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A Little Note on Self-Forgiveness… Not So Fast, There Sparky.

August 2019

The first time I ever heard someone share the concept of forgiving oneself as a part of the recovery process, I bought into it but it never “sat well” with me.  I outgrew that phase of my recovery and never really looked back, until just yesterday I got an email from someone very close reminding me, “forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”.

And just like that, I put two and two together after all that time.  I finally understand why it never sat well with me.  Forgiveness is a gift I give myself”?!  Forgiveness is a gift I give someone else, sure, but myself?  Let’s turn that on its head for a second.

As practicing alcoholics we wreak a lot of havoc.  We are tornadoes through the lives of others.  Anyone who believes otherwise is ignorant or mistaken, or both.  We have a lot to atone for as we enter recovery.  As a part of the “clearing up the wreckage of our past” phase of recovery, we set about doing exactly that.  The more we hesitate, the more painful the process, the closer we come to having that next drink.  Better, in my experience, to rip that band-aid off than beat around the bush.

I hesitated.  I dawdled.  I hid behind fear of the sharing my past with another.  I hid because I had no idea how free I would feel once I was rid of that trainload of shit I’d been hauling behind me… right up until I didn’t dawdle anymore.  Once I started unhitching the cars by performing the amends part of recovery, I went from crawl, to walk, to run, to rocket ship almost immediately.

Just sharing my past with someone else helped me to see over the pile I’d left behind me.  Once I’d laid that out, becoming willing to be relieved of my shortcomings was almost instant.  The amends process was a natural step and with each act, another car was loosed.  I emerged from the amends process a free man.

Forgiving myself was no longer necessary because I did what was right.  Forgiving myself naturally comes with sweeping up the street I littered with my $#!+.  Therein lies the rub.

And that’s why that phrase never sat well with me.  I didn’t have the experience or understanding to think through it back then, but here’s the nuts and bolts:  If I haven’t cleaned up my wreckage, I have no business forgiving myself for anything.  Sure, I can relax on the ass-kicking machine as I work through the process, but self-forgiveness comes only with cleaning up my mess and forgiving others.  It’s what happens last, not first.

Just a thought.  Recover hard, my friends.  I know I’ve got another drunk in me.  What scares me straight is, I don’t know if I’ve got another recovery.


  1. Kecia says:

    I love the analogy of the train cars, hauling the load of shit, and unhitching the cars one at a time. While I am not a recovering alcoholic, I do have past demons that have weighted me down and burdened me. When I finally unhitched the cars and told people about the secret I’d carried for 35+ years, it was so freeing. Cheers!

  2. unironedman says:

    Yes, I guess it doesn’t matter when it happens, as long as it does happen at some stage.

  3. mikeykjr says:

    Forgiveness seems to be the topic of many meetings as of late. The Daily Reflection read at several of the meetings I attend focuses on the 8th step, “..became willing to make amends to them all.” Obviously, this leads to Step 9 – making direct amends.

    For me, I did have to forgive myself first. I felt if I didn’t recognize all the past crap I had done and understand why I did what I did, I couldn’t move forward. I wasn’t a bad evil person. I was simply a very sick individual who did a lot of things to hurt myself and others who needed to change.

    I came to accept the things of my past and willing to do something about them now. This better understanding of what I did, how I hurt myself and others, and what I need to do now gave me more strength to do just that.

    • bgddyjim says:

      That’s an interesting perspective, brother. Very… As long as the work is done, whatever we need to do to get square and start fixing the wreckage.

  4. Patunia says:

    As always, good stuff mister!!! So true and clean!!!

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