Forgiving an Alcoholic

You cannot have healing without forgiveness. This is especially true in the addiction recovery process. For the recovering alcoholic, for example, the big challenge is self-forgiveness. That is just part of the picture though. It’s also important for friends and loved ones to offer their forgiveness, so that broken relationships can be mended and healing can spread not just to the individual, but to the family and the community.

This can be easier said than done. Often, the behavior of an alcoholic can be truly hurtful—leaving it difficult indeed to put the past in the past and reach a point of reconciliation.

For those struggling to forgive an alcoholic, then, time and patience may be required. In addition, consider these few tips:

First, remember what forgiveness is not. It’s not suppressing your emotions. It’s not enabling or excusing anyone’s bad behavior. It’s not denying that you were hurt or continue to hurt. Understand that nobody is asking you to do any of these things.

You don’t have to forget. On a related note, don’t feel like you have to totally forget about the hurtful acts in question. You can still learn from them; grow stronger from them; and set appropriate boundaries in your life.

What you can and should do is make an effort toward real forgiveness. Let go of negative emotions. Give up your right to get even, to hold a grudge, or to say “I told you so.” Choose a healthy path forward for yourself and for your friend or loved one.

Educate yourself about addiction. Develop a better understanding of where the other person is coming from.

Don’t hold out for an apology. Your forgiveness is a choice you make—and it may also be a process. It shouldn’t hinge on anyone else’s behavior, though. It’s something you’re totally in control of.

Forgiveness is a choice you make—and though it is not an easy one, it is the right one.

How do you forgive? Share your story with us.
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