I decided to forgive, because it was slowly killing me and I realized I was the one holding the knife.
When I got to a point in my sobriety and recovery where I was more concerned about the homeless man walking down the street and what I could do for that person, it made me feel so good. I felt, wow, because I know that is not something that I felt on my own, that is something that came directly from a higher power. Something greater than me was working through me. Even years before I was heavy in my drinking and alcoholism, if you wronged me or even looked at me in a wrong way, that was it for you. I was conniving. I was going to seek my vengeance. I came up with some pretty elaborate ways to get back at people and even followed through with some of them.
Some of them got me in trouble. “Well, who did that?” “We know who did that, Elizabeth did that.” People began to know who I was and steered clear of pissing me off. But, when I really took a look at myself in the mirror, I did not want to be that person. So, I decided not to be. Some people are always going to say and do things to hurt my feelings, make me angry or try to make life difficult for me, but to have that spirit of forgiveness and acceptance is paramount for me. It is essential to my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sobriety and recovery from alcoholism. When I can forgive someone for wronging me and not respond to that with anger, this is a blessing. When I can respond with love it makes the situation easier and makes me feel spiritually whole.
I hope that others can do that for me too. Life is hard and I would like others to have a spirit of forgiveness too. Give me a hug every once in a while or a kind word. We are all still human beings and love and forgiveness is something that makes all of our lives happier. I have heard a lot of people ask for help with forgiveness and patience. I have been fortunate enough to have lived through situations, before and during my alcoholism, that have allowed me to develop patience, tolerance, and forgiveness.
Forgiveness and acceptance go hand in hand for me. I do not believe you can have one without the other. When you won’t forgive, you are only inflicting pain upon yourself and I had to ask myself how much pain I was willing to tolerate. I tend to look at most situations very logically and remove the emotions from them when I am making a decision.
Forgiveness, in my opinion, is just that. It is literally a decision, no justification or cause needs to happen. Forgiving has nothing to do with accepting the other person’s behavior, approving of it, justifying, rationalizing, or understanding it. It is a simple decision I make whether or not to accept what is, forgive, and move on with freedom.
“Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” – Pg. 152 Big Book Alcoholics Anonymous
Today I have a lot of patience and tolerance but it took living through some very upsetting and difficult situations to gain these qualities. I wish I knew how to give these qualities or gifts away to others, but I can’t. There is no book or manual or simple phrase I can share with anyone that will all of a sudden, allow them to be forgiving, patient, accepting, or tolerant. For me, it had to come with experience. One situation that was very difficult for me was many years ago when my two oldest children were very little. I filed for divorce when my youngest, at the time, was less than a year old. During the 3 years or so the divorce proceedings took, their father decided to keep them hidden from me for weeks and sometimes months at a time.
This occurred on several different occasions and every time I got them back I always let them go to their visitation time with their father, knowing full well I didn’t know when I would see them again. During these years, there was nothing legally I could do because we both had equal rights and permanent custody and visitation was not decided until we finally went to trial. After trial was over and I was awarded custody I still held on to that for a long time. I felt that I was owed and could do whatever I wanted because he had practiced parental alienation and had played all of these games refusing to let me see my children or know where they were.
All this did was eat away at me, little by little. It took a long time to realize that, but forgiveness is for me not for the other person. I had to forgive to move on because I didn’t want this stranglehold any longer. Holding on to what he did, to my resentment, was trapping me in t
he past and I had to decide if I was going to continue to let him have that power over me. I needed to let go and accept what happened and forgive to move on and have peace and happiness.
Sometimes forgiveness is accepting an apology you are never going to receive. In that situation I have never apologized to him directly, but I paid my attorney a whole lot of money not to have to talk to him anymore. He is a great dad and he is a great person but we would never be friends, would have never been friends. I’ve forgiven him for doing those things and supporting him now with decisions with the children and things like that is my way of practicing that forgiveness. I realized, by holding on to my anger and hurt, I was robbing my kids of time they could have had, experiences they could have had because I was still resentful of him taking the children and taking that time away from me.
Again, forgiveness was a decision I had to make. By the grace of God, there go I. Do you want to be stuck here or do you want to forgive this person? And, whether they know it or not doesn’t matter, because the acceptance and forgiveness is for me, so I can move on without all of this baggage I’m trying to drag with me. I realized what I was doing. I realized I was hurting myself and my children and in a greater sense all of the other people around me. Kids are like dogs . . . they can smell fear and can feel tension in uncomfortable situations. I began to see that my children were always uncomfortable if an event required their father and I to be in close proximity. They knew that I had such dislike for their father even though I was careful never to say anything negative around them.
My step father told me a long time ago that when it comes to children of dissolved relationships, you should never say anything bad about the other parent in front of the children because the children are always an equal part of the mother and the father. So, if you are bad mouthing the other parent, at some point in time the child is going to feel if they are half of dad and dad is an “asshole”, maybe I am half an “asshole” too. Or if my grandma thinks my mom is a “bitch” then she must think that I am a “bitch” too, or half a “bad person”, a “drunk”, “worthless, etc . . . I have 5 children now and I know with my experience raising my own children, they hear things you don’t think they hear. They feel things, you don’t think they could ever pick up on.
It took some time and for me to become aware of what was beyond the tip of my own nose to see that I was being selfish and I was acting like an asshole and ultimately penalizing my children because I wouldn’t forgive. One day, I just woke up and I saw the reality and as soon as I did let those resentments go and find acceptance and forgiveness I began to feel better. The weight was lifted. Some people will be blessings and some people will be lessons and unfortunately you don’t know until later. My experience was both a blessing and a lesson. I feel it is much easier for me to live now that I understand patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance. I hope anyone who is struggling with any of these today finds some sort of comfort from my story.