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  • Mary Jensen

Forgiving the addict in your life and why you DON'T have to



It's difficult to forgive an addict. How do you forgive someone who caused so much hurt and created insurmountable chaos in your life day after day? If your loved one is in recovery, it may be easier to forgive and move forward. If your loved one is still struggling with addiction, well, forgiveness becomes much more challenging.

The notion that we can move on only if we forgive someone of their wrongdoings may work for some people. This does not hold true for everyone, certainly not me. The pain, sorrow and dysfunction I went through with my loved one, was unforgivable. The addict in my life used drugs. He brought cocaine into our home. He lied, he stole, and he manipulated. He mastered the art of emotional abuse. This one man caused me extreme stress and anxiety. Inexcusable things happened between him and me. Does this sound familiar? Do you recognize someone who behaves this way?

They said I had to forgive

I began attending support group meetings for several reasons. In these meeting, I met many people in different stages of recovery. The members of these groups always said I HAD to forgive to move forward. They told me I had to let go of my anger and forgive him. They said forgiving him is what enables me to move forward. I struggled to understand this. For many years, I did not even consider forgiving him. Maybe forgiveness worked for them, but I was incapable of it. For me, to forgive meant accepting the dreadful behavior. Dreadful behavior is never acceptable.

In the support group meetings I explained I did not want to forgive him. They looked at me as if I were crazy. I told them, for some of us, it's okay NOT to forgive someone for the pain they caused. These folks spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince me that forgiving him would be the best thing for me. I’m sure they had good intentions, but they never faltered from their position that forgiveness was the only way to survive.

Why do I need to forgive?


I gave it more thought. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was being stubborn. After all I was outnumbered in my opinion. Perhaps there was something to this forgiving concept. So, I began to ask myself questions about forgiveness. Why do I need to forgive? Will that change his abhorrent behavior towards me? Probably not. Will forgiving him make him less of an addict? No, it definitely will not. How do I benefit from forgiveness? If I do forgive him now and he continues treating me badly, do I keep on forgiving him? How is that healthy for me? Doesn’t that just give him permission to treat me badly? I asked myself all these questions and more. None of the answers persuaded me.

After all of this contemplation and reflection, I came to the conclusion that it was okay to feel the way I did. It was not crazy. I did not have to forgive him. Nor did I need an apology from him. Instead, I needed to put the focus on myself, on my life and on my children. During our marriage, I lost my sense of self and what I wanted because I became consumed with him and his addiction. Once I realized I did not need to forgive him, I felt free. I could have a great life and achieve my goals without forgiving him. I needed to get off my ass and do something for myself and my kids. It is that simple. The more I considered this, the more I understood how overrated forgiveness is. Let's be serious, if I waited for my anger to go away, for my distrust to subside, for the hurt to heal, and forgive him for every crappy things he did, well, I would still be waiting. It's normal to have those feelings and still be able to move on.

In the years since he and I split, I made significant changes in my life. I stopped thinking about what he was doing or not doing. I changed my focus. I did things I wanted to do. My kids and I traveled as often as possible. We took day trips to local attractions. We enjoyed ocean cruises and long road trip adventures out of state. My career flourished. My health improved and my sanity returned. I went back to school and earned two college degrees. I met someone new and got married and then divorced. I moved, a few times. I changed careers. My kids got older. My parents got older. I met my soulmate and married him. The point is, life goes on, with you or without you. No matter if you forgive the addict in your life, you keep moving forward.

Grant yourself the freedom NOT to forgive


So, forgive or don’t forgive, it’s a personal decision. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with not forgiving someone who hurt you. The lesson here is don’t get stuck in the turmoil of someone else. Don't let your life pass you by while trying to figure out the addict’s actions or lack thereof. Stop asking yourself if the addict deserves forgiveness. It won’t change things. Grant yourself the freedom to not forgive. Allow yourself to accept your situation. Then figure out what you want. Decide what goals and dreams you have and conquer them!

#forgiveness #recovery #addiction

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