Forgiveness and Recovery

Forgiveness and Recovery: Why Does It Matter?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Addiction might, at first sense, have nothing to do with forgiveness. The truth is, though, that the complicated factors that lead to dependence often do include the actions of others, intentional or otherwise. Forgiving those who have wronged you is a surprising key to recovery that is often missed. Those people include yourself.

Forgiveness and Mental Health

Addiction is tangled up with mental and physical health issues, and one study shows that 62% of American adults think they need to be more forgiving.

Holding a grudge, regardless of how justified you may think you are, increases your risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes. It affects your immune system, how you feel pain, your blood pressure and, of course, your sleep.

Because it affects your stress levels, refusing to forgive and let go can result in a relapse; you might not realize your anger is the root cause, but it often is.

Another study showed that forgiveness therapy reduced risk of relapse and increased gratitude in patients in a drug rehabilitation center in the Philippines, demonstrating a very direct link between forgiving those who have wronged you and recovery.

Forgiving Yourself

The first, and most important, step is to forgive yourself. Many people struggling with addiction are angry with themselves for falling into dependence in the first place and this can cause a vicious cycle which makes recovery hard, or even impossible.

You may also be angry with yourself for behaviors that resulted from your addiction, such as pushing people away, losing a job, or losing a relationship. It’s easy to beat yourself up about these things, and much harder to acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, sometimes terrible ones, and that you can only strive for better, not perfect. It’s also worth realizing that not every failure in life is your fault. Holding a grudge against yourself for something you didn’t even do is worse in some ways, but can be easier to deal with once you recognize the fact.

Forgiving Others

Remember that you are not forgiving others for their benefit. Forgiveness does not mean you have to let a toxic, destructive influence back into your life, rather it is about accepting and dealing with the anger.

With some relationships, you can indeed forgive and move on, building a new relationship as you move into sobriety. A therapist can help you establish which relationships are worth repairing and which should be best left in the past. However, if you refuse to forgive people, you are letting them get in between you and sobriety.

It’s particularly important to identify and forgive those who might have caused your problems in the first place. This helps you take control and responsibility and understand the influences that might have led you to this place, so that you can set them aside.

While some people are naturally more forgiving than others, it’s possible to learn to be more forgiving. Forgiveness therapy can help you identify grudges you are holding and let go of them in a healthy way. It’s important to forgive at a deep level; too many people pay lip service to forgiveness, either because they feel they have no choice or because they feel obligated to do so. This way you can move on with the relationship, even if you never get an apology.

If you can’t talk to the person or if it is unsafe or undesirable to contact them (for example if they abused you), you can write down your thoughts on forgiving them, or talk to a trusted friend about it.

Forgiveness is an important part of recovery. Holding on to anger and grudges is bad for your mental and physical health, increasing stressors that can lead you to relapse. To find out more and get the help you need, contact First Steps Recovery for addiction treatment in Fresno, California, at 844-489-0836.

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