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The Hook of Unforgiveness

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letters! Stephen Hayes quoted “Unforgiveness is like being on a giant hook. Next to you on the hook is the person who has hurt you. The hook is extremely painful. Wherever you go, so does the hook and so does the offender. The only way you can get off the hook is if you allow the offender off first. The cost of not allowing the offender off the hook is, perhaps, a lifetime of unhappiness.”

Everyone makes mistakes but moving past them is another story. Unforgiveness leads to built-up anger, resentment, and shame. Focusing on the sting from the hook brings emotional and physical problems. Often, it is easier to take steps of forgiveness when the error was the responsibility of another who has wronged you. However, moving past the wrongs that you have committed may feel like an unpassable mountain. For many this mountain is riddled with guilt and shame and common for those that are new to recovery. Harsh words that you have expressed during active addiction cannot be taken back, monetary damages are daunting, images of you passed out or using are etched in the minds of your loved ones. Ruminating about these mistakes undoubtably haunt you and are emotionally exhausting as they consume every waking moment in early recovery. The answer is not found by thinking that you can go back in the past and right a wrong or by quickly letting yourself off the hook. Learning to forgive yourself begins with taking responsibility for your addiction and the choices that were made. There is no room for excuses, rationalization or justifying past addictive behaviors now that you are a person in recovery. The more you distance yourself from addictive lifestyle the more you can realize that you are in a different place in your life in which you would not make these same mistakes. Your self-awareness allows you to take responsibility for the mistake and learn from it rather than claim it as part of personal identify. Through this process you gain control over negative emotions such as guilt and shame that have controlled you and kept you in a vicious cycle of addiction.

If we had a crystal ball and could look at your life as you continue to make deliberate steps into your new recovery lifestyle, it includes self-compassion, self-acceptance and new character traits. Your new life has no room for falling back into the trap of addiction. Never forget what your drug or drink of choice is capable of causing! Never! Moving past the guilt means working on restoring the relationships that have suffered as a direct consequence of addictive behaviors. Work on the relationships that can be restored, include the one that you have with yourself. As you work on righting past wrongs and learning to love yourself you will start to rebuild trust. Your actions will speak for themselves with integrity. Remember that you can only control your own choices. You can make the choice to forgive, whether you are learning to forgive self or another. You cannot make other people choose to forgive you. This leads to another blog topic about learning to grieve and say goodbye over broken relationships. For now, if you are ready to change and you are ready to claim your new identity, know that you can learn how to get off the hook of unforgiveness.

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