Forgiving An Addicted Loved One
Getting “Forgiving” All Wrong.
I’m a sucker for the word, “SORRY.”
Like most people at some point, I’ve been lied to, cheated on, wrongly chewed out and manipulated. It doesn’t feel good to hold those emotions of anger and betrayal. In fact, it’s exhausting. So when the individual who has done me wrong gives me a heartfelt “sorry”, I’m eager to sweep it under the rug and move on.
My knee-jerk response? “It’s OK.”
But is it healthy to let go of things that quickly? Is it really “OK” ? Am I actually doing myself or the other person any favors by moving on without discussion or the actions to follow up? Is it actually forgiveness?
Difficulty in Forgiving after Addiction.
If you’ve suffered mentally or emotionally because of a loved one’s addiction – you’re not alone. Addiction is a disease that feeds on things such as manipulation, lies, cheating, theft and even abuse in order to thrive. Addiction is felt by everyone around the person using drugs or alcohol – and it can leave behind deep wounds.
Because of this, forgiveness can be one of the most difficult steps in the recovery process. If your loved one is in early recovery, he or she is going through the painful process of recognizing and accepting the hurt that the addiction caused you and other family members and loved ones. When your loved one is ready, he or she may come to you with an apology.
But after everything that you’ve been subjected to through the addiction – forgiveness may not be at the top of your priorities.
Where Forgiving Starts.
Forgiveness after addiction isn’t likely over something trivial – things like neglect, lying and cheating may have taken place through your loved one’s active addiction. The hurt likely runs much deeper than the surface. So where does forgiveness even begin?
Although finding forgiveness as your loved one heals from addiction is incredibly difficult, forgiving is the healthiest thing for you to do – as you need to heal, too.
Forgiving a person who was once actively addicted to drugs and alcohol starts with understanding the disease of addiction. By looking at addiction as a seperate entity than your loved one- you’ll be able distinguish the person you know and love from the poor decisions and behaviors that harmed you. Keep in mind that your loved one’s words and actions were heavily influenced by a disease – a behavioral illness – that they did not have control over. Understand that your loved one was sick and is recovering from that illness, and as he or she heals, those actions and behaviors will fade away. Taking this into consideration can be the best starting place when it comes to understanding addiction and forgiving a recovering loved one.
Forgiving – Not Forgetting.
Holding a grudge is like allowing an angry, destructive tenant into your home – and letting him take hold of everything you hold dear. Hanging onto past wrongs, resentment and hurt will do you more damage in the long run. In order to truly forgive, you must be ready to release those powerful, negative thoughts and feelings that have been stored in your head and your heart.
Forgiving a recovering loved one doesn’t mean that you sweep it under the rug and forget about everything that ever happened between the two of you. It’s likely that your loved one made serious mistakes; it’s likely that you’re having a difficult time trusting him or her. Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as saying, “It’s OK” – and forgetting about it. Instead, forgiveness is about understanding your loved one; Who she is, the disease she’s facing and what it will take to mend the relationship.
The Path to Forgiveness.
The path to forgiving an addicted person isn’t the same for every person, but there are a few things to keep in mind and help you along the way:
- Make a true effort.
You may have heard the expression, “The only person who can control your happiness is you.” The same goes with forgiveness. Only you have the power to let go of negative feelings and choose to move forward. Give yourself the respect you deserve, and make an honest effort to move forward on a healthy path.
- Give it time.
My old ways of “forgiving” were immediate, knee-jerk responses to any sort of apology. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually forgiving – I was doing myself a disservice. Forgiveness can take time. You don’t just wake up one morning, get an apology and everything instantly disappears. Healing and forgiving are processes: Let them unfold.
- Release your anger.
Just because you’re not ready to forgive doesn’t mean you need to bottle up your anger and lash out when you’re hurting. Anger can be toxic if not dealt with properly. Choosing to release anger means taking a step in the right direction – for your own well-being.
- Forgive from a distance.
Perhaps your loved one hurt you or your children to the point you no longer want a relationship with him or her. After all of the verbal or mental abuse, maybe you don’t see a future with him or her. You don’t need to welcome him back into your life. However, you can still forgive from a distance and move on with your life.
- No need for an apology.
I used to think that as long as a person repented, I could forgive. Guess what? Some people will never apologize. However, forgiveness doesn’t serve the other person – it serves you. You don’t need your loved one to express regret in order to forgive. Maybe one day he or she will come around and feel remorseful, but you don’t need to wait around for that day.
Addiction can wreak havoc on entire families, causing chaos, devastation and anger. However, forgiveness is the one thing that will allow you to gravitate towards a brighter future, giving you a sense of peace and a renewed life. If your loved one is struggling with or recovering from addiction, look for steps that will get you to a healthier place – and forgive.