Everyone can relate to that sharp flame suddenly settling into your gut when someone wrongs or hurts you.
It’s a natural first response, but it doesn’t have to be anything more than that.
The action of intentionally letting go of a grudge has many mental and even physical health benefits. This is especially true in the context of substance abuse and recovery.
Perspectives of Forgiveness in Relation to Addiction Recovery
When someone is in the process of substance abuse recovery at a center that offers a holistic treatment approach, it is likely unresolved conflicts, trauma, and pain from the client’s past will resurface. While this might sound alarming, it is truly the best way to fully shed addictive habits as it will lead to the uprooting of what could have originally caused the addiction to take place—which is very much less distressing in the long-run.
The Aviary personalizes their approach to recovery on a case-by-case basis by basing the plan on what “you believe is at the center of your addiction.” This holistic treatment includes cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapy in group and individual sessions. All of these different methods will be working towards resolving any underlying issues that could be contributing to an addictive lifestyle.
The process of pinpointing these root issues will often uncover unresolved grudges as it will focus on “the elements and relationships of your life that you feel are important to address.” For some people, they cannot fully recover from their addiction because they cannot move on from their past until they can recognize the places in themselves where they are holding onto bitterness, pain, injustice, or fear. While uncovering these grudges is important, it is only the first step. Forgiveness is the key.
Benefits of Letting It Go
Although everyone’s situation is unique, letting go of past hurts and learning to forgive offers the following benefits:
- Physical health benefits: According to a Psychology Today article by Dr. Melanie Greenberg, 6 Important Facts About Forgiveness, holding onto grudges can cause prolonged stress. “If you are unforgiving, you get a burst of the stress hormone cortisol every time you think about the offending event. Ruminating about the harm that’s been caused can raise your blood pressure and put a strain on your heart.”
- Mental and emotional health benefits: Holding onto a grudge means that you are tightly holding onto something from your past which will keep you from being fully engaged in the present. Especially if what you are trying to accomplish in the present is substance abuse recovery, having your full attention and emotional energy at hand will be invaluable. Dr. Greenberg also explained, “For some of us, hanging onto the anger and bitterness means giving the perpetrator continued power over our lives, while letting it go frees us psychologically.”
- Relationship benefits: Forgiving your loved ones ensures that you are releasing any grudges that you might have been (perhaps subconsciously) holding onto for future passive-aggressive fights. If you have been in the habit of keeping grudges, “You may also become less likely to trust and engage with other people who can bring you love and pleasure” (Greenberg). Letting go of these petty tallies are signs of maturity and a willingness to approach your loved one as an equal.
- Personal benefits: While letting go of grudges will “not take away the harm that was caused,” it will still be more valuable to you than obsessing over that pain as that would be letting the initial cause continue hurting you (Greenberg). Growing comfortable with moving on from situations where you have been wronged is evidence that you are mature, realistic, empathetic, and will work well in groups and as a leader.
Forgiveness Comes in Many Contexts
Letting go will look different for each person. There could be an inter-generational grudge that is larger than yourself that you must try to end or maybe the hardest person for you to forgive is yourself. No matter your perspective on grudges, forgiveness, and addiction recovery, letting go and learning to forgive can take time.
Even if holding a grudge feels “good” at first, remember it will always keep you grounded in your past. This will hinder your efforts of self-discovery and improvement, making it more difficult to build the sober future you deserve.