So, you have decided to live a life of sobriety by asking help with your addiction problem. That is a step in the right direction to long-term recovery.
However, there is a challenge – you are constantly being haunted by how your substance abuse has affected other people. Your loved ones, family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers may have been hurt by your past actions. No matter how hard you try, it seems you just can’t move on with your life. If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. Millions of people in recovery have had to deal with similar issues.
Here are a few practical steps to get you started on forgiving yourself and winning back the trust of your loved ones:
Avoid Negative Self-Talk
It’s all too easy to get into the habit of negative self-talk. After all, you’ve done so many hurtful things that affected those you care for the most. You see yourself as a failure. You believe you are doomed and unlovable. Over time, this becomes a habit and a chronic pattern of thinking. Negative self-talk drains you of your energy, lowers your self-esteem and leads to indecisiveness. Negative self-talk is more or less your inner voice saying terrible things to you. If someone yells at you: “You good-for-nothing.” Likely, you wouldn’t believe it and may take offense. So, why do you keep talking yourself down after you’ve taken all the necessary steps to stop using and are making amends for your past actions. Mistakes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We all make mistakes. Learning from your mistakes and picking up from where you left off is what makes the difference. Do not listen to that inner voice that keeps harping on past mistakes. Receiving forgiveness from others is not as difficult as it sounds, hence you owe it to yourself to forgive your past and move on.
Letting Go of Guilt and Shame
Feelings of guilt and shame, whether real or imagined, are a fundamental part of the recovery process. True, your actions have negatively impacted your most valued relationships, however, you must recognize that dwelling on past mistakes only makes it difficult to move on with your life. One of the biggest reasons you must learn to forgive yourself is that you did the things you did while being impaired or under the influence. You were being controlled by addictive substances capable of limiting your natural inhibition to engage in destructive habits. Now that you are sober, you have come to recognize that your past mistakes hurt the people you care about. Likely, they also understand that you were not acting within your normal senses.
Try to Right the Wrong
It isn’t just enough to realize that you have hurt others through your action – whether intentional or not. You should take practical steps to make amends. Did you say or do things that hurt your partner and/or children? A starting point will be to apologize sincerely. Next, you may want to correct any problems that resulted from your actions. Did your action result in financial strain for your family? It might be helpful to plan a budget with your spouse and make amends in your spending habits. It is probably is a good idea to keep a journal of the progress you are making each day, no matter how little that progress may seem. If you have made a mistake, it is your responsibility to acknowledge that it happened, deal for the consequences, and accept that you will have to do all that is necessary to prevent it from repeating. By taking responsibility in this manner, you will boost your self‐respect and gain the admiration of others.
Winning the Confidence of Family and Friends May Take a While
When you have let your family and friends down by your actions, it is only normal for feelings of resentment to develop. It can take years to gain back the trust of friends and family, however, it takes just a moment of recklessness to ruin it all.
Your substance abuse has probably resulted in unwanted situations – angry spouses, distraught children, and loss of employment. All of these are sad consequences of your actions. During those times, you may encounter open confrontations or criticism of your actions. This isn’t a sign that you are hated, it is a sign that your actions are unacceptable and that your loved ones want to see you make the needed changes by accepting professional addiction help.
Also, there is the feeling of guilt that comes up when your carefully concealed actions become public knowledge. You may find it difficult to look your loved ones in the eyes and explain what has been going on, perhaps for years.
In these tough times during early recovery, you have to reaffirm to yourself that you are capable of handling whatever consequences that were created because of your addiction. It is also important that you do not allow your past mistakes to affect your self-worth. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is often said that time heals all pains. Sonya Friedman beautifully puts it when she said: “The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.”
After discovering a substance abuse problem in the family, loved ones usually confronted the addicted individual. It must have been a tough experience, but it could have been even worse. Over time, the world will come to forgive you as long as you are taking practical steps to strengthen your personal recovery. Even when you experience a relapse, your family will still love you. Relapse is a normal part of the journey to recovery and it’s not the end of the world. Don’t feel trapped in the thought that you have to immediately make up for “all” the wrongs you’ve done in the past. Once you start the healing process and begin to forgive yourself in recovery, life will take on a new purpose for you.