The single most important person in your sobriety is you. You have to know yourself as you are now. You need to take care of yourself. You’ve got to love yourself. That means forgiving yourself for the things you did while you were using.
However, that’s not always easy to do. It’s important to remember that forgiveness is not forgoing responsibility for your past actions. Forgiving involves integrating the former you into the real you, the current version, a sober person coming to terms with who they want to be. It’s a part of your story but not the whole thing.
Asking for Forgiveness
Sometimes we hurt someone, and they stay on our minds. The past doesn’t just dissolve because we’re not using it anymore. Most 12-Step programs encourage us to ask forgiveness of those people who were negatively impacted by us while we were using. These people will have various responses to our requests for forgiveness: some good, some not so good.
If you apologize and ask forgiveness of someone who is not interested in further contact with you and is still upset, then you have an important lesson to take away. Nobody owes us forgiveness or communication. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love or hope or a new start. That person isn’t able to give those things to us. That’s okay.
If you feel deeply affected by someone’s rejection, you might have to grapple with it for a while. DO NOT try to connect with them again. You don’t have their consent. If someone expresses their frustration and asks us to leave them alone, then we do just that. They’ve told us their boundary, and we stop short of it. We allow them the space they need. We thank them for their truth; we remain kind and understanding. We’re mature. We have to let them go.
Writing a Letter You Never Send
If the nerve is still raw, we can write a letter that we never send. Tell them everything on our mind, how awful we feel, how much we’ll miss them. How much it hurts to lose them. Thank them for contributing so much to our life. Reaffirm the changes we’re dedicated to making. Don’t send the letter. It’s a way to release what’s been on our minds. It’s good practice for humility and honesty. It can help us realize where we went wrong, so we don’t do that again with someone else in the future.
We can internalize the anger we feel at ourselves for messing up instead of externalizing it and causing another person pain. It’s ours. We take ownership of it. Then we can release it because we forgive ourselves first.
Dealing With Rejection and Vulnerability
In some cases, we’ll still have this person in our life. We might share custody, or there are legal ties we can’t sever immediately. This presents an opportunity to practice respect for boundaries. If someone asks that we don’t bring up certain subjects or call them at certain times, etc., then we politely oblige.
Getting sober isn’t a sudden, clean slate. We have to straddle the line between our past and our present. It’s a balancing act. How we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. Be kind and maintain your dignity. We no longer seek out drama or conflict because we don’t need that to feel something.
Sobriety teaches us to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is all about opening your heart. Keep healthy boundaries; not everyone should have access to every part of you at all times. The other side of vulnerability is adjusting to rejection when it happens. It shouldn’t make us hateful. It should make us better. Better the next time. We can use the way it feels to understand ourselves. Why was this particularly painful? How can we stay calm and gracious when we feel like this?
Journal about the kind of relationships you want to have in the future. What you look for now is a friend or partner. This will help you recognize the qualities you value in other people.
You Are Valuable
Find things about yourself that you do like and cultivate them. Put some distance between yourself and the person you used to be by growing. Become someone you respect. You’ve already done something incredible; you got sober. Use positive self-talk.
Stay committed to your sobriety. Rejection isn’t an excuse to use. You’re going to fail and get rejected sometimes. It’s a part of life to experience grief and loss. What matters is how you react when these things happen. You’re allowed to feel sad or irritated. Have a good cry; it’s natural. Crying is the body’s exhaust valve. Even Jesus wept. Just remember that emotions are temporary. You don’t live in those feelings. You visit. They pass.
How Forgiveness Plays into Recovery
Many extol the high value of forgiveness and never is it more important to cultivate than during recovery. Read on to learn about the role of forgiveness in addiction recovery, including forgiveness of yourself, forgiveness of others, and forgiveness from others.
First and foremost, you will need to learn to forgive yourself as you enter the addiction recovery process. Many who enter the recovery process experience feelings of guilt and shame in recounting their past experiences with addiction. And while it’s important to recognize the impact of the choices you’ve made in the past, you should also recognize the courage and strength you are showing in choosing sobriety. Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but you are already taking steps to rectify them in seeking recovery. You might find that forgiving yourself is even harder than forgiving others, but as you do so, you will gain confidence in your ability to stay sober and will find comfort in a life of sobriety. You will also be reducing feelings of guilt, which can be a major trigger for relapse.
Asking for forgiveness is a significant part of the recovery process. However, not everybody will be ready to forgive you right away. When forgiveness is challenging, we continue to grow. You are no longer the person you used to be, and respecting other people’s boundaries is a part of the new you. You don’t need to be angry or beat yourself up. Accept that now is not the time for forgiveness, and continue to grow in your sobriety. If you can let go and redirect your energy toward healing and knowing yourself, you’re building an unshakable foundation. At Renaissance Ranch, we can set you up with a group of supportive, sober men who’ve gone through what you’re going through right now. Renaissance Ranch won’t just let you fall; we offer a myriad of services to keep you on the road to healing. When you find yourself struggling to navigate forgiveness in sobriety, call Renaissance Ranch at (801) 308-8898.