Although forgiveness is often associated with religion, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, one of the most non-religious definitions of forgiveness is simply letting go of the idea that the past could have been any different.
Often, when addiction has come to an end and you’re in recovery, you might think about the ways that your life could have been different. You might have hoped for a different childhood, an easier upbringing, loving parents, or less trauma. You might wish for everything to be different than it was. However, through the process of healing yourself, healing your mind and body, there’s the possibility of letting go of the past. There’s a chance for forgiveness and letting go of the idea that the past could have been any different.
This is somewhat broad because letting go of the past also means letting go of how others treated you, the dysfunctional relationships you’ve had, the unfortunate experiences that were out of your control, and even the unfortunate experiences that were in your control.
It’s true that forgiveness is not something to do early in your recovery. Forgiveness and the restoration of relationships is often a later step. In fact, it should come to no surprise that it’s step 8 in the 12-step program that finally invites making amends.
Step 8: Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all
Perhaps there are some healing of relationships that need to happen among family members. And if a family member has passed away, there might even be healing of a relationship with that individual as well. Although it might be difficult, especially if there are amends to be made with a deceased member of the family, restoring relationships can be the foundation upon which healing of addiction can take place. Making amends is one of the first steps to healing from a family wound, trauma, or significant life event that might have initially contributed to an addiction. And sometimes, it’s not one particular event, it’s simply the dysfunctional environment in which you were raised. It might have been the codependency, alcoholism, or emotional abuse in your family history. Making amends and accepting your life as it was is a necessary part of recovery, and it’s what forgiveness is all about.
Once you’ve made amends and you’ve recognized that it’s going to take some time to heal, focusing on the present and the ways that the family is healing is going to support rebuilding family relationships. For instance, you wouldn’t be who you are today without the people you had in your life, even during the difficult times. In your recovery, although there will be a strong tendency to want to focus on the past, part of healing will be to stay present and focus on acceptance, love, and appreciation of others. This doesn’t mean that focusing on the past is wrong, doing so can help bring understanding and forgiveness. However, when there is too much focus on the past, wishing for the past to return, or perseverating over old times, it can prevent healing from taking place.
Instead, focus on rebuilding your life as well as rebuilding the relationships you want to have in your life. To do this, you might invite family members, friends, or other loved ones on regular outings together. You may want to commit to having dinner together each night. Spending more time together can help build relationships. If you need to, you may want to mourn together, celebrate together, or even experience forgiveness together.
Forgiveness may or may not be a religious experience for you. Even if you’re not religious, there is a crucial part to forgiveness that can finally facilitate moving forward in your life.
Letting go of the idea that the past could have been any different allows you to step into the present prepared to create the future you want.
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