“To err is human, to forgive… divine.”
– Alexander Pope, English poet, “An Essay on Criticism”
We have all made mistakes in the past. We’ll undoubtedly make some new ones tomorrow. Above all else, we’re human, and it’s our job. Often, we just make a little mess of something, but then sometimes, we do it royally.
Every time we do, we hope the consequences of these mistakes aren’t too serious.
In reality, in the cold light of the morning after the night before, all we can really do is just pray we didn’t kill someone or their beloved family pet in the process. However, there’s always tomorrow…
Professional life coaches often tell us that making mistakes and the feeling of failure are an accepted, even essential part of achieving true success. However, if you’re suffering from a substance or alcohol use disorder (SUD or AUD), you have already accepted the process of making mistakes as an integral part of your life, one where the only success you are hoping to achieve is that next high, that next drink, and that next journey into an oblivion where life is your idea of “manageable” – whatever that might be.
Obviously, the true reality of addiction has nothing to do with success, mistakes or not. And when it comes to forgiveness, sadly, and especially for yourself, your disorder often leaves you unable to even contemplate it, let alone be in a position to grant it.
And that’s exactly why you should forgive yourself – to understand that about of drunken, alcohol-fueled behavior in some bar or club somewhere in Denver, Colorado, or wherever you are, regardless of what you did, is just that – behavior, at a particular time, under the influence of alcohol or substances, in response to a disorder that you are suffering from.
In fact, when medically-defined, addiction is termed “a chronic, relapsing brain disorder.” Your behavior when either using or drinking may be unacceptable, but it is understandable.
Here’s exactly “Why You Must Forgive Yourself For Your Drunken Behavior.” Read on…
Deal with Shame by Facing It Head-On
Take it from one who knows – the only effective way of dealing with the shame you will now be feeling the weight off is to simply face up to it. You can attempt to rationalize, and even downplay, your behavior, but, when the truth is told, shame doesn’t lie. You feel it, because you should feel it, and you certainly can’t hide under your mattress for the remainder of your life. It’s not easy (as doing your best to stay clean and sober isn’t an easy process). However, to progress, you need to move on.
Therefore, Step #1, if you like, is to accept it, forgive yourself, and move on – progress. Because we all know what will happen if you don’t forgive yourself. You’ll simply reach for another drink to try to alleviate this lingering (and certainly unwanted) shame. Yes, Catch-22. So put on your bravest and best face, accept what you can’t change, and progress.
A Spoonful of Honesty
Your next step is to deal with any aftermath (and hopefully that does not include being sued for animal cruelty by your neighbors, who have only just retrieved their dangling, but still beloved, a dog from the old oak in their front garden). Remember, drunken behavior is not rational behavior, so, whatever you have drunkenly done, you will probably need to apologize to those affected. If you don’t do this, you’ll become unduly stressed, and that is also dangerous.
A healthy spoonful of honesty is now required. So be honest, and apologize. To every single affected person. Unreservedly. Additionally, if you have a sponsor, you’ll need to apologize to them too. Your progress (or slight lack of it) is important to them also. Furthermore, they’ll be able to help you work this properly. It is all about progression.
Learn the Truth
Blackouts are not uncommon for those suffering from AUD. If your drunkenness has led to a blackout, and you are having problems recalling the exact circumstances of what happened, find out. Remember, you’re feeling ashamed for a reason. Go “detective” for a morning, and learn who exactly was affected by your drunken actions and behavior. You need to apologize to everyone involved. It goes a long way in removing the last vestiges of the shame you felt when you finally woke up earlier.
Remember the Wagon You Fell Off?
Rhetorical question. Of course, you do. You need to get back on that wagon of sobriety and keep progressing. You’ve just had a clear reminder of what happens when you return to the ways of your past. What you have just experienced is a relapse – it is not the end of your recovery, just an unwelcome detour. AUD is a chronic disease, much like Type I diabetes or hypertension, and the relapse rates for all of these are around the same – 40-60%. Relapse should not be looked upon as the end of anything; just a “reset.”
Learn From This…
Now your thinking has been pretty much straightened out, you’ll want to spend some time reflecting on the last day or so. Be honest with yourself, and answer some probing questions truthfully. What led up to this? What made me want to dive headfirst off the wagon? What was the actual relapse trigger? How can I stop this from happening again? What do I need to do now? You get the gist. If you need to return to outpatient rehab in Denver or wherever do so. If you need to seek more counseling, more AA meetings, more help… do so. You will thank yourself later if you learn from this now.
If you have any advice about how best to react to the consequences of a night of drunken behavior, please feel free to comment below. For those of you who are currently experiencing this exact scenario, try not to be too concerned (although, you probably are). Follow the steps given here, get back to your sobriety, and progress.
A reminder of why and how to forgive yourself…
- Deal with Shame by Facing It Head-On
- A Spoonful of Honesty
- Learn the Truth
- Remember the Wagon You Fell Off?
- Learn From This…