Forgiveness, as an addict, is one of the most ridiculous concepts someone could try to explain to me. Forgive you? When you wronged me? Or you forgive me? When I messed up everything? But as I move on with my life, and try to do things right, I start to see that forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools that sobriety can give me. Not only am I capable of forgiving others, and not only are others capable of forgiving me, but I’m capable of forgiving myself. These are all things that not so long ago, I believed were truly impossible. These doors, that I thought were permanently sealed shut, have reopened for me, and as terrifying as that can be, it’s a truly gratifying experience.
From a very young age, I can remember holding grudges. I once held a grudge against someone for hitting me in third grade until I got revenge in my freshmen year of high school. This behavior has continued for my whole life, sometimes over the smallest perceived wrong. I hold onto these, and just let them add up; carry them around with me, a running score sheet for every person that I meet. When I got sober, and people were telling me that holding grudges and resentments were poisonous for my sobriety my initial reaction was to add them to my list of people that I had a problem with. Slowly, over the past few months, I’ve felt myself letting go of some of this anger that I’ve held onto. I’ve forgiven people, people who I thought I never could. My father, with whom I’ve had a rocky relationship at best for many years, was one of the people who I adamantly swore I’d never forgive. But I did, and I continue to forgive him. And the amazing thing is that our relationship continues to grow, becoming more and more genuine. However, as with any relationship, it’s a two way street.
In my addiction, and with my addictive behaviors that started long before I became a full-blown addict, I did a lot of hurtful, terrible things. I knew they were mean, and I knew they’d cost someone, somewhere, something. I never planned on having to answer for any of it, and when it got to the point where I was hurting the people I loved, I pretended that I was a psychic, and that I knew they wouldn’t ever forgive me. Thankfully, I was wrong. I got my father and two best friends arrested, my mother harassed, my brother had to deal with the consequences of having a sister who was the school’s biggest drug dealer and drug addict…and somehow they’re forgiving me, when I couldn’t forgive myself for doing that to them.
Even as I found myself being willing to forgive others, and those who I had once hurt terribly become willing to forgive me, it was really difficult to be willing to forgive myself. I have always been my harshest critic, so it was no surprise that I was being-and sometimes continue to be-extremely hard on myself. I’d beat myself up constantly. “Why couldn’t I do this right?” “Why’d I do that?” Eventually, I got tired of asking pointless questions, and realized that the past is in the past. I also looked at everyone who was willing to give me another chance, and in one of those rare moments of clarity, realized that I deserved to do the same thing for myself. I deserve to give me another chance.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. At the beginning of this process, it was very much a foreign concept, but as I continue to put in the work, it becomes less and less so. It’s not so much about trying to right the wrongs of the past, rather about having the ability to move on and build a brighter, better, happier future. The future that we all deserve is the future that starts with forgiveness.