Who Needs To Be Forgiven Most?
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes
Addiction damages so much in its path.
When it exists in the life of one, it impacts so many others.
It inflicts pain upon all who are witness to its presence and it creates wounds so raw and deep that it? sometimes impossible to know how you will ever heal.
So it goes for every single person who has ever loved an addict.
When someone you love is imprisoned by addiction, the things they will do to feed and protect their addiction can be terrible and baffling.
The betrayal, the deception, the lies, the emotional manipulation, the blatant disregard and disrespect, the anger, the threats, the abandonment and the verbal and physical abuse, all adds up to a lot of hurt.
Hurt that goes on stinging and burning, long after the damage is done.
Years later, the wounds can be as raw as the days they were inflicted, and even when they begin to heal, it is tempting to lift the scab, expose the still open sore beneath it, just so you never forget.
Because if you let it heal, if one day there is nothing left to see but the faintest of scars, who will know how much you hurt?
Who will see the pain you are burdened with and take it away so you can finally live without it?
First, Heal Thyself
The thing is, no one can make it better except you.
No one can heal you, but you.
And the first step to healing is forgiveness.
But how will you ever forgive?
How do you let go of all that was done to you by another?
Believe me, I know what it means to so desperately need the answer to these questions, but let’s put them aside for a moment and focus first on how you can forgive yourself.
Because as long as you remain angry or disappointed in yourself, for your part in your relationship with an addict, you can? move forward, into a place of healing.
When we keep berating ourselves for putting up with their behaviour, for falling for the wrong person, for letting them hurt us, for accepting less than we really wanted, for loving someone who hurt us so badly, for allowing an addicted child to disrespect us, asking how we could be so stupid, we keep letting the hurt live.
We keep hurting ourselves over and over, even if the addict in our life has stopped hurting us.
The pain remains perpetual, through our own doing.
True growth occurs from the inside out. If you try to heal that which is outside of you first, you will always still have that work to do inside of yourself. It will wait, but never abate, until you face it.
Self forgiveness is so important, to start healing, and to make space for letting in forgiveness for others.
When we are angry at ourselves, it stands to reason that we also remain angry at the person who we feel was a part of our mistakes.
How To Start Forgiving Yourself
This exercise is simple, but incredibly powerful. I have had clients who have written themselves the most heartbreaking but loving letters, and come away with an immense feeling of relief, and forgiveness.
Take a writing pad, or journal, and begin writing a letter to yourself.
Start the letter by acknowledging the things inside of you that you are hurt by, ashamed of, embarrassed or angry about. List out the things you believe YOU have done that are the source of your feelings. This letter is not about the things the addict in your life has done.
Remember, you are forgiving yourself first.
Then offer forgiveness to yourself. Let yourself know that you are forgiven for each and everything that you feel pained about. You can offer explanations for why you think you did the things you did, and then express love, acceptance and forgiveness for every single moment, feeling or thought that makes you feel a single twinge of hurt when you think about it.
The key to this exercise is to release EVERYTHING. You need to be incredibly open, honest and loving to yourself. If you hold back and avoid admitting any part of the whole collection of feelings, those parts will remain until you release them.
Write this letter purely for yourself. No one else needs to read it. If it feels right, burn or bury it afterwards, once you can read it and really feel that you have given yourself the gift of forgiveness.
When you do this exercise from deep inside your heart, when you really take the time and open yourself up to releasing your pain, you will feel a freedom that is new and uplifting.
Forgiveness is not about excusing what has happened. It is about letting go and removing the power from that event so that it no longer keeps you stuck in a place of hurt and resentment.
Most people who do this exercise, and this was certainly true for my own path to self forgiveness, no longer feel so concerned about how to forgive the addict in their life. It can feel less urgent or even necessary, because when we let go of our own hurt, there seems to be a space that clears that allows us to offer ready forgiveness to others.
When we decide that we will no longer protect the hurt and resentment that has kept us prisoner, we move away from being a victim to choosing the freedom that comes from taking control of our feelings.
Then, and only then, can we begin to feel forgiveness for others.
Are you ready to forgive yourself? Are you ready to let go of the pain?