Addiction is a notoriously difficult experience, especially for addicts. In the midst of their desperation and downward spiral, they tend to lash out and hurt those closest to them. They are in need of help, treatment, and most of all, forgiveness.
However, for loved ones affected by the addiction, the forgiveness process is an often long and painful journey. This can be exacerbated if they do not try to forgive the addict and themselves. Below is a list of three steps that, while it can take a long time, will be helpful for the forgiveness process.
Know What Forgiveness Entails
Forgiveness is a hard road to embark upon, but for the loved one of an addict, this process is integral to the recovery of the addict.
However, this does not mean that forgiveness should be whole or unconditional; it simply means that a loved one is able to understand and accept the actions and behaviors of an addict. The process of forgiveness is a mental act, not a physical one, meaning that loved ones work on forgiving an addict for the harm they have caused.
While forgiveness can help the addict themselves, it can also be therapeutic for the loved one who is delivering that forgiveness. It enables that person to move forward, with or without the addict, in order to build a life in the aftermath of the addiction. It does not mean that all sins during the addiction are forgiven unconditionally; it means that the loved one is willing to put to rest any bad blood between them and the addict.
Forgive but do not Forget
It may difficult to comprehend, but loved ones need to realize that forgiveness does not mean that they forget the actions that an addict has taken. When an addict is out of control, they often do things that harm the ones they love the most in a variety of ways, including physical, psychological, and mental pain.
No one should forget the pain that has been inflicted, but remembering the patterns of behavior of an addict while also forgiving them can be useful to both parties. There is no need to remind the addict of the pain they have inflicted, but neither is it helpful for the person affected by the addict’s actions to forget and forgive unconditionally. Both parties have learned from the events have taken place; they should both remember the pain caused in order to move forward together.
Many times, a loved one has been an enabler. They have given money to the addict or hurt the addict through verbal or psychological means; they may have also put ultimatums to that addict that could have caused a downward spiral. In some cases, they may have removed themselves entirely from the addict’s life.
These actions, while they could have been necessary at the time, can cause pangs of guilt. A loved one must try to forgive themselves for this; they were in a bad situation and dealing with an addict who, for the most part, was considering only themselves and their needs. These loved ones could have been in a position that made them feel as though they had no other choice.
Forgiveness of self is an important step for those who are helping an addict recover. It does no loved one any good to hold on to what part, no matter how insignificant or indirect, they may have played in that addict’s journey. Only once they forgive themselves can they learn to move forward in healthier ways and try to positively impact an addict’s recovery journey.
Being the loved one of an addict can be an enormously difficult position to be in, regardless of whether the addict is still in the thick of their addiction or has sought treatment. Learning to forgive the addict, as well as remembering their actions and forgiving oneself, are three important steps for any loved one. Only then can they truly be a good force for change for the addict at the center of what could potentially be their downfall.