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How To Practice Self Forgiveness In Recovery

self-forgiveness-in recovery

Substance use disorder (SUD), colloquially referred to as addiction, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a complex, neurological “condition in which there is uncontrolled use of substance despite harmful consequence,” according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The recovery process is entirely personal, and it will be directly informed by one’s personality, mental health, and emotional needs. The habits and patterns developed during one’s active drug use have been reinforced through habitual substance abuse and are often difficult to correct. Recovery frequently includes a customized treatment plan that considers and addresses the symptoms, the underlying causes of the disease, as well as work with the individual to repair the damage that occurred in the various areas of her life as a direct result of her substance abuse. Regardless of the nuances of one’s treatment plan, embracing self-forgiveness is fundamental to one’s long-term recovery.


Self-forgiveness has been defined as a “positive attitudinal shift in the feelings, actions, and beliefs about the self, following a self-perceived transgression or wrongdoing committed by the self.” Consider the following suggestions to help you practice self-forgiveness:

  • Shift your focus: Rather than perseverating on past circumstances and holding them at the forefront of your mind, shift your focus to more positive thoughts, home in on achievements (both big and small), and concentrate on what brings meaning to your life.
  • Try something new: Humans are hard-wired to experience joy when experiencing novelty, so try learning a new skill, do a challenging puzzle, tackle a difficult recipe, etc. to build self-confidence.
  • Flow with your feelings: Avoiding negative emotions when they present can disrupt the process of learning from and moving past them; by acknowledging, naming, and allowing yourself to feel them, you can help begin to release them.
  • Breathe: Research has found that practicing deep breathing techniques can effectively help with relaxation, stress management, control of psychophysiological states, and improve organ function.
  • Exercise or engage in movement regularly: The Academy of Neurological Therapy asserts that “exercise has been shown to help improve and prevent many conditions, including: weight management, stress levels, emotional regulation/ mood, memory, attention, strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and blood pressure regulation.” 
  • Give back to the community: Dedicating oneself to others through activities such as volunteering produce greater joy than focusing on oneself.
  • Shift your internal dialogue: Create a positive mantra to reframe your thoughts and counter emotional pain. 
  • Practice mindfulness: Through consciously drawing attention to the present moment, our mind is unable to dwell on past pain, reducing its impact. Consider trying meditation, yoga, reading, listening to music, journaling, etc. to help quiet your mind. Data shows that meditation can help lower blood pressure, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, improve insomnia, and more.

Forgiving oneself does not condone, it does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean excusing offenses. Self-forgiveness is vital to the healing process because it allows you to free yourself from past emotional pain. This creates the needed emotional space to focus on growth and forward momentum, making way for improved health, peace of mind, and sustained sobriety.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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