Being able to forgive is an excellent gift to have, but when dealing with the cycle of addiction in a loved one, forgiveness isn’t quite so simple. Chances are good that you have been lied to, stolen from and betrayed by your loved one. They let you down, dampened your spirit and hardly seemed concerned about your worry at the time. Why then, should you forgive your loved one? Do they even deserve the forgiveness?
Forgiveness is not just something you do for the addict; it’s something that you do for yourself. It’s an integral part of recovery since the addict must learn to forgive themselves in order to heal and move forward. Forgiving, on your part, sets a healthy example for your loved one and allows you to move past the anger, resentment and fear that stands in the way of true happiness.
It’s important to remember that forgiveness is not the same as reconciling, excusing the behavior or eliminating the consequences. Instead, forgiveness is letting go of the anger inside yourself and moving past the pain in order to find peace and contentment. Let’s discuss 10 tips for forgiving an addict.
1. Education Yourself on Addiction
Addiction is a disease. This can be difficult to understand, but the more you’re familiar with the disease and the course that it takes, the better you will see why your loved one acted out in the ways they did. Basically, your family member was not intentionally trying to hurt you, but instead was suffering from the side effects of addiction.
2. Don’t Rely on the Addict for Your Happiness
It’s common for family members to feel that happiness will only come when their loved one is sober. Forgive the addict, even if they’re not healthy enough to change, and set a good example. Otherwise, you may find yourself waiting a very long time to relieve the anger.
3. Look for Positive Lessons
It’s easy to feel bitter and resentful of what your loved one has put you through, but take a step back, and look at the situation in an objective manner. If you can see some of the lessons that life has taught you, it will help you move on and relieve some resentment.
4. Give Yourself Time
In order to truly forgive, you must give yourself time to heal emotionally. While anger is completely healthy and understandable, don’t let yourself be angry for too long. This can lead to depression that can affect your well being.
5. Seek Advice from a Professional
If you are finding it hard to move on, talk to a trusted individual, such as a counselor, therapist or member from your church. These professionals can help you sort through your inner emotions so that you learn to forgive.
6. Make an Active Effort to Forgive
Forgiveness doesn’t just happen overnight. You must work hard to let go of negative emotions, and this can be challenging when floods of memories come pouring back in. Remember that you have the power to let go of these emotions, but don’t force forgiveness. It will come naturally when you’re ready.
7. True Feelings are More Important than Words
This may sound strange, but forgiveness is not something that should be focused on your loved one. This means that you don’t have to say the words “I forgive you” if you’re not ready. In fact, you don’t have to say them at all. When you let go of the anger and negative emotions, you will have completed forgiveness.
8. Forgive Yourself, Too
People’s negative behaviors can bring out the worst in us, and it’s likely that you have done things you aren’t proud of, too. Work on forgiving yourself and know that you have learned from your own mistakes. You’re a stronger person now.
9. Wipe the Slate Clean
When a recovering addict is working on their recovery, it’s important to give them a clean slate. If you continue to think about all of the things they did wrong, you will have painful memories entering your mind and your heart. While you haven’t forgotten what happened, it’s important to clean the slate and offer a second chance.
10. Be Healthy
Working through emotions is exhausting. Make sure you take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, exercising and sleeping regularly. Know how to handle tough situations or emotions using breathing exercises, journaling or meditation. The better physical health you’re in, the stronger you are to fight the great fight.
Just as recovery is a unique journey, so is forgiveness. True forgiveness takes time, but it can be achieved, and you can’t mistake this feeling of acceptance and clarity for anything else. You can continue to love and support your family member, but you don’t have to enable them to control your life.