Many of us who have struggled with addiction have created a lot of wreckage from our time using. Some people find themselves incarcerated or homeless while others damage their relationships with significant others or children. Often it is hard to face the problems that we created while we were using. However, it can be a beautiful part of recovery to start the process of cleaning things up.
One of the biggest issues I see when people start cleaning up their past is moralizing. Sometimes family members see addiction as a moral issue or the person with addiction does. Here is the thing, you would not think it was a moral issue if someone had serious schizophrenia that left them homeless or alone. Rather you would probably feel compassion that they were unable to get help sooner.
We need to get to a place where this is how we feel about addiction. There is a way to take personal responsibility without making addiction some sort of moral failing. The first step toward cleaning up the wreckage of your past might be some psychoeducation about addiction for yourself, your family, and your friends. Once you all have this new perspective forgiveness often comes much easier.
There are a few steps you might want to consider taking to clean up your past. These generally include taking responsibility for your actions. This does not mean beating yourself up for harms done or mistakes made. Instead it means a genuine acceptance that these things happened and figuring out how to face them.
Facing the Wreckage
There are a number of ways you can start to face the wreckage. You might need to make financial amends and start to pay back people you owe money to. If it is not possible to pay them back right away it can be helpful to set up some kind of payment plan.
You might also need to attend to your personal relationships. This can include making direct amends to people you have harmed or indirect amends. It is often just a matter of showing people that you are working on recovery. Often you being sober is all the change that they want to see.
One of the hardest things to face is wreckage that includes court cases. It is incredibly hard to go to the police and turn yourself in for a warrant you have been avoiding. However, this might be a part of cleaning up the wreckage. If this is the case you will probably find people who are willing to help you. I know lawyers in recovery who volunteer their time for these types of cases. You might also try collecting reference letters from people who know you in recovery.
It can be incredibly helpful through this process to have a formal forgiveness practice for yourself and others. Cleaning up this wreckage can bring up resentments you might have for yourself or other people. In order to practice forgiveness you might try forgiveness meditation. You can also try using some forgiveness phrases. If you want to do this you can repeat to yourself “I am worthy of forgiveness” or “I forgive myself”.