If you are struggling with someone who has an addiction, then know you are not alone. Many families do! Learn some practical ways that you can start to forgive them (for YOUR OWN GOOD) here. Then, we invite your questions and comments about forgiveness at the end.
Swallowing the anger…
It was the summer of 2006, and my flagship business Custom Home Exteriors had started to grow legs and take off. A few years earlier, I had befriended a young man who was a recovering addict; he was an incredible salesman and excellent at follow-up. I gave my friend a shot to help me with the business, but he relapsed back into addiction (BTW, is it possible to prevent relapse?); I found myself betrayed and stolen from.
I learned a lot from this encounter; I tried very hard to swallow the anger, resentment, and bitterness in my heart. My trust had been broken, and our business connection reached its viable end. The truth was that he was still very deep in his addiction.
But we have to learn to forgive
If you are struggling with someone who has an addiction in the family, then know you are not alone. Many families do! The aftermath can devastate an entire family. There is pain, anger, and resentment and for many including a long road of personal healing. It gets even more complicated when the person we care about cannot break the addiction. It’s in these moments that, no matter what, we have to learn how to forgive.
Many questions center around forgiveness: How, when and should we forgive? The answer lies in the principle of letting go. Letting go is the ability to forgive and move away from feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness no matter the outcome. Holding on to resentment and bitterness eat away at us over time, but when we let go and show grace, we can understand what it’s like to receive it.
Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In the same way, this idea can be applied to emotional pain; if we can learn to forgive, we can learn to love as Jesus loves.
It is this exact love that allows you see the people who are hurting.
Love allows you to help an addict
This love allows you to see people as broken, damaged, and in need of love itself. By forgiving an addict and letting go, you can ensure that you care about someone enough to allow them to work on themselves. Often, the addict does not understand what they’re doing and how their actions are affecting other people; give them space to figure it out.
5 ways to forgive an addict:
1. Understand addiction.
Understand that when someone develops an addiction, it becomes almost involuntary; the pull is so strong, it can be impossible to break without help. If an addict has treated you badly, remember that it’s not because they intentionally wanted to hurt you. Instead, the sickness is so strong that it has taken over every part of their life.
2.Write a letter.
Tell the addict in your life how much you care. You can choose to share it with this person or not, but when times are difficult, you or the person struggling with addiction can always return to the letter to remember how important they are in your life.
3. Forgiving is not forgetting.
Just because you are forgiving this person does not mean that you have to forget past behavior. If the addicted person has compromised your relationship or your safety, remember to maintain strong boundaries to protect yourself.
4. Forgive them regardless.
Forgiveness should never be a tool for compromise; it’s a choice you make regardless of the situation. Don’t let your forgiveness be tied to if the addicted person changes his or her ways. Instead, forgive them and hope that they can turn their life around.
5. Forgiveness is an active process.
Unfortunately, forgiveness is not a one-time event. You have to actively and consciously forgive. Realize that you are in a forgiveness process and though it may not always feel like it, you are steadily moving toward fully forgiving that addicted person in your life.
Mercy is a mirror
It was difficult, but I eventually came about to move on and forgive my friend for his actions. And while my forgiveness was not responsible for his recovery, my friend was eventually able to beat his addiction. He told us that the mercy that his friends and family showed him helped him believe that God could do the same.
Learn to forgive and hopefully someday an addict can learn to forgive himself or herself too!