Having compassion for yourself is a practical and powerful thing to do. Many of us in recovery have regrets about things we said or did during active addiction, or things we weren’t able to say or do. For me, this was particularly true in early recovery, though I still go back to these regrets on occasion.
I think sometimes people believe that if they show compassion for that version of themselves, they’re not taking responsibility. But I’ve learned in my nearly six and a half years sober that the two are not mutually exclusive. I have apologized to certain people I hurt during active addiction. I’ve done a lot of work in therapy to understand some of my behaviors—even though they were done while I had a changed brain—to try not to repeat patterns. Still, I’ve really worked towards self-forgiveness.
I’ve found that beating yourself up over the past actually makes it harder to take accountability. You’re so focused on the shame, you can feel paralyzed or haunted by the past. This doesn’t allow you to move forward in a healthy way.
Remember that while you are responsible for your actions, addiction isn’t a choice. Most of us pick up substances to try to self-medicate for deep pain, trauma, other mental health disorders, loss, shame, and a whole host of other hurts. Drugs or alcohol may have been the only tool we knew of at the time. One way you start to heal from those hurts is to show yourself compassion and grace.
According to a study in Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment that delivered compassion-focused therapy to people with opioid use disorder, this approach helped participants face negative emotions, reduce self-criticism, and better understand themselves and others. Compassion is crucial for a full understanding of ourselves, because it shows us that we are not our mistakes—we are whole people with both strengths and areas in which we struggle. All the benefits of the study are important tools for recovery.
Clearing negative self-talk makes room for a ton of personal growth. This can help you address your past mistakes, while building a great future.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will treat you as a whole person, providing comprehensive care. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.