Seeking and giving forgiveness is essential if you want to become a better person. But it’s hard and often seen as a green light for more abuse.
For you to understand what I’m about to get into, let’s review the AA 12 Steps of Recovery, which has been an important guide on my own flight from madness:
1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert addiction] — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to [insert type of addict], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
There’s a recurring theme in almost every step: Forgiveness.
To truly heal and grow, you have to be able to ask others for forgiveness. People like me have to do that, because you hurt a lot of people in a lot of ways when your addictions and mental disorders get the better of you.
The haze of OCD and the related addictions exhausted the mind and body and incapacitated me for days and weeks at a time. I was useless to my wife and children. I let family relationships and friendships suffer because getting the binge and then collapsing under the weight of it was more appealing than being a good friend.
I lied to a lot of people about a lot of things and had the audacity to think I was above others, no matter how screwed up I was.
I’ve asked for and gotten a lot of forgiveness along the way. I’ve done my share of forgiving. I long ago forgave family members I clashed with because of dysfunction. It doesn’t always end estrangements.
But as a priest once told me, forgiving doesn’t mean you permit someone to flog you anew.
It’s hard. Damn hard.
Resentment weighs you down and makes you weaker. It’s like carrying a Dumpster full of trash on your shoulders.
To move on and be better, you have to take out the garbage.