by Bill Deavel, Peer Support Coordinator
April 4, 2023
What an amazing subject to talk about. This will be my first time getting share with you on the topic of forgiveness. I would like to start off with saying if recovery is possible, so is forgiveness. I believe that it is hard to have one without the other. As I was growing up I had examples of forgiveness in my life. My parent and grandparents modeled forgiveness to me as I was growing up in a variety of ways. As a child I based forgiveness on if it benefited me, I applied forgiveness somewhat selfishly. I would forgive, if you did or I got what I wanted. You see there were conditions on my forgiveness.
As I became a teenager forgiveness for me became something that I wanted to extend, however there was fear attached to it. Am I going to get treated the same way? When I was twelve years old, I was going to a private school. Let’s qualify my behaviors at this time. I was full of energy, I had some learning disabilities and some mental health diagnosis so I wasn’t the best behaved student in the class. I would get sent to the principals’ office once a week. The principal most likely was doing the best he could with the skills that he had to try and correct my behaviors. I can remember getting paddled by the principal and having no bad felling about that interaction. The interaction that I did have with him that affected me was all verbal. I carried those words he spoke to me into my adult life. I still have a hard time thinking of that period of time. He HURT me emotionally and spiritually. I will not forget the emotions that I was unprepared to have, that I didn’t understand how to process. I was scared of the thoughts that I was having, knowing that my thoughts were not what I would normally be thinking. I wanted to hurt him back and what I was thinking was wrong and I knew that. Anger, resentment around that situation only got worse until my parent took me out of that private school. Remember I am twelve years old. Forgiveness on that situation didn’t happen until I was in my forties. Forgiveness for me has been a process of understanding who I am and understanding that I have a part in things. As I share this example with you I wonder - have I forgiven, this is the work we do when we are in recovery.
Today I have a healthier way of dealing with forgiveness. While working on my recovery I had to learn to forgive myself. I think the hardest thing that I had to forgive myself for was abandoning my three children. I still work on this today. Forgiving myself for the decisions that I made in my life has been a process. There are times in my recovery where things come up and I have taken things back and I am punishing myself for past mistakes. When I recognize those times I choose to forgive myself for those things and I move forward. It is a process for me.
Forgiving others has been a learning experience. When working through some of my trauma I had to come to terms with the idea that just because I forgive someone doesn’t mean that they get to be a part of my life. I struggled with that for a period of time. My thinking was if I forgave, the slate was wiped clean and I had to accept that person back in my life. I had to learn that I could forgive and that I had the option of not giving that person the opportunity to ever hurt me again. I learned how to set a boundary.
As my recovery continues to grow, forgiveness for myself and other is good medicine. Forgiveness can be difficult to extend. My experience with forgiveness is that it can heal the soul. I am fortunate to have a support system in place that can help with the process of forgiveness. This article that I am sharing with you has been healing for me. Thank you for letting me share this with you.