If you follow me on social media, then you probably know that I'm very big on the belief that its not your fault if you become addicted to an addicting substance that society has conditioned us to believe is a necessary part of life. I'm talking about alcohol here. An addicting substance that we can be judged for when we do not partake: "Oh you dont drink? I didn't know you had a problem." (PS. I wasn't the problem. Alcohol was the problem).
Now I'm not the the only person who has this belief, there have been a lot of books written on this very subject. This Naked Mind by Annie Grace and Alcohol Explained by William Porter are a couple that come immediately to mind, but there are more.
So, when someone recently mentioned to me that they were having a hard time with this, it got my attention. This individual (shared with permission) grew up with an alcoholic parent and struggles with the idea of letting alcohol take the blame. Because for years she has placed the blame squarely on the parent and has been estranged for a number of years as a result. Now, the idea that maybe her parent was addicted to an addicting substance is creating havoc in her mind and it doesn't feel right to her that alcohol should take all the blame.
I completely understand this. I also grew up with a parent who was addicted to alcohol and was, frankly, a very mean person when drinking. And I was usually the subject of their physical and emotional abuse. So I learned at an early age that it was best for me to neither be seen or heard when my parents were drinking. I became a runaway, living on the streets because it was better than being at home. Finally I was legally emancipated when I was 16. For years, I harbored hatred towards this parent for what I went through as a child. And hatred towards the other parent for being complicit.
So when the idea that I should forgive my parents for what happened was presented to me during therapy, I was astounded. Why in the world would I want to do THAT? They were certainly not deserving of my forgiveness in my view. But I did eventually forgive both of them and I'm now a better person for it.
Because it's about me, not them. There is common misperception that the act of forgiveness means that what happened was somehow ok. But that's not what forgiveness is at all. Its about setting ourselves free from the anger, depression, stress, anxiety and hurt. Maya Angelou calls forgiveness “one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.” She's right.
It's about letting go of what does not serve us. It took me some time to get there, but what I realized is that by the act of forgiving, I could give myself permission to not be angry anymore. I gave myself permission to close that door and get on with my life.