It’s so easy to point fingers and lay blame when we’re hurting, especially when the source of that pain centers around addiction and substance abuse. Our culture has been struggling with how to deal with addiction for a long time. We tried Constitutionally banning alcohol, then changed our minds. We then prohibited and controlled a whole range of substances to combat the tidal shifts in American culture following the 1960s. The decades after saw roll-outs of education campaigns against drugs and smear campaigns against user of drugs, in an attempt to dissuade people from walking the frightening and confusing path of substance addiction.
Sadly, the repercussions of these media and government efforts have left a great deal of misconceptions and hurt feelings in regards to how we should treat our friends, neighbors, and family members who suffer from addiction. There’s a popular saying in modern recovery circles; Hate the Addiction, Not the Addict.
The point of this is that, while substance abusers certainly can be held responsible for making poor decisions early on, once an addiction takes hold it becomes a medical issue that is often outside of the addict’s ability to control. A certain compassion is necessary to understand and treat this condition that plagues our society from its core. Of course, as the spiritual teachers and wise ones have always said, in order to understand compassion, we must learn forgiveness.
Forgiving the Addict
Addiction is a nasty condition. It hijacks the brain’s reward systems and overloads a person’s rational thinking capacity with an insatiable need to satisfy the cravings at any and all costs. This makes a person do terrible, uncharacteristic things in order to fulfill this chemically-induced obsession. Addicts and Alcoholics will lie, cheat, steal, and harm others if it means getting the necessary gratification their brain-body demands.
After experiencing untold heartbreak and betrayal at the hands of loved ones and family members in the midst of this struggle, it can be difficult for us not to hold onto some resentment and ill will. Grudges and ongoing mistrust are the demons that haunt the relationships of addicts and it’s tragic because those relationships are the very thing an addict needs most in order to succeed at beating addiction. If we, as friends and family, and as citizens and neighbors, are to defeat the plague of addiction at our doorstep, we must be willing to offer forgiveness to those who suffer.
The Buddha is quoted as saying, “When you hold anger in your heart, it is like holding a hot coal in your hand and expecting another to be burned.”
Forgiving your loved one for harm he or she has caused in pursuit of addiction does not mean that you condone their behavior. It doesn’t mean everything is alright and we can return to normal, just like that. It just means that you won’t hold on to the anger and bitterness associated with holding a grudge. There is no room for this ill will in a situation where healing and recovery are the goals. Only by achieving forgiveness in our hearts can we hope to pull together as a community and as a family to overcome the devastation of substance addiction.
As a recovering addict or alcoholic, the most difficult thorn to endure is knowing that you have brought harm or heartbreak to the people you love and care about. You could spend all day torturing yourself for those transgressions and no one would be any better off for your guilt and misery. The name of the game is RECOVERY and the only way to heal the wrongs you may have done is to find forgiveness in yourself. Forgiving yourself for the wrongs done in addiction doesn’t mean you don’t feel guilt or shame. It just means that you won’t carry it around with you forever as a torture device.
In order to recover, and to make amends with those you have harmed, you must rid yourself of the nasty residue of pain and shame by accepting that you cannot change the past, it is done. All you can do now is affect what the future might look like by taking action in the present. Forgive yourself for being foolish and succumbing to addiction, and then move on with the confidence to overcome the lingering cravings and temptations, and create a better world.
Addiction is a difficult battle and often requires community support to endure, from any angle of the fight. The counseling staff at Hired Power knows what you’re up against and can help you cope with recovering from substance abuse. Contact us at 800-910-9299 for more information or to schedule a free consultation.