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Self-forgiveness is a radical act when we have gone against not just ourselves but society. Making unpopular moves in a judgmental culture can be daunting. Ultimately, though, we are our own harshest critics. Still, the recovery process requires accepting what was lost, and this can include feelings of having betrayed oneself. This sense of loss or grief can turn into anger toward oneself. That is why it is necessary to practice self-forgiveness as a positive part of the alcohol or drug addiction recovery process.

Self-forgiveness is the release of guilt. It can be a powerful act and is one you can gift yourself. Self-forgiveness offers freedom from resentment, allowing parts of yourself that have been closed off to open back up. It can also be physically renewing. It requires self-compassion: an act in itself that can help you reduce stress because it emphasizes that we are all human and make mistakes. 

Grief and Addiction

Feeling numb, disbelieving, and separated from hope are characteristics of grief. These feelings are common in recovery because addiction is not a planned, purposeful life path. Instead, addiction is compulsive, characterized by a need that can be learned and/or inherited. It takes over life, pushing planning and goals aside to the point that relationships can be damaged and lost, as can any sense of life beyond addiction. 

Managing Grief

When it comes to addiction, it is easy to become fixated on the past and what is lost. This eliminates hope. It is necessary to rethink where you are to understand how you arrived here and to work from this present moment in time. However, trying to imagine a future can feel pointless. Substance use disorder (SUD) often comes with the idea that substance use is the future, but there are possibilities beyond addiction. 

Consider the following stages of grief. Additionally, know that these stages do not necessarily occur in this order.

#1 Shock and Numbness

At this point, you understand that something has not gone the way you hoped, but you are unable to engage in an emotional response. If you look at your life and feel numb, there is no need to judge that response. Simply make a note of it.

#2 Yearning and Searching

Here, you are seeking a reason or motivation for your sense of loss. You want something more or different, but you do not necessarily have a sense of what that entails.

#3 Disorganization and Despair

Instead of fixating on a location for hope, you are stuck not knowing how to make progress or if it is even worth it to try. Again, there is no need to judge this feeling. 

#4 Reorganization and Recovery

In this stage, you are ready to identify and take steps forward. This phase pairs with acceptance. Something has gone wrong, but you know and accept what it is, and there is a path forward from here. A sense of the future exists.

The good news is that if you know where you are, you know where to start. Seeking professional help on this journey will give you a tried and true resource for setting goals and making progress. West Coast Recovery Centers offers private, individualized therapy as well as group models. In addition, WCRC provides a variety of other therapeutic modalities, including art therapy, music therapy, yoga, and meditation. Practicing traditional and alternative therapies together treats you as a whole person. 

Reaching a Point of Self-Forgiveness

In order to dive into self-forgiveness, you need to accept where you are and begin to understand how you reached that point. Addiction can be rooted in childhood, so examining a pattern of past unhealthy family relationships may be the key to your self-forgiveness practice. For example, you may have suffered a lack of stability in childhood.

Alternately, you may need to begin with where you are now. Addiction can lead us to a place we never imagined for ourselves. You may have put aside career or education goals. Friendships or other relationships may have been lost. You may find yourself reflecting on dreams that were set aside, and you may be feeling anger at yourself or others about their loss. Determining what areas of your life require forgiveness means accepting that life is not matching up with what you wanted for yourself. 

Acceptance is the key to moving forward. Recognize where you feel a sense of loss and remind yourself there is still a possibility for the development of those missed targets. Remember that you are a human, and humans make mistakes. Practice self-compassion knowing that punishing yourself through negative thoughts or actions won’t change the past.

Addiction can take you down paths different than those you imagined for yourself. It is not uncommon to face a sense of loss and grief when you begin to recover. Grieving is a multi-layered emotional process that takes time to sort out. It requires acknowledging what it is you feel you’ve missed and can require you to forgive yourself for the choices you made when using substances. Since this process has many facets, it can be beneficial to work with a professional team when determining the parameters of how and why you need to practice self-forgiveness. Having team support will also help you hold yourself accountable for reaching your personal recovery and life goals. To learn more about self-forgiveness and how it can help you move forward in your addiction recovery journey, call West Coast Recovery Centers today at (760) 492-6509.

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