The years of untreated mental health and substance use disorder left damage that requires forgiveness from others. Unfortunately, I made choices against my moral fiber to get one more drink/drug. Things like theft, lying, and emotional abuse were all part of the behaviors I carried out during my usage. Recently, I have made amends and been forgiven by many, but I wanted to share the process in hopes the next person can experience the same freedom. As Alexander Pope stated, “To err is human; to forgive is divine.”
Through my travels to twenty-plus treatment centers and twelve-step meetings, I have witnessed people cry buckets of sorrow regarding their decisions while in addiction. I often wish people who were harmed by others with this disease could see how they suffer in silence. The tricky part of this illness is untreated; it can lead to decisions that question a person’s morality. For example, I have heard countless people state they can forgive the usage but not the behavior. One person is quoted as saying, “I forgave her for all the years she abused drugs but not her pawning our wedding ring to get high.” Often people separate the behavior from the disease. Once I got sober, I have never repeated those acts because they do not represent my inner core. I did those things while at the depths of my addiction, and I must forever live with those decisions. Countless times I have heard, “I never thought he was capable of doing something like this to get drugs. I cannot believe the person I knew would go this far.” The power of this illness left untreated can cause the most incredible soul to live with regrets.
Recently, my Grandmother died of Covid-19, and I made amends to her before she passed. There was a zoom call setup while she was on a ventilator so that everyone could talk to her. The last time she saw me, I was a complete and utter mess. I had been on a four-day bender of drinking, homeless, and bad attitude. I hated myself, and my behavior displayed it with aggravated attention. I met my Grandmother late in life due to the divorcing of my parents. Divorce can turn bitter and ugly, which leaves the child in a vulnerable position. When my Grandmother and I met, I was in no state to receive love. I did not love myself and honestly had many untreated issues that kept the relationship from growing. To her credit, she housed me, fed me, and tried talking with me. She made it mandatory that I attend Bible study once a week at her local church. One day when I returned, she asked me what I had learned? I told her we spoke about Proverbs, and she asked me to pull my Bible out. We had a long conversation about the scripture, and she told me to always read Proverbs because of the wisdom it grants. Ironically, it has become part of my daily routine in sobriety, considering it holds 31 chapters.
Fast forward, I got the news from my cousin about my Grandmother. My neighbor is a Pastor, and he came over and prayed with me before I got on the zoom call. His wisdom and prayer have been a true blessing in my life. As she appeared on the call lying on the bed, it became clear I needed to inform her of my newfound life. I believe the spirit of God took over, and all my nerves left my body. I no longer felt shame, guilt, or anger. I began to feel self-esteem, power, and love like never before. I realized that God had allowed me on that call to not only make amends but to forgive myself. My whole family got to watch as I told my Grandmother she would be proud of the man I became and changed my life. This was the first time I ever spoke with stature, truth, and wisdom with all my family. For years I felt so ashamed of who and what I had become. I realized on that call that I no longer had to live in that spiritual sickness, and newfound freedom was on the horizon.
After the call, my cousin I spoke with in years reached out to check on me. I could hear the excitement in his voice and how delighted he was for my success. He told me how proud he was of me and also that I have broken the cycle. He does not know it, but I was crying while he told me these things because I never thought I could make my family proud. I always thought I needed to change who I was to appease the masses. The truth is, I was always good enough, and regardless they loved me. My perception was so distorted while I was using that it seeped into my recovery. I realize this is why they suggest we do strenuous daily work consisting of recovery meetings, spiritual practices, a healthy diet, work out, positive connections, therapy, meditation, journaling, etc. These tools allowed me to write this blog with freedom and purpose on the importance of forgiveness in recovery.
I will travel home this weekend to say good-bye to my Grandmother and start a new beginning with my family. Since my Gradnother’s passing, I decided that I did not want my relationship with my Father to end the same way. What if we can forgive each other and start on a brand new footing? What if I can use my gifts and blessings to help uplift his life? What about his story and journey through life? What if the real key to my recovery is rooted in forgiveness? For everyone that has been affected by this illness and vows never to forgive, let my story be the example of why you should. Forgiveness can open up doors of freedom you would have never imagined. I am a better man today because I forgave and have been forgiven. Recovery is a beautiful door to open, but the key to the door is forgiveness.