Forgiving Myself in Sobriety
By Kate Adermann
I spent six years in the grips of heroin addiction. I hurt the people I loved and I disrespected my mind, body, and spirit. I simply didn’t care about how my actions affected others, and I certainly didn’t care about the devastating damage I was causing to myself. In order to stay sober, I had to begin to forgive myself for the things I had done and the person that I had been. In forgiving myself, I must also respect myself. This means practicing self-care on a physical as well as spiritual level.
In my addiction, I frequently deprived myself of the nutrients I needed to thrive because drugs were more important at the time. Not only did I not eat, but I caused a lot of damage to my body and metabolism as well. Eating well became important to me from the very beginning of my recovery because I saw it as a way to nourish and respect the body I was given.
Healthy eating was necessary especially in early recovery while I was still detoxing from opiates. Eating raw foods, such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables that contain antioxidants help detox the body faster and give its metabolism the jump start that it needs to get healthy again. Not allowing my body to suffer more than necessary was the first step I took to forgive myself in sobriety.
Even though I was sober, I still struggled with incessant, racing thoughts that never seemed to end. I would constantly obsess over things I did in the past that I couldn’t change as well as my fear of messing things up again in the future. I couldn’t control any of the things I was thinking about, so instead of beating myself up, I sought refuge from these thoughts through the practice of mindful meditation.
Mindful meditation is a technique that has been proven to alleviate stress and anxiety. It is free to do and can be done anywhere, during any time of the day. At first, I couldn’t sit quietly or still on my own, so I would do guided meditations. By focusing on my breath and on my surroundings, I was able to ground myself and slow the racing thoughts. The insanity in my head began to quiet and I was finally able to feel at peace.
Spending Time in Nature
While I was using drugs, I never really took the time to appreciate the beauty of nature and the world around me. As a young girl, I remember loving going on hikes and spending time outdoors, but at some point, I had given that up for something much more shallow - drugs and alcohol.
Another important part of forgiving myself in sobriety consisted of allowing things that I once enjoyed to come back into my life. Spending as little as 5-10 minutes in nature can enhance your mood, reduce stress, and promote creativity. I began hiking again and found a way to appreciate stunning views, vigorous hiking trails, and the sounds of birds chirping in the trees above me. Nature is all around, and it is amazing what a little warm sunshine can do for the soul.
Perhaps the hardest, but most important, part of forgiving myself was in the act of starting to selflessly help others. This involved having an unconditional faith that I truly did have a purpose in life - I wasn’t just some worthless junkie who had nothing to offer the world. I was still alive and there had to be a reason for that.
I came to realize that I had the gift of desperation that allowed me to have the willingness that I needed to do everything it took to stay sober throughout the years. Through that willingness, I gained experience, strength, and hope that I could share with other people who felt as hopeless as I once did. I can sit with them, one on one, and show them exactly what I did to recover from addiction. I get to watch the little twinkle come back on in these people’s lives as the obsession to drink or drug slowly leaves them. Watching others embark on the same journey I am on gives me hope. It gives me purpose. In helping and loving others, I learned how to love and help myself.
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