and mental state. You must make a conscious effort to forgive. This is not always easy to do, but it can always be done.  Holding a grudge against someone for something they have done to you, or something you think they have done against you, does not help you to change your life. If anything, holding a grudge and resentment can fester inside of you and provide you with yet another excuse to continue substance use . Letting go of your bitterness can help you get on with your life.

Once you decide to forgive and let go of the resentment, it is important that you let go of the checklist in your head of all the people who have wronged you – and whom you have wronged. Holding onto the list only creates an obstacle to your progress. You now have a clean slate to move forward and focus on your new life.

St. Jude Retreats offers a six week cognitive behavioral education program that teaches guests to use self awareness and self change to reevaluate their choices and decisions and to create habits and behaviors that are positive and purposeful. During the six week program, our guests learn that forgiving themselves and others can help eliminate the excuses to remain mired in self-pity and substance use; thus allowing guests to move forward with their life.