During recovery, it’s important to forgive yourself for the past. Here are five tips to help.

While maintaining sobriety is a large part of addiction recovery, ending substance use is only the first step toward a long-term goal. One of the biggest hurdles for many to overcome is dealing with feelings of guilt, regret and even shame. Forgiving yourself in recovery is vital to preventing relapse and creating a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Many people who used to use substances talk about the importance of forgiveness in recovery. Without productive tools and resources at your disposal, it can be easy to fall into the same situations or thought processes that led you to use drugs or alcohol in the first place. Here are five simple strategies that can help you forgive yourself and build a foundation for a better future.

Utilize Journaling

Throughout the recovery process, you will likely experience many different emotions and feelings, both good and bad. Journaling in recovery can help you get these thoughts off your chest and overcome negative emotions you may go through. When you’re especially low, you can reflect on what you wrote about your good days. These entries help remind you that things truly do get better.

The benefits of journaling in recovery are numerous. It helps you gain perspective on your situation and lets you release your innermost emotions. It also keeps you accountable. If you aren’t sure where to begin when journaling, there are many addiction recovery journal prompts available online. Answering the question, “What do you love about life?” is a great place to start!

Accept Your Past

Thinking about your past addiction can be difficult, but it’s important to accept it and learn from it. Accepting the past is a big part of learning to forgive yourself, and self-forgiveness in recovery sets up the foundation for lifelong sobriety and health. The negative emotions you feel about coping with addiction are valid, but you don’t need to be ruled by drugs and addiction any longer.

Your morals, values and beliefs are not what they were when you struggled with drug or alcohol use, and the things you did in the past do not reflect who you are now. You are a person in recovery and you are making an effort to change. Though you can’t change the past, you can learn from it and use it to avoid making mistakes in the future.

Practice Self-Compassion and Gratitude

Practicing self-compassion and gratitude in recovery can help ease the negative emotions that arise during newfound sobriety. You’ve already taken a huge step by accepting that you’d like to overcome substance use and addiction, and now it’s time to put things back in place.

By taking a look at where you used to be and where you are now, you can feel grateful for the action you’ve taken for a better future. This gratitude can help you overcome the past, as you know that you are actively dealing with your substance use disorder in a productive way.

When you feel like you are stumbling, recovery affirmations can help you remember why you chose a path of sobriety. To help with the day-to-day struggles you may feel, activities like meditation and yoga for addiction recovery can be additional tools in a holistic approach to cultivating more mindfulness, compassion and gratitude in your life.

Make Amends With Those You May Have Hurt

Making amends in recovery is another part of overcoming addiction and feelings about the past. You may feel like you’ve wronged people in the past, and this can lead to overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. Reaching out to these people can help you directly address your past actions, and it can gain you valuable supporters during the recovery process.

Your recovery support group is comprised of people who care about you and will help you throughout the process. By asking for someone’s forgiveness, you are showing them that you regret your actions and are working to be better. The people who forgive will likely be willing to be part of your recovery.

Remain Patient

Recovery is a lifelong process, and it won’t always be an easy one. There will be good times and bad times, and without patience in recovery, addiction relapse is always a threat. Lifelong recovery comes from accepting both the good and bad and knowing that the bad times don’t last forever. The bad times may even include relapses, but a relapse is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s just another way to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.

The road to recovery is often difficult and it can be much harder without a good support system. If you are struggling with addiction and need a helping hand, The Recovery Village is here for you. Our professional staff can find a treatment plan that works well for your situation, giving you a plan that can lead to lifelong recovery. Contact us today to learn about our treatment options and begin a substance-free life.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Kevin Wandler, MD
Kevin Wandler holds multiple positions at Advanced Recovery Systems. In addition to being the founding and chief medical director at Advanced Recovery Systems, he is also the medical director at The Recovery Village Ridgefield and at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake. Read more

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflectio[…] and Self-Discovery.” PsychCentral, July 8, 2018. Accessed July 13, 2019.

Soberlink. “10 Self-Affirmations for Recovery.” May 4, 2015. Accessed July 13, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.