Forgiveness in Recovery

Forgiveness is a primary element of any treatment or recovery plan. Untreated mental health disorders or substance abuse can cause individuals to do things they aren’t proud of, which may bring them shame and guilt in the future.

But without forgiveness, clients are likely to hold onto those negative feelings, and if they maintain space inside for shame or guilt, there’s no space for love and learning.

What Forgiveness in Recovery Looks Like

Forgiveness can include:

  • Forgiving yourself for mistakes you have made or for having a history of substance abuse or mental health disorders
  • Forgiving others for how they may have treated you, triggered you, or not supported you during your time of need
  • Forgiveness from others for things you’ve done or things that have transpired 

Without forgiveness in recovery, you won’t be able to move forward properly, learn self-compassion techniques, or improve communication.

For example:

Alex has struggled with addiction on and off for several years. Whenever he had a relapse, he would do things he wasn’t particularly proud of, such as stealing his mom’s car so he could go buy drugs and getting into an accident, or getting arrested for stealing her valuables so that he could sell them for money to buy more drugs.

Alex would get clean because of detox programs and short outpatient treatment, but he didn’t practice forgiveness in recovery. As such, whenever he was triggered or hurt his mother again, it caused him great pain because it reminded him of all the ways in which he had hurt her when he was using.

But he didn’t know how to deal with those feelings, nor had he learned to forgive himself even though his mother had forgiven him. This resulted in a downward spiral and a relapse nearly every time.

With the right type of care, people like Alex can focus on forgiveness in recovery, learning that it’s perfectly okay to forgive yourself for mistakes made in the past, and not doing so can hinder development and progress in the future.

In Alex’s case, learning forgiveness in recovery could give him the tools to control the downward emotional spiral he experiences whenever he upsets his mother while sober and to prevent that from becoming the trigger for a relapse.

Forgiveness in Recovery: How Others Can Lend a Hand

Forgiveness in recovery might extend to other people. Continuing the previous example:

  • Alex’s mother might need to forgive him for stealing her valuables or costing her money in impound fees by hearing him apologize to her
  • Alex might need to forgive his mother for calling the cops on him during one of his relapses, which resulted in him harboring negative feelings toward her that he hadn’t dealt with

Family therapy can be an effective component in recovery because it brings everyone together for an opportunity to learn more about forgiveness as a group and to examine areas where forgiveness might be needed. Moreover, family therapy can offer an opportunity to rebuild bonds and improve communication, which can only happen after the foundation of forgiveness has been laid.

Learning Forgiveness in Recovery with Water Gap Wellness

At Water Gap Wellness Center, we want our clients to recognize the essential power of forgiveness, particularly for themselves.

In each of the offerings at our Pennsylvania mental health retreat, clients get a continuum of care for their mental health or dual diagnosis needs. This might look like:

  • Transitioning into a partial hospitalization program, or PHP mental health care, clients meet six hours per day, six days per week and engage in group sessions daily, see their therapist two times per week, and their Psychiatrist/Nurse Practitioner one time each week.
  • Moving from there into an intensive outpatient program or traditional outpatient mental health services with relapse prevention, exposure therapy, clients meet three hours per day, five days per week and clients visit their Therapist and Psychiatrist/Nurse Practitioner one time each week.

No matter the level of care on the continuum, our focus starts with learning forgiveness, not just for ourselves but for the whole family.

Forgiveness in recovery is an essential cornerstone. It builds the foundation for successful recovery long-term. Learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others for things that have happened in the past, so that you can move forward into the future.

If you are ready to start your customized treatment for dual diagnosis needs, reach out to our team today.

About WGWC

Water Gap Wellness Center offers expert and compassionate treatment for mental health and substance abuse at our Pennsylvania facility, just outside New Jersey, a short drive from New York. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you today. 

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