How To Forgive Yourself After Addiction
Addiction reaches every aspect of a person’s life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It affects family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. No one is left untouched by this disease. Addiction Campuses’ focus in the month of April, turns to a four-part series with an esteemed author and colleague, Dr. Jason Brooks, who will share insight on faith-based rehab, and focus on hope, forgiveness, freedom, and acceptance.
Recognized as one of the most prominent emerging voices in personal and organizational transformation, Dr. Jason Brooks is also likely to be one of the most authentic, transparent and “real”. Viewed by many as the “youth pastor of personal growth and success”, his life mission of “bringing hope, healing, and inspiration to everyone he meets and leading on the journey for change, growth, and success” provides the foundation and focus where his purpose and passion are fully unleashed.
As a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, and Chief People Officer of Addiction Campuses, Dr. Jason brings a heart for helping others to achieve their greatest potential and success…one step at a time.
The next step…Forgiveness offered.
“But you just don’t know all the things I’ve done,” Kara said. “My boyfriend…my parents…my friends. I’ve hurt so many people I love and care about because of my drug addiction.”
I continued, “What would it be like for you to be forgiven?”
“It would mean everything, but I just don’t see how that could ever happen,” she said with tears in her eyes. “There’s so much from my past that I can’t get rid of. I feel so much shame, guilt, and brokenness. If I were them, there’s no way I would forgive me.”
“So, you feel trapped?” I asked. “It sounds like you’re saying that you can’t move forward because of everything in the past.”
“I’d like to move forward,” Kara said, “but I just don’t think that type of forgiveness exists…at least not for me.”
I’d heard this so many times from clients through the years. Brokenness…shame…guilt…and feelings of unworthiness led to the inability to see forgiveness as an option in their lives. Not only could they not see others being able to forgive them…but more importantly, they weren’t able to forgive themselves. That’s one thing that makes Christian treatment for drug and alcohol addiction fundamentally different than any other type of treatment – the ability to offer true and unconditional forgiveness through Jesus.
“Let me tell you a story,” I began. “It’s the story of a woman who was caught in a life of lies and adultery. She hurt everyone she loved most. Her husband…maybe even her kids. She broke her parents heart and what’s worse, the lifestyle she had chosen was punishable by death during the time she lived. Let me read this to you from the Bible. John chapter 8 tells the story of this woman and is the model of forgiveness from Christ Himself.
“As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ’All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ’Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said.’ And Jesus said, ’Neither do I.’
Here’s a woman who lived a life of sin and did some really ‘bad things’ in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the society at that time. When the leaders of the day wanted to condemn, as she was covered in shame and guilt…Jesus only offered forgiveness.”
“So, even though she was living a life of sin by committing adultery, Jesus forgave her?” Kara asked.
“That’s right. Not only did He forgive her, but He also let the leaders know that they were just as guilty as she was. The biggest area of forgiveness in our lives is forgiving ourselves. We want to try to clean up, fix up, and get everything right first. Jesus makes it clear that we need to do the exact opposite. As Jesus finishes the encounter with this woman, He says, ‘Go and sin no more.’ In that moment, He changed everything for her. Forgiveness came and her life was transformed forever.”
Kara asked, “Ok, I get it. Jesus is ready now to forgive me. But why is it so hard to forgive myself?”
“That’s a great question,” I said. “I think the big reason is we see first the shame and guilt we’ve experienced through the years. We see the hurt we’ve caused to others and we believe we have to make amends before we can be forgiven. In virtually all areas of our life, we believe we have to give something of value in order to receive something else. Often for forgiveness we think we need to give something in order for forgiveness to come. We have to “suffer” to the same degree we’ve hurt others. This is so wrong.”
“That’s exactly how I feel. How can I ever make it up to the people I’ve hurt? How can I ever make up for the time I’ve lost?”
“The great thing, Kara, is that you don’t have to,” I said. “Romans 8:34 says ‘Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.’ Forgiveness is yours if you’ll only accept it. The lady in the story didn’t need to ‘do’ anything for Jesus to forgive.”
“There’s three steps to forgiveness,” I continued. First, you have to recognize that what you’ve been doing is wrong.”
“I’ve got that one nailed,” Kara said.
“Next, you have to ask and accept Jesus to forgive you. Regardless of what you’ve done…regardless of what you’ve said…regardless of anything, Jesus has already forgiven you.”
“This is just so hard to believe. I want to believe, and at some level, I do, but it’s just hard to accept that Jesus would forgive me, just like that.”
“I know,” I said. “It doesn’t make sense to us but that’s the way He is. He loves and He forgives. Third, you have to turn from the sinful lifestyle. In the words of Jesus ‘Go and sin no more.’ The great thing is, when you give your addiction to Him, He will give you the power to overcome, once and for all, the chains that have held you captive for years. He will restore your relationships. He will restore your health. He will restore your trust. He will restore your faith. It may not happen overnight and there may be a journey ahead that He has for you, but if you are sincere in your agreement with Him that you’ve been living a life that’s hurt yourself, others, and God Himself, ask for and accept His forgiveness, and then make a radical retreat from the life of addiction you’ve been living, He will create a life better for you than you ever could have imagined.”
“That’s what I want. I’m tired to living with the shame and guilt of my past. I know I need to accept the forgiveness Jesus has for me, forgive myself, and trust that in time, those I’ve hurt will forgive me too.”
“Absolutely, Kara! And the cool thing…once you do, you’re life will never be the same.”
Dr. Jason is an expert in leading life change. As a gifted speaker and life success coach, he is available to speak at your next conference event and would love to connect with you on social media on Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Dr. Jason can be contacted through the public relations team at Addiction Campuses.