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How to Forgive Yourself for Being an Addict

It is a well-known fact that addiction can seemingly force someone to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. This aspect of addiction creates many bad decisions and negative consequences, but these are ignored because of how addiction causes drug-seeking behavior. After you finally beat the addiction, memories about your drug-abusing past can begin to flood back. While others may forgive you for your actions, one of the most difficult things to do sometimes is to also forgive yourself. How to forgive yourself for being an addict will be discussed in this article.

3 Minute Read | Published Sep 15 2023 | Updated Mar 09 2024 Expert Verified
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by
Emma Collins
Written by
Ashley Bayliss
Reviewed by

The Recovery Process: How to Forgive Yourself for Being an Addict

Why Self-Forgiveness in Addiction Recovery is Important

To talk about how to forgive yourself for being an addict, we must first discuss why it’s important. During a person’s substance-abusing past, it’s common for addicts to do and say things that aren’t themselves. As an addict, you may have stolen from people you care about, neglected your children’s feelings, or cheated on your partner. You may have destroyed long-standing relationships or lost your job putting financial strain on those close to you. How to forgive yourself for being an addict starts with realizing that the choices you made during your addiction didn’t come from moral weakness but rather from a mental disease.

You may be able to make amends with the people that you hurt or mistreated during your addiction, such as paying back money that you stole or sincerely apologizing for deceitful behavior, but if there is no self-forgiveness in addiction recovery, then the mistakes you made while intoxicated or high can haunt you. Feelings of guilt and shame can be destructive and ultimately lead you to relapse. Beat the addiction relapse statistics that say 40 to 60 percent of people will suffer a relapse within the first year by embracing acceptance in addiction recovery.

How to Forgive Yourself for Being an Addict

Negative thoughts can often be muddled in your mind. It can seem like you’re thinking and feeling a thousand things at once. Therefore, one of the ways to start to forgive yourself is by keeping a journal. Write down anything that makes you feel ashamed and guilty. It becomes easier to forgive yourself when you’re able to sort through the array of emotions and thoughts you have. A private journal also allows you to be completely honest without any concern about what others may think.

Talking to another human being about what’s making you feel angry or ashamed is a very therapeutic experience. You may discover that the bad memories you’re holding onto aren’t as bad you imagine it to be, helping with acceptance in addiction recovery. If you have a friend or spouse that you feel comfortable talking to then sit down with them and share your feelings and why you are finding it hard to forgive yourself. If you aren’t comfortable talking to someone who hasn’t gone through a similar experience, then seek out support group meetings and get a sponsor to talk to.

Another very important aspect of self-forgiveness is learning to focus more on the good things you have done. This isn’t to say that you should ignore the bad things you did, but rather that you need to have a well-rounded perspective. It’s easy to get sucked into only seeing the bad that you’ve done. Learn to give yourself a pat on the back at the end of each day where you achieved something good.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at (800) 429-7690.

Resources

bullet National Institute on Drug Abuse (2020)
"Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2019)
"Treatment and Recovery"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Brown, J. L., & Lewis, J. A. (2020)
"The Role of Self-Compassion in Addiction Recovery. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 52(1), 1-10"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Najavits, L. M. (2016)
"Forgiveness in Recovery from Substance Use Disorders. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72(8), 792-801"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Kelly, J. F., & Yeterian, J. D. (2019)
"Empowering the Person in the Era of Addiction Recovery: A New Paradigm for Understanding and Intervention. In S. E. Levounis, P. R. McNaughton, & R. A. Yi (Eds.), Reflections on Addiction: Historical, Sociological, and Philosophical Contributions (pp. 207-225). Oxford University Press"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Krasner, M. S., Epstein, R. M., Beckman, H., Suchman, A. L., Chapman, B., Mooney, C. J., & Quill, T. E. (2009)
"Association of an Educational Program in Mindful Communication With Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes Among Primary Care Physicians. JAMA, 302(12), 1284-1293"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Witkiewitz, K., & Marlatt, G. A. (2011)
"Behavioral Approaches to Addiction: Positive Reinforcement in the Recovery Process. In R. A. Rawson, W. Ling, & A. R. Ling (Eds.), The Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics (pp. 317-332). Oxford University Press"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
bullet Volkow, N. D., & Boyle, M. (2018)
"Neuroscience of Addiction: Relevance to Prevention and Treatment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(8), 729-740"
Retrieved on July 17, 2018
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