Why is forgiveness important to recovering from alcoholism or addiction?

George Joseph
Addiction Medicine
Who do you forgive and for what? Why is it important for an alcoholic or addict to forgive to stay sober? These are all very important questions that need answers and action for someone to overcome addiction and find recovery.

Who do you forgive? First and foremost, you forgive yourself. You are the one who got in so much trouble to begin with. Addiction is a disease that affects your body, mind and spirit, and you are the one who ingested the substances. However, once you cross the line of addiction, all bets of self-control are off. It is kind of like having an out of body experience and not realizing it. A sense of powerlessness takes over and does remarkable damage to your body, mind and spirit, and you often have no clue to the damage it is doing to you or those around you.

Once you start recovery, you are made aware of the havoc your addiction has caused. This awareness can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Does forgiving yourself take you off the hook for your responsibilities? Of course not. Forgiveness hopefully helps you heal so that you can take responsibility for your recovery and your need for help. You must not lose sight of the damage you have done, but forgiveness allows you to make peace, to learn that you are afflicted with a deadly disease that could have killed you. You learn you have to work hard to keep it at bay.

You must also forgive others around you that you think didn’t treat you fairly. Why? Refusing to forgive is like poisoning yourself, even though you are mad at someone else. Sure, some of your anger is justified, and those around you may have exhibited inappropriate behavior -- but how much of it was a reaction to your addiction?

A new life means a clean slate. Forgiveness is rolled out in The 12 Steps (especially steps eight and nine). When you make amends and ask that you are also forgiven, sometimes doesn’t happen and you need to move on and hope that, in time, your sober actions will help in that process. The best amends you can offer is to lead a wonderful and caring live, living the principals of recovery every day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.