When I was first admitted into rehab in 2012, I quickly had to come to terms with a lot of brand new concepts that were very foreign to me. I learned about the causes of my addiction in the first place, and also how to overcome cravings and prevent relapses.

While I learned a lot from all of these, one thing that really helped me to avoid relapsing (again), and to instead focus on creating a brighter future for my life, was learning to forgive.

There were many people in my life who I was secretly wishing I could say “I’m sorry for everything” to, or who I wanted to forgive for doing wrong by me, but I was way too scared to think about doing that.

Today, I would love to share four important things about forgiveness that I learned while I was in recovery.

What Rehab Taught Me About Forgiveness

4 Important Things Rehab Taught Me About Forgiveness

Without freedom from the past, there is no freedom at all.

– Krishnamurti

Why is it important to forgive?

During your addiction, there were likely many things that you said and did that you now regret. The feelings of remorse are huge, and they’re always there at the back of your mind, eating away at you from the inside. 

You might have strained a relationship that had a lot of meaning for you, with your family, friends, or a special loved one. You might have lost track of who you were, or sabotaged your career and financial stability. No matter what it is, it’s unhealthy to be walking around in life holding a grudge against yourself and others. In order to successfully approach recovery, it’s essential to let go of all the baggage that’s holding you back.

How can I forgive?

As a recovering addict, I shared my addiction recovery treatment with many people, mainly the 12-step program. Forgiveness is deeply rooted in this program, as its aim is to bring you a lasting recovery. Learning how to ask for forgiveness, how to seek it, and how to forgive yourself is vital to each process as demonstrated with the 12-step group.

Forgiving is easier said than done for people like me, and it was very hard to wrap my head around the idea. Even after I had accepted it as an important step towards my recovery, I still didn’t know how to go about it.

I can’t turn back time and change the mistakes I made, and there were a lot of people from my past who I was just too scared to approach again. I can’t just show up on the doorsteps of those I hurt and ask them for forgiveness. I lost that chance years ago.

This is when I discovered that I could forgive anonymously. I decided to write letters and anonymously post them to their door. Not only was it therapeutic to put all my thoughts down on paper, it also helped me to fully understand that I truly meant every word I wrote.  

If you don’t want to approach anonymously, you can always keep it private. It’s no one’s business but yours. You can also create a list of what you regret and how you can learn to make peace with it.

The best part about forgiving is that once it’s done, it’s over. Letting go is such an amazing feeling. Your spirits will become lighter as you finally lose the weight of all the guilt and negativity you’ve been carrying with you. The intense relief that comes with it is better than any high I ever had.

What rehab taught me about forgiveness - learn to let go of your mistakes

Let go of your mistakes

We are our best and worst critics. When I was at my worst during my addiction days, I was always keeping a record of every bad thing I did. This only made me feel worse though, so I drank or used more to numb the feeling. Keeping tabs on every mistake I made was so counter-productive, and it held me back from getting the help I needed.

After I began the 12-steps program and learned the importance of forgiveness, I soon discovered that I was slowly letting go of that record-keeping habit. I swapped it with keeping a record of all the achievements and milestones that made me proud — like when I reached ten days sober, six months sober, one year sober, and when I got a job again and patched up my damaged relationships with people I cared a lot for.

Switching out of my negative mindset and to a positive attitude really did a lot for me both mentally and physically.

Embrace your future

Once you’ve forgiven yourself and others, and moved past the stage where you need to hear the words, “I forgive you,” what’s left for you to do? Well, the simple answer to that question is to embrace all the incredible opportunities that are available to you now that you are sober.

Go out and approach your future goals with motivation, optimism, and excitement. The best things happen when you are least expecting them to. Everyone has a different experience when they are recovering, but everyone has the same goals: to not let your addiction control you anymore.

Accept that you are human, and no one is perfect. Only you can control the bright future that you have ahead of you, and that is the true magic and power of forgiveness during your recovery.

And what about you? Do you have your own tip about addiction and recovery that you have learned personally and would like to to share? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear it!