Understanding Forgiveness And How It Heals
Forgiveness is a powerful part of substance use recovery. Many people do not understand the reason they need to forgive, but it is an integral part of healing to let go of past pains and fully make peace with them. Substance use disorder can cause and even stem from self-hate, familial problems, and trauma. When you begin to forgive yourself and others you are forced to address the feelings surrounding the situation.
Benefits of Forgiveness
Negative feelings about self tend to stem from guilt or shame. These feelings can come from an array of situations. When you begin the process of self-forgiveness you open yourself up to the possibility of understanding and releasing the source of your guilt or shame. There can also be a cycle of shame or guilt created from substance use disorder that perpetuates the substance use disorder. Studies show that self-forgiveness can increase a person’s ability to manage their substance use disorder and reduce feelings of guilt and shame. This can look like breaking a promise to a loved one to stop drinking and then drinking heavier when caught. However, this might look different if the person were to forgive themselves for breaking the promise and recommit to sobriety. Forgiving oneself allows you to hold yourself accountable to change the action and end the painful cycle substance use disorder can create.
Forgiveness impacts more than just a person’s substance use disorder. It can cause a person’s stress levels to be higher and even interfere with their ability to manage conflict. There is a study that focused on the relationship between forgiveness and health. This study took each participant’s vitals to mark their baseline. Then they were determined that they were asked to discuss an instance of betrayal. Their vitals were taken again during the interview and after a cool-down period. They measured the rates of forgiveness and the results showed that forgiveness was a strong stress reducer and it increased conflict management.
Negative Effects of Harboring Resentment
Harboring resentment is very bad for a person’s mental health. It can cause a person to be unable to control their feelings and experience chronic hostility. A study done on the process the brain experiences when forgiveness occurs further explains stating, “Negative affect and chronic emotional distress erode health, alter cardiovascular reactivity, impoverish sleep quality, stimulate the production of stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, being associated over time with the development of clinical conditions such as depression.” Harboring resentment can mess with your sleep patterns, heart, and stress hormones. The study continues to say, “Conversely, forgiveness promotes wellbeing, cardiovascular health, and may increase survival rates.” It is best to release the weight of resentment so that you can heal. No matter if the resentment is toward yourself or another person, it is not worth harboring.
Tips on How to Forgive
Forgiveness is not easy. It doesn’t look the same every time and sometimes it’s harder than other times. There is no one way to look at forgiveness or define it. However, it is powerful. Forgiveness is the act of releasing resentment or anger. This definition does not come with instructions on how to do this. Since forgiveness can be confusing here are a few tips on how to forgive:
- Talk through the situation with the person
- Write about your feelings on the situation
- Get advice about the situation
- Fully understand the root cause of the situation
- Speak with a therapist
The important thing to remember is forgiveness is a personal journey. There is no timeline, and it is extremely unproductive to compare your journey to forgiveness to another’s. Your feelings are yours to own, explore, and navigate. It is completely reasonable to respond differently to someone else.
Forgiveness: A Maze of a Journey
Traumatic incidents can cause resentment that creates substance use disorders, and substance use disorders can create trauma and resentment. Guilt, shame, and resentment perpetuate these cycles. There is a wonderful way for people to heal this cycle, and that’s through forgiveness. It is not an easy process, but no healing process is. However, they are always worth it. This is backed up by research that shows both physical and mental benefits of releasing resentment, guilt, and shame. Forgiveness may not occur fast and it may seem like it is a never-ending process. If you can ride the wave the reward is the freedom of healing.
Forgiveness is not an easy journey to embark on for those who hold onto anger. It can be one of the hardest journeys, depending on the situation being forgiven, and no matter if you are forgiving yourself or someone else. Mountain Peak Recovery understands the healing that comes from forgiveness. That is why we want to help facilitate the power of forgiveness in your life. We know substance use disorder can create a lot of shame and guilt, which is why we want to help eradicate that shame and guilt. We recognize the power of grace because we practice it daily with our clients. We want to help people struggling with substance use disorder understand that they are not only capable of healing, but they are also capable of thriving through recovery. Come reconnect with your inner light. Call Mountain Peak Recovery ASAP if you or someone you love is dealing with a substance abuse issue call, (801) 824-8829.