Rehab 4 Addiction

Living with an addiction means much more than just being addicted to a substance.

The vast majority of addicted people also live with extremely unbearable thoughts and feelings, as well as the guilt of past behaviour.

Often, these distressing emotions fuel a person to return to the substance. This brings something else to the equation: feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame, and even self-hatred.

In 2019, there were 268,251 people accessing drug and alcohol services in England.

That is a huge amount of people who are going through the harrowing experience of addiction, and quite likely trauma too. 

Recovery is a time for self-reflection and healing. A huge part of that is learning how to address your feelings and how to live with them in a healthy way.

To do that, self-forgiveness must be approached.

As difficult as the idea of self-forgiveness might seem, it’s crucial. This act can make huge a difference to you, your recovery, and to those around you as you develop a healthier relationship with yourself.

Where to begin?

Where to begin

Addiction is usually the coping mechanism result of traumatic experiences from childhood or the past. There are, of course, many factors that influence the development of addiction.

At its worst, this disease has huge negative repercussions for the person with the addiction and their loved ones.

As this is the case, there are many areas that you can self-reflect on and forgive yourself for.  Consider the following:

  • The things you’ve done and things you haven’t done.
  • The people you’ve hurt.
  • Losing people and things because of what you’ve said or done.
  • Bad decisions you’ve made.
  • Unhelpful or unhealthy reactions you’ve had.
  • How you have let down those you love.
  • Lost time.
  • Trauma-related issues.
  • How your actions have impacted your body and mind.

When you think about the areas above you might find some things easier than others to forgive.

It can be difficult to forgive yourself, especially when you haven’t had a healthy relationship with yourself for a very long time, or ever.

What does forgiving yourself mean and feel like?

Forgiving Yourself

For those who have an addiction or who are living with trauma, negative feelings run rife around the body. This can be especially true where you have said or done things that have had unpleasant consequences.

It’s easy to feel ashamed, guilty or to blame yourself. Many people will even experience deep self-hatred. 

Where life has been really hard, it’s far too easy to turn the finger around and point the blame at yourself. How else to make sense of things?

Actually, there is another much healthier way to process things. Self-forgiveness is instrumental in this. 

So how does it feel?

Self-forgiveness means honestly and openly acknowledging what has happened. The things you’ve done.

It is also accepting the possibility that you may have acted in ways you aren’t proud of, but remembering that during that moment, you acted that way for a reason. 

Self-forgiveness is recognizing that you don’t want to act the same way again, that you aren’t that person anymore.

You do, however, understand that you have to let that part of you go. As you do this, you let go of the feelings associated with acts you regret.

The aim of self-forgiveness is to acknowledge, let go, and grow. You use your self-reflection to align your behaviours with how you want to act going forward.

What is important to remember when you’re learning to forgive yourself?

What to remember

One of the reasons it’s so hard to forgive yourself is because you still blame yourself.

Here’s the thing, though: you have learnt to act in certain ways because that’s what’s got you through traumatic experiences

At certain points, you literally might not have known how to act in other healthier, or kinder ways.

Many people haven’t been taught or shown how to act in positive ways. You might be learning how to do that in later life, but you might not have been shown this in early life.

It can be helpful to remember that everyone makes mistakes. It isn’t just you. Along with this, you might start to forgive yourself for having been influenced by others, while saying to yourself that you won’t be negatively influenced by people in the future.

Trauma and addiction swipe a huge amount of energy, strength, and motivation out of people. They also change cognitive functioning.

This in itself can be debilitating. Acknowledge that you might simply not have had the capacity to figure out how to do things differently. 

Remember that developing an addiction isn’t a character trait specific to you. There are many factors that can create an addiction:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Family history
  • Poverty
  • The lack of a healthy social network

These factors may affect you, but they are not your fault.

Whatever you may have done in the past, you can change going forward. You’re able to develop new ways of thinking and can act differently from here on. 

The 3 steps to self-forgiveness

Steps to self-forgiveness

There are three main areas you can work on in order to fully achieve self-forgiveness. During each step, you’ll need to ensure that you remain self-aware for it to be as effective as possible.

  • Feel the sensation of forgiveness within your mind and body. Search inside for a part of you that realises that you did the best you could.

    Although you may have done things you regret, you can acknowledge this and let it go. You’re able to let this go because you’re being honest with yourself, facing this challenge and changing.
  • Support other people. This might be through volunteering or through social circles. When you do this, you give yourself a way to show that you’re a good person. You can offer positive meaning to others and this can give you direction.It’s also really important to make sure you always look after yourself and your own goals. Don’t become weighed down with other people’s baggage.
  • Seek out the people you feel deserve an apology and offer one. You might do this by letter or through an email or text, if in-person isn’t possible.

    This could lead to a conversation, or it may not. Either way, making the decision to apologise for things you regret can help you to forgive yourself.

Do you have to forgive other people to be able to forgive yourself?

Forgiving other people

It’s really useful to bear a few things in mind here in relation to the addiction and trauma fields. For a long time, the addiction field stressed the importance of forgiving others.

In more recent years, however, the correlation between addiction and trauma has really begun to be understood. In light of this, the concept of forgiving others has changed.

Within the trauma field, the choice of forgiving others is stressed. It’s really up to the individual as to whether they want to forgive another.

Whether you choose to forgive someone else or not, you are still able to progress with your own addiction and trauma recovery.

Treat yourself with the same kindness you treat others


It’s really helpful to consider how you treat others around mistakes and regrets they have about their own behaviour

Often, it’s much easier to support others and to say, “but that was in the past”, “you aren’t that person anymore”, “you did what you had to do to get by”, “you are a good person”, “let it go”.

As humans, we tend to give ourselves a really hard time. This is unhelpful.

If you really want to recover, you have to learn how to give yourself some kindness and self-compassion. A huge part of this comes from forgiving yourself.

Forgiving yourself is more important than other people’s forgiveness of things you’ve said and done. You are the only one who is able to let go of your regrets, letting you move on.

Final thoughts


Recovery is a lifestyle. With time and the right support, it becomes easier.

There are many things you can do to help yourself along your journey. The impact of self-reflection and learning is hugely important.

This is where you go on your personal journey to heal and grow. Learning how to forgive yourself is essential.

If you’re still confused on how to begin, start by asking yourself what you regret, what you consider your mistakes to be, and what you want to forgive yourself for. Think about how knowing this can support you in your healing journey.

These are things you can start contemplating alone. However, having support can make the transition away from substances that much more effective

Addiction and trauma services from counsellors, therapists and group support networks offer lots of beneficial and life-changing support in this area.

Contact Rehab 4 Addiction to find out what’s available in your local area.



Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.