This is one of those mornings. Everything is in place and ready for me to begin writing, yet it took a good little while for me to piece together my topic for today’s spiritual principle of forgiveness. A vision from my past kept popping up in my head. A vision that always brings the all too familiar pain of regret.
As an addict in recovery, I have found that a couple kinds of regret can haunt me. The most obvious is the regret that comes from those things I did. The loved ones hurt by my addiction. The damage I did to my mind, body, and spirit. The ways I used people, and the ways I allowed myself to be used. So many regrets over the things I did.
Yet that pain can be dealt with. If not by direct amends, then by way of living amends. I can stop hurting people. I can be faithful in my marriage. I can be diligent in my career. I can treat others and myself with love and dignity. Yes, those regrets can be dealt with.
There is another kind of regret that is more insidious. It is the regret that comes from all those things I failed to do as a result of my disease. They say that hindsight is 20/20. Well, they were right. All of that unfinished business has a way of working its way into my mind and crippling my efforts to live a life guided by spiritual principles.
It is one of these things left undone that brings me pain this morning. In my mind’s eye I can see them plain as day. Three vouchers for golf lessons that sat unused in my closet. Three tiny slips of paper that represent so many opportunities missed. So much happiness that was sacrificed to my addiction.
It began with Father’s Day 2014. My ex had struggled to find me a gift. When she asked what I wanted, I gave it some thought and told her I would like a private golf lesson with Mike, the Pro at our country club. So, sure enough, that Father’s Day, I received a certificate for a one hour private lesson.
I was so enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with Mike on my game. I knew exactly what I wanted to work on, my swing. For as long as I could remember, I had struggled with a terrible slice on almost every swing. I would make nice solids contact with the ball, sending it sailing off. However, as it began to fall back to earth, it would take a sharp turn to the right. It was almost as though my golf balls were demon possessed!
Sure enough, that hour spent with Mike offered a solution to my demon possessed golf swing. Five little corrections straightened the ball’s trajectory. That summer, golf became so much more enjoyable. I spent a lot less time in the trees that lined the fairways, and lost a lot fewer balls.
So, having seen the success of that single lesson, my ex gave me three vouchers for additional lessons with Mike for Christmas 2014. I put them away in my closet, anxiously awaiting the next golf season. Yes, 2015 was going to be the year I got serious about my golf game.
My addiction had different plans for 2015. In early March of that year I was introduced to methamphetamine, and my addiction went into hyperdrive.
Yes, alcohol had offered escape from life for a time. Then, supplemented with pills, the escape seemed more complete. Meth though, it was in a whole different league. Once I opened that Pandora’s box, there was no turning back.
As many recovering addicts will attest, meth became my life. It quickly changed from my “drug of choice” to become my “drug of no choice.” I had to have it. Nothing else mattered. Everything else could and would wait.
So, those vouchers sat. Unused. Wasted.
Like a reminder of the life I was sacrificing daily to my disease, I saw those vouchers every time I entered that closet. “Some day,” I would tell myself. “Some day.”
As you might imagine, some day never came. By early June, 2016, having had enough, my ex had me served with a restraining order. I was forced from that house. Forced to leave almost everything behind. Everything, including those vouchers for golf lessons.
Yep, I can see them plain as day. I doubt they are still in that closet. Surely by now they, along with other reminders of me have long-since been removed. Bad memories, regrets, sources of pain that needed to be swept away.
Unfinished business represents a lot of pain for me to this day. Those missed opportunities conjure up emotions that are still hard to handle. Regret is a powerful emotion. Some days it can cripple me.
More powerful than regret, however, is forgiveness. A friend in recovery recently suggested that it was time to forgive myself for the things I had done, and not done. He knew that before I could move forward in my recovery, these past hurts must be addressed. Forgiveness must replace regret if I am to experience true freedom.
Writing about this kind of regret has a therapeutic effect. The Twelfth Step of Narcotics Anonymous tells me that I am to “practice these principles in all my affairs.” As I do, I not only find it possible to practice forgiveness toward others, but more importantly, toward myself.
Not only forgiveness, but each and every one of the spiritual principles gives me opportunity for personal application and growth. As I apply them, I find that my life becomes unburdened. I am able to live free from regret.
That is not to say my life is perfect, nor that I don’t make mistakes. I’m still human, and my application of the spiritual principles will still fall short at times. However, when they do fall short, I can make amends, seek forgiveness, forgive myself, and live without constant reminders of my shortcomings. I can move beyond regret and into freedom.
Have a remarkable day!