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forgivenessForgiveness is a tricky word in the recovery lexicon. It refers to many things, but mostly it is an individual experience of self-forgiveness and forgiveness towards others. This may relate to past trauma or harm they caused or was done to themselves by their own hand or someone else. Loved ones are often caught in the crossfire of addiction and forgotten about until a person enters rehab and realizes the destructive path they were on left everyone in their wake. It may be hard for loved ones to accept someone’s apology who harmed them while addicted to substances, but it can be healing for everyone to work towards that goal.


Why Forgiveness is Hard

People with addiction hurt loved ones with behavior and words all the time. Until they are clean and sober, they may not even see how they harmed them. Mental and emotional suffering make life difficult for loved ones who feel alone. Addiction can leave deep wounds that will never heal, except for the power of forgiveness. Getting past some difficult barriers can be important in the process. If a loved one is in early recovery, they will recognize and accept the hurt caused but must be ready to receive it. It may not be a top priority for them now but eventually they may agree to let go and move forward.


Let it Begin (Slowly)

Forgive and forget is not the best way to describe forgiveness in recovery. People are not apt to forget the harmful ways people behave who have an addiction. Hurt and pain run far deeper than people realize. Where it begins is very slowly and methodically. One step at a time, one apology at a time. Trust has to be rebuilt, as well. Forgiveness of a person who was once addicted to drugs and alcohol means taking inventory of what has happened. It means keeping in mind a loved one’s words and actions that occurred then may not happen again but the pain from those actions lingers. A good starting place is family therapy, to begin the slow, long work of making the way back around to healing again. Forgiveness is key to learning how to love the person in recovery for who they are, warts and all. 


Pathways of Healing

Pouring one’s heart and soul into a person can feel challenging when they are not able to meet those needs in a certain way. Loved ones may not know how to start accepting their apologies. The key is to think about the ways that are most helpful now, today, and work on those for themselves. There is no ability to control the person with addiction but, with some effort and fortitude, a person can make some progress toward healing. It helps to give it time and not force it. It also helps to release pent up anger in some way (therapy, family therapy work, meditation or mindfulness, etc). If a relationship is not possible going forward, work on forgiving anyway, but from a safe distance. This can be helpful for those who are not able to reconnect with the loved one or need safe space from them to do their own work. Take the time and energy to invest in doing what helps, without forcing an outcome. Peace can come when everyone moves forward in their own time and learns to accept what they can, where they are, to be in a healthier place in recovery.


Recovery is not easy. It is a lot of hard work and nose to the grindstone. If you are ready to put in the hard work, to learn how to forgive others and offer it to those harmed by your addiction, we can help. Call us to find out how to get started: 1-855-483-7800