Letting Go of Guilt and Embracing Personal Forgiveness in Recovery
For most people who have gone through periods of addiction, their recovery process will almost always be tainted by feelings of shame, guilt and remorse. During their addiction the compulsive desire for their next fix may have seen them behave badly, treat loved ones poorly, engage in criminal activity or worse. Coming to terms with their actions can be tough but learning to forgive themselves is an integral part in the recovery process. Dwelling on the past can eat away at their self esteem and this is one of the main causes of relapse in those recovering from drug addiction. Believing that they are truly worthy of grace and forgiveness will free them from the pain of their past and allow them to move towards a better life.
With this realization come a wealth of physical, social and emotional health benefits. As stress and anxiety levels decrease blood pressure, heart health and immunity improves. And when the weight of their guilt is lifted, they will find themselves with so much more capacity to work on their relationships and personal growth leaving them happier and well as healthier.
It is important to remember that forgiveness isn't about writing off a wrongdoing. Its about letting go of pointless, negative and destructive emotions linked to the things you cannot change. Many therapists recommend practicing compassionate self acceptance which doesn't always have to mean renouncing your past (or present) but accepting it, addressing it and resolving to improve.
There are many psychological techniques that you can use in order to release yourself from the shackles of this guilt and embrace forgiveness. One popular tool is using mindfulness strategies to examine the moment by moment thoughts that enter our brain rather than focusing on the past. Look at these thoughts objectively then make a balanced decision on how best to move forward from them. Imagery can also be a good way of gaining closure. In a relaxed, meditative state you should picture yourself explaining to your shadow part – the part of you that needs forgiveness – all of your reasons for your negative emotion. Use this opportunity to purge yourself of all the frustration, anguish and guilt inside of you. Let your shadow part explain its viewpoint then send it your love and set it free from your life. After this exercise you should feel at peace.
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