“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”
― Oprah Winfrey
I can’t say I’m an Oprah Winfrey fan. However, I do think that the statement she makes about forgiveness is as psycho-emotionally accurate as anything I or any other treatment provider can say.
There’s very few who could argue with me that substance abuse brings hurt and pain. Regardless of where I teach or speak, whenever I ask the group to raise their hands if they know someone who’s addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, the entire group raises their hands. The next question I ask is, “Has their addiction hurt you?” I almost always get a unanimous and loudly stated, “Yes!”
The thing is that, in carrying around the hurt we feel, we make it more and more difficult to solve any problems. It’s like the anger and hurt become a large and dense ball of negative energy that strapped to our waist. If we don’t get rid of that ball, it gets heavier and heavier with each new hurt we experience. In cutting the ball loose, we can start all our days fresh and energized and with better perspective to handle the new hurts we’ll certainly have to face.
Forgiving someone for what they’ve done wrong will cut that ball away from your waist. No one is perfect. On a rational level, I don’t think anyone would argue the point; however, when it comes to relating with someone who’s addicted to substances, we tend to oversimplify their experience and evaluate them by the standard of someone who isn’t addicted.
Recently, a friendly acquaintance of mine was arrested for her second DWI. She was “on probation” at her job because of her previous DWI arrest. The contract she signed stipulated that she would be terminated upon a second DWI arrest. I understand that her bosses may be angry; they gave her a chance and she blew it. However, though at certain times an addicted person may “know better,” once triggered, all that knowing better gets thrown away: All that matters is the target of an addiction. Consequences are irrelevant; there is no bad outcome, there is no worry of hurting someone else. Really, once the addiction cycle is triggered, nothing else matters.
I do think that anger towards someone else is important. I think it helps remind us how much we care about the person and his or life in relation with our own. I also think that having someone who is addicted face and acknowledge consequences is critical to recovery. However, once we’ve expressed the anger, we need to cut it loose. We need to wipe the proverbial slate clean and start fresh. In allowing the anger to collect, we only hurt ourselves. Really, time is finite; we only get twenty-fours a day to spend. We don’t get those hours back. I think it’s a waste of time to carry anger and let it interfere with our daily lives. Really, all experiences can present some learning opportunities. Perhaps it’s better to thank people for having shared time with us that to hold them accountable for every single hurt they’ve inflicted.
To anyone who has hurt me: I forgive you – thank you for providing me a chance to learn something I needed to know.