In order to recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism, the addict in question really has to learn how to forgive themselves.
As addicts and alcoholics, we tend to beat ourselves up when it comes to our addictive behavior. We tend to label ourselves as being “bad people” rather than thinking of ourselves as being sick people. Ultimately we know that we are responsible, that we made the decision to drink or to take drugs, and there is no escaping this shame using mental tricks. Deep down we know that we were wrong when we got stuck in our addiction, even though we were trapped and could not figure out a way to break free. The typical addict and alcoholic will still beat themselves up over this even after they fully understand the disease concept of addiction.
So in order to heal ourselves and our lives we have to forgive ourselves in order to move forward. This is critical because if you do not believe that you deserve happiness in sobriety then you will not be willing to put in the hard work to get it. You must believe that you are worthy of happiness in order to claim that happiness for yourself, otherwise you will secretly sabotage your own efforts without even realizing it.
So how do you do this? How do you forgive yourself and then embrace addiction treatment?
The process starts to realizing that you are a sick person that needs help. You are not a bad person, you are a sick person. Second, you need to give yourself permission to ask for help. Have you been able to figure out sobriety on your own? How has that effort worked out for you? Most addicts and alcoholics struggle to overcome the disease on their own and eventually realize that they need help. This realization is huge and represents the point at which you break through your denial. Recognizing the need for outside help is huge. Many addicts and alcoholics stay trapped in denial in such a way that they are never able to break free with the help of other people.
In order to forgive yourself you must also forgive other people. Why? Because it is by the same logic that you judge others by which you are actually judging yourself. So you need to recognize that other people are just struggling to do the best that they can, and if they lash out at the world or hurt others then it is because they are lost, confused, and just trying to find love themselves. This is really what motivates most of us, that we simply want to be loved, and when we don’t get that love we lash out at the world. Once you start looking at the behavior of other people in these terms you can start to see why they might be behaving the way that they are, and this will allow you to forgive them more easily.
So then once you make this realization that other people are simply doing the best that they can in life, you need to start noticing this over and over again in people. Keep looking for opportunities to forgive others. As you notice it more and more, and as you practice forgiving others more and more, this will allow you to be in a better position to forgive yourself. If you work through the 12 steps with your sponsor in AA or NA you will also get the opportunity to forgive yourself as well.
Now once you have built this foundation of forgiveness and done this spiritual work, you are in a much better position to ask for help and then learn how to live a sober life. My suggestion to anyone who is very early in their recovery journey is to ask for help and go to inpatient treatment. This is almost always the best solution for anyone who struggles with alcoholism or drug addiction. Going to inpatient treatment gives you a much needed break from your environment while also teaching you how to live a clean and sober life. It is the best possible solution for nearly every struggling addict or alcoholic.
The problem is that most people who would benefit from inpatient treatment are not “ready” because they are still stuck in denial. It is important to realize that there are several levels of denial when it comes to addiction and alcoholism. The first level of denial is that blatant denial of someone who will not even admit that they might have the slightest problem with drugs or alcohol. This is outright denial and there is not much that can be done about it if this is where someone is stuck. That person simply needs to experience more pain and consequences from their addiction before they might become open to the idea of treatment.
Now the second level of denial is a bit trickier. The second level of denial is for the alcoholic or drug addict who openly admits that they have a problem, but they have no hope for their own recovery. They reject possible solutions. Such people are in a hopeless state because they do not believe that treatment will work for them or could possibly help them. Maybe they have been to treatment in the past, or maybe they have been to AA or NA meetings, and they have found such solutions to be impractical. They don’t have hope because they do not believe they can recover. They don’t believe that they could find happiness or peace in life without using some sort of addictive substance.
This is a tougher level of denial because the person is admitting to their problem, but they are not accepting any solutions. Again, part of this process of breaking through denial has to do with forgiving yourself. My suggestion to you if you are at this critical point is to start writing in a journal every day. Simply write down the date and how you feel about your life. Keep doing that over and over again.
Too simply to be helpful? Think again. If you force yourself to write in a journal every day, what you are really doing is forcing your brain to realize just how unhappy you are. At some point your mind will reach a point in which it decides that facing the fear and uncertainty of sobriety is a better risk than continuing on with the misery of addiction.
In other words, living in your addiction is pain and suffering. Facing sobriety is pure fear. The mind is afraid of sobriety because it is unknown, it is scary, and the mind does not want to face life without the crutch of drugs or alcohol. So it stays stuck in denial and it prefers the comfortable misery of addiction rather than to face the fear and uncertainty of sobriety.
Writing in a daily journal will help to make your mind realize that drugs and alcohol are not actually making the brain any happier, and that you just keep getting more and more miserable. This will help you to break through your denial and hopefully ask for help.