5 Strategies for Embracing Self-Forgiveness in Recovery

Guilt is one of the most destructive emotions for those recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction. Feeling regretful over past behaviors during addiction can lead to deep self-loathing, making recovery more difficult and perhaps even derailing the process completely.

Self-forgiveness is a crucial step in the recovery journey. Rather than dwell on past mistakes, you should focus on what’s required to attain sobriety. Here are five strategies to help you let go of guilt during recovery and embrace a more compassionate self-view.

1. Understand that Addiction is an Illness

Just as you would not blame an individual for a physical illness like heart disease or cancer, neither is it appropriate to blame someone for their alcohol or a drug addiction. Often there are hereditary or environmental conditions that contribute to an addiction. In fact, research has shown repeatedly that children of alcoholic or drug-addicted parents often grow up to have addictions of their own.

Better outcomes occur when people seek treatment for their illness—and that holds true whether you have a physical illness or a substance abuse addiction. In the latter situation, undergoing treatment at a clinically driven wellness retreat offers the best chance for success. When you realize that seeking help from highly trained and experienced professionals is essential to your recovery, you’ll be more likely to forgive yourself for an addiction that was too powerful to defeat alone.

2. Apologize to Those You’ve Hurt

Those in recovery often feel guilty because of the pain and suffering they inflicted upon others while they were addicted to drugs or alcohol. By apologizing, you’re letting others know that you take full responsibility for your past behavior. The apology should be sincere and backed by your pledge to take corrective action to re-earn the individual’s trust.

Making amends in recovery is typically part of the 12-part programs that help people overcome their addictions—and there’s good reason for that. Saying you’re sorry often is cathartic in your recovery. It helps ease the burden of guilt, especially if the recipient accepts the apology. When the people you have wronged forgive you, you’re much more likely to forgive yourself.

There may be people you’ve hurt who won’t accept your apology, but that’s a risk worth taking. Putting yourself out there by apologizing shows your willingness to be held accountable for your actions, and there’s tremendous value in that.

3. Keep Family and Friends Close

Those who are burdened by guilt may feel unworthy of being around the people they’ve let down through their actions. Instead of shutting these people out, you should accept their love and friendship. Your family and friends know who you are. These are the people who are most likely to help motivate you toward self-healing in your addiction recovery. They don’t define you by your addiction, and they’ll continue to remind you of your value and self-worth.

4. Practice Mindfulness

As we’ve discussed in previous blog posts, mindfulness means living in the present moment, not dwelling on the past or being worried about the future. Being mindful means taking one day at a time and doing your best for that day. Using that approach, you will more likely be able to set negative emotions aside and concentrate on what you must do to achieve a successful recovery.

When guilt and anxiety begin to bubble to the surface, use mindful meditation to keep them at bay. Sit in a quiet spot, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. If feelings of guilt begin to break through, don’t ignore them. Acknowledge your feelings but continue to focus on your breathing until those feelings go away.

5. Participate Proactively in Therapy

Your recovery process will likely include both group and individual therapy sessions. Use these sessions as an opportunity to discuss the negative feelings that are weighing you down. As you focus on your therapy, you are more likely to experience real progress in releasing yourself from the burden of guilt.

In group, listen to what others have to say. If they express guilt for their actions during addiction, it will help you realize that your feelings are not unusual. If you can recognize that such feelings are not productive for other people, you are more likely to grasp that they are not productive for you.

By practicing self-forgiveness, you can learn to become more forgiving of others. You can put yourself on a path to becoming a kinder, more generous, empathetic person who sees the good in others as well as yourself.

Beachside Rehab is a clinically driven wellness retreat that will help those recovering from addictions achieve self-forgiveness to live better, happier, more productive lives. Contact our trained admissions counselors at 866-349-1770 to discuss how we can help.

Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash