Important Characteristics of Sobriety: Forgiveness

Posted on July 6th, 2012

By George Joseph

Fourth in a Series: Forgiveness

We often focus on the problem of addiction more than the results of a successful recovery. True sobriety is a wonderful transformation that showcases the beauty of humanity. However, the challenge of achieving long-term sobriety can seem unattainable to those who suffer from addiction.

Addiction is a masterful enemy; one that is cunning, baffling, and all-powerful. One who seduces those affected by instilling in them denial of the problem or pessimism about overcoming it. Addiction wants to isolate and control its victims, leading them to push away those who love them, hide addictive behaviors, and, often, die trying to protect the addiction.

How many achieve victory over addiction? I don’t think anyone truly knows how for each individual specifically. Most of us know people who have either died as a result of addiction, those who are still suffering, and those who are working through a rigorous, wonderful recovery program. This blog series will focus on the third group or for those who want in on the third group.

Why is forgiveness important to achieve sobriety?  Who do we forgive and for what? Why is it important for an alcoholic or addict to forgive to stay sober? These are all very important questions that need answers for someone to overcome addiction and find recovery.

Who do we forgive? First and foremost, we forgive ourselves. We the ones who got us in so much trouble to begin with. Addiction is a disease that affects our body, mind, and spirit–and yes, we are the ones who ingested the substances. However, once we cross the line of addiction, all bets of self-control are off. It is kind of like having an out of body experience and not realizing it. A sense of powerlessness takes over and does remarkable damage to our bodies, minds, and spirits and we often have no clue to the damage it is doing to us or those around us.

Once we start recovery, we are made aware of the havoc our addiction has caused.  This awareness can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Does forgiving ourselves let us off the hook and release us from our responsibilities? Of course not. Forgiveness, hopefully, helps us heal so that we can take responsibility for our recovery and our need for help. We must not lose sight of the damage we have done.  But forgiveness allows us to make peace, to learn that we are afflicted with a deadly disease that could have killed us, and to learn that we have to work hard to keep it at bay.

We must also forgive others around us that we think didn’t treat us fairly. Why? Refusing to forgive is like poisoning ourselves, even though our anger is directed at someone else. Sure, some of our anger is justified, and those around us may have exhibited inappropriate behavior.  But how much of it was a reaction to our addiction? A new life means a clean slate. Forgiveness is rolled out in The Twelve Steps (especially steps eight and nine) when we make amends so that we are also forgiven; however, that sometimes doesn’t happen and we need to move on and hope that, in time, our sober actions will help in that process. The best amend we can offer is to lead a wonderful and caring life, living the principals of recovery every day.

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