2 people embracing each other

Learning to Forgive Yourself in Recovery

By

Sober Recovery Expert Author

2 people embracing each other

Learning to forgive yourself is tough, especially for recovering addicts in a 12-step rehab program. In fact, an integral part of a 12-step program is showing recovering addicts how to get past resentment and anger with others. This occurs relatively early in the recovery process, right around steps 4 and 5.

Overcoming Shame and Guilt

Forgiveness is difficult for recovering addicts, partly because of their own sense of shame and guilt for the things they have done. Often, active addicts transfer their shame and guilt onto others. In 12-step meetings, one may hear of a common practice in which an addict would “steal your money and help you look for it.”

It's imperative for recovering addicts to understand and accept the concept of forgiveness in order to fully embrace recovery.

The first part of the recovery process is forgiving others. For recovering addicts, the purpose of steps 4 and 5 is to become aware of the role they played in the problems that have occurred in their lives. These steps are about learning who is really at fault, as addicts tend to project their own behaviors onto others around them. Learning different ways to get rid of guilt, therefore, is the lesson to be learned from these steps.

Spiritual Relationship With a Higher Power

Forgiving yourself for mistakes from the past is a tall order for anybody, and recovering addicts are no different. The simple act of self-forgiveness is so deeply rejected by addicts that it takes all 12 steps to achieve. Therefore, 12-step programs encourage spiritual conversion as a means to stop the cycle of addiction and relapse. Recovering addicts can build a spiritual relationship with a higher power once the spiritual component becomes an active part of their lives.

Typically, addicts are seen as lacking in self-acceptance, self-worth and self-esteem. Furthermore, they do not see themselves as worthy of a spiritual relationship. A 12-step program, however, allows recovering addicts to change this perception and deem themselves as worthy of a spiritual relationship. This process is all about forgiveness through self-acceptance.

Learning to Forgive Yourself

Counselors who work with people in recovery are often reminded of the levels of self-destruction and self-loathing that addicts live with. It is imperative for an addict to understand this concept and learn how to love, honor and forgive themselves in order to fully embrace recovery.


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please visit our directory of treatment facilities or call 800-772-8219 to speak with a treatment advisor.

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