Addicts have the capacity to inflict great pain on your life. As their addiction intensifies, so does the possibility they will betray, manipulate, and wound you. They can have impaired judgment and have the capacity to take advantage of your kindness and leave you feeling worthless. Consequently, resentment and anger toward the addict can become so great that it consumes your life and limits your capacity for happiness.

Do you have to work hard to control your anger toward the addict? Do you find yourself replaying past hurtful events in your head and wish you could make them pay for the ways they've hurt you? You may want to consider forgiveness as a way to help you leave the pain and hurt behind and move on with your life. Many people are hesitant to forgive someone because they are confused about what it means. Forgiveness is not minimizing or excusing another person's behavior. For example, this might include a statement such as, "It's okay that he stole out of my purse. I didn't need that money anyway." It is not tolerating bad behavior. An example of tolerating bad behavior is, "She'll get help eventually. I just need to have patience, and she'll stop coming in so late." It is not denying or suppressing your anger. An example of this would be: "This is how I grew up as a child. I'm used to being taken advantage of so it doesn't hurt my feelings." It also is not pardoning someone; they still may need to serve their jail sentence or pay a fine. Finally, it is not reconciling. You do not need to remain in a relationship with someone to forgive them, or get back in contact with them if you have become estranged. Participating in forgiveness should always make you feel like you are respecting yourself. There are many reasons to participate in forgiveness. Forgiving someone positively impacts your mental and physical health. Studies have shown that working through the process of forgiveness reduces blood pressure and decreases heart disease. People who regularly practice forgiveness have lower rates of depression and anxiety. It also increases self-esteem, hope, and a sense of meaning. Practicing forgiveness can help foster relationships--even relationships in which you don't have a lot of hurt or anger. Foremost, forgiveness is able to release the negative connection you have to the addict who may have hurt you in the past. You can be free from the anger and resentment that is disrupting your life. Finally, forgiveness is also an opportunity to use your painful experiences to deepen your connection with others and increase your sense of compassion.

Step 1: Explore how holding onto resentment is affecting you. Be honest about how you have been hurt by the addict and how this has made you respond emotionally. Ask yourself how holding onto anger is impacting your life. Is it making you function better? Is it making your life more enjoyable or less? Sometimes it feels safe to hold onto negative feelings. Ask yourself if the feeling of safety you get by doing this outweighs the negative aspects. In this stage, it is important to realize that you do not have to forgive. Forgiveness is a choice, not an obligation.

Step 2: Make a choice to try and forgive. Once you have decided that you want to forgive someone, the next step is to make a choice. Commit to undertaking the process of forgiveness. It is likely going to be difficult. It takes deep personal reflection and a willingness to overlook your right to see justice in the situation.

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Step 3: Work on forgiving the person. Attempt to find understanding about why someone acted in such a hurtful manner. Is there something in the person's past that helps make their addiction and its consequences make more sense? What was their childhood like? What was going on in the person's life when they hurt you? Again, the point here is not to excuse their behavior, but to put it in context. Then you must do something very difficult. You must look at your own capacity to hurt others. Have you ever hurt someone out of your own pain? Have you ever needed forgiveness? Finally, even if you cannot see how they possibly could have acted the way they did, can you at least see the person has worth simply by being a member of the human community? As you have empathy for the person and increase insight into your own capacity for wrong, you will find yourself slowly releasing the resentment and pain in your past.

Step 4: Attempt to gain a deeper sense of meaning as a result of having gone through the painful event.All of humanity has hurt others and has been hurt by others. Let that reality connect you to others. You are not alone. You are a part of the human experience. You have needed forgiveness in the past, and you are able to extend forgiveness to others. Also, try to notice the new insights you have gained about yourself. You have unique experience and knowledge because you went through the painful situation. By understanding your injurer better, you also may understand yourself and all of humanity better. During this phase, also allow yourself to become more aware of letting go. Release any lingering negative feelings by choosing to turn away from your anger and resentment.

Note: Much of the content of this article was taken from the book: Forgiveness is a choice: A step-by-step process for resolving anger and restoring hope by Robert Enright.