You have done an amazing thing by becoming sober. You have kicked your addiction and taken an impressive step towards improving your life and the lives of those around you. Even though you’ve taken this step, the path to lasting sobriety has just begun. Every day you must choose sobriety. Feelings of remorse, guilt and shame can creep up and attempt to knock you off your sober path.
Accepting yourself is an essential step towards creating lasting sobriety, according to Keith Bray, a respected life coach. Keith Bray has coached hundreds of former addicts and helped them create happy, sober lives. Learning to accept yourself can be one of the most difficult things to learn in life, but can also be one of the most rewarding.
Forgive the Past
Forgiving is not forgetting; you may never forget traumatic events related to your addiction, which is perfectly normal. These memories and feelings of guilt exist to prevent history from repeating itself.
Robert D. Enright, author of “Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope,” suggests that there are four phases to forgiveness. These phases are more easily reached with the help of a counselor or rehabilitation specialist. They both apply to forgiving yourself and understanding what others will go through in order to forgive you:
1. Uncovering Phase – The initial phase of forgiveness relies on building trust with yourself and those around you. As you begin to trust, you will gain awareness of the effects and the impacts of your decisions.
2. Decision Phase – You will then begin to directly encounter the reason why you have been unable to forgive yourself. You will notice your own resistances and defenses that have blocked your self-forgiveness up until this point.
3. Work Phase – As you break through your own defenses, you will begin to truly bear the pain and injury that was caused by your offensive action. As you emotionally process this pain, you will begin to feel a sense of empathy and compassion. You will start to notice your own human qualities – likely the qualities that led to the offensive action.
4. Outcome and Deepening Phase – Due to the suffering associated with the forgiveness process, a deeper meaning will begin to develop. You will understand that you are not facing sobriety alone, and that you do have people who are by your side. You may also develop a deep spiritual appreciation at this time.
After you have forgiven yourself, try to make amends with anyone you have wronged. Understand that they may require time to go through the same above four phases:
- Approach them with a humble heart and apologize for your actions.
- Explain to them that you have taken dramatic steps to ensure that it does not happen again.
- Let them know you understand it takes for them time to forgive you, if they ever do.
The purpose of the apology is to show the other person – and yourself – that you are accepting the past for what it is.
Focus on the Present
Keith Bray suggests that living in the present is a key element to accepting yourself. Living in the past can keep you in an unhealthy state of mind; Bray states that learning to live in the present has been a turning point in self-acceptance for many of his patients.
Eckhart Tolle, author of the popular “The Power of Now,” suggests the following steps for keeping your mind clear and living in the present:
- Realize that the present moment is all you will ever have. Your past is a collection of memories and the future is a projection of your mind.
- Learn to observe your own thoughts and reduce your own internal chatter.
- Place an extreme amount of focus on seemingly mundane tasks, like washing dishes or doing laundry. This results in a state of acute awareness, not one of thought.
- Focus on your breath. It is easiest to begin in a seated meditation. As you progress, begin to focus on your breath throughout your life.
- Measure your success not by comparing yourself to others, but only by the degree of relief and happiness felt within.
- As you notice the mind’s tendency to place attention on the past or the future, consciously direct your attention back to the present.
- Begin to observe your own “kneejerk” reactions to situations. Develop internal space between the situation and your reaction to it. This provides a greater sense of peace.
As you focus on each moment, you may realize the world becoming more beautiful; colors may become more vivid, foods may taste better and so on. This is a direct benefit when your mind becomes less clouded. Enjoying these enhanced sensations will further assist you in accepting yourself and create lasting sobriety.
Forge a Bright Future
As you live the sober life, you will have to make decisions about where to find employment, which friends to keep around and who to enter a relationship with. With every decision you make keep in mind how you want to forge your future. By building a bright future you will further accept yourself. Over time, you will see that you are making great decisions and your present is becoming brighter.
Forgive, Focus, Forge
As you reach a degree of self-forgiveness you will be able to move on from your past. This will assist you in living fully in the present. As you live in the present, you will experience life in a fulfilling new way. This will naturally allow you to forge a bright and sober future.
Image by Jerry Bunkers from Flickr’s Creative Commons