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Following Christ’s Example: Forgiving Ourselves during Addiction Recovery

Perhaps the greatest example of forgiveness in the Bible was provided by Jesus Christ himself. Jesus’ forgiveness of Judas has given rise to much debate as to why the Messiah kept the traitor ‘in the fold’, even though he knew what lay ahead. Jesus first noticed that Judas had changed when his disciple grew distant, and soon after, he foresaw that Judas would ‘hand him over’ to those who would end his life on earth. Yet He kept Judas by his side as a sign of his love for Man, despite all his flaws. Jesus had already forgiven Judas, who was unable to forgive himself; Judas did away with his life, unable to come to terms with having hurt the Son of God.

Those who are in recovery from an addiction to substances or alcohol can probably relate with the strong feelings of guilt experienced by Judas. When one is under the throes of addiction, one can burn many bridges and hurt those who most love us. Hurt can be caused by lying about the extent of our problem, perhaps taking from others to feed our addiction, or letting people down in important moments in their lives. When we commence our journey towards recovery, one of the hardest obstacles to face lies in stopping ourselves from indulging in self-blame, judgment, and criticism.

Guilt can be useful; it reminds us that we should act responsibly since no man is an island; we are all interconnected and everything we do can either help or hinder those we love. However, when guilt turns into shame, nothing productive can result and we can either distance ourselves from those we should be approaching, indulge in self-destructive behavior (for instance, by relapsing into drug use) or become overwhelmed by our problems and lose the ability to think clearly and problem-solve.

We should look to Christ himself to understand the extent to which he was capable of loving even the most flawed of men and try to give ourselves a little of this love. With a kind and self-compassionate heart, our road towards recovery becomes easier and we have faith that God will help us rebuild vital relationships with friends and family. In a positive frame of mind, we logically feel more motivated to take part in activities that will enhance our quality of life and indeed enable us to live longer in a happier state. These activities can include taking part in physical activity, learning natural ways to control our anxiety and stress, and cooking healthy, seasonal foods to feed the temple that is our body.

As postulated in Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.…”

The best way to start forgiving yourself, is by focusing on how you make others’ lives better. Ask yourself what your family members, for instance, need to be happy. Do you have a sibling who would benefit greatly from talking to you about their problems? Does your parents’ lawn need mowing? Are there any chores you can help a friend out with today that will lighten their burden? Focusing on making others happy has two main benefits – firstly, it keeps your mind on the task at hand and gives you an important focus for the day. Secondly, it helps you strengthen ties which may have been broken by your addiction. There is a third, less obvious benefit, however; by helping others, you help yourself build a sense of self-worth. By letting others rely on you, you begin to understand the extent to which you are important to their lives.

Once you have set the ball rolling with respect to family members, head for a quiet, relaxing spot (such as a park or other natural area) and ask yourself what would make you happy. You might decide to start a hobby you have always wanted to do, or take up a sport you always excelled at. Whichever means you choose to be kind to yourself, make sure it is a source of joy and don’t place expectations which are too high on yourself. Jesus embraced the poor, needy and flawed; do you think you can spare a bit of this kind of compassionate love for yourself?

This article was submitted by Helen Rhodes, Freelance Writer