There are three things that have affected my recovery greatly: forgiveness. justice, and grace. In fact, I don’t know any addicts for whom these concepts have not played an important role in recovery. Their stories are their stories though, so I will stick to telling mine.
Forgiveness – In my life, this word finds its greatest meaning in the concept of not demanding payment of a debt owed. This definition covers more than just money, though money can be a part of forgiveness. When I forgive someone, I agree to stop charging that person for their past wrongs.
It is important to remember that forgiveness is a gift. It can not be demanded from another. Forgiveness cannot be forced or manipulated. It must be freely given, or else it doesn’t truly exist.
For example, I recently had a pretty harsh disagreement with someone within the Narcotics Anonymous fellowship for whom I have a lot of respect. He had come up to me after a meeting to talk. Later, I laid into him on the phone over what I thought he was trying to say to me, rather than taking time to ask questions so that I could better understand him.
That brother stayed on the phone with me for a good long time, not only showing me love and compassion, but eventually, forgiveness. How do I know he forgave me? Easy, the next time we were together, he once again shared openly and honestly with me. He loves me enough to share his own experience, strength, and hope with me.
Had I not been forgiven, he would likely have given me an obligatory NA hug, said “so long,” and moved on. Nope, not this friend. He has a handle on forgiveness. He knows how to give it!
His actions gave me absolute certainty of my forgiveness. In his mind, the past is marked “case closed,” with no debt remaining.
I am still working on this kind of forgiveness in my life. Not just for others, but for myself as well. Oh to be able to look in the mirror and tell myself “case closed.”
I’ll get there, I know I will!
Justice – it is often said that justice is blind. When I was in my active addiction, I certainly hoped it would be. In fact, I was betting everything I had on the hope that justice would remain blind.
To set the stage, it is important to know that when I’m not using drugs, I’m a pretty law-abiding citizen. I’m that guy who actually drives the speed limit through work zones. When the teacher told the class to settle down, I settled down. When my boss tells me a report is due by Friday, I do my best to get it done.
If justice were equally applied to me, my debt to society would surely have been great. NA literature tells us that our drug use ultimately leads to three places: jails, institutions, and death. I managed to avoid jails and death by checking myself into rehab (an institution). I have no doubt that if I had kept going in the direction I had been, justice would have eventually caught up with me.
Knowing jail or death could have been part of my story puts justice in a whole new light. I’m still working on justice in my spirit. When cars go flying by me in a work zone, my initial response is to be angry. Angry that they could be so unconcerned for the safety of the workers out there. Anger that the police aren’t there writing more tickets. Anger that they are “taking cuts in line. Didn’t those people learn about lines in kindergarten?
In reality, I have no right to look at those drivers with so much righteous indignation. I’ve broken laws too. I’ve put lives at risk. I’ve been careless. I’ve deserved justice, but instead, received…
Grace – unmerited favor. I live in a constant atmosphere of grace. It is closely tied to forgiveness and justice. Grace covers those situations in which justice was not blind. Situations where my offenses have become known, and yet a person treats me as though the offense never happened.
In grace, my faults and defects of character are not hidden. No, they are well known. Yet the person or people I have offended choose to ignore those faults. They act as if I never did those things.
Grace is not a matter of forgive and forget. It’s so much better! Grace is a matter of forgive and move on. Grace says “I believe in you, and I choose to count on you, despite what I know about you.”
Today, as I practice forgiveness in my life, I’ll strive to be less concerned with justice, and focus instead on grace. Grace toward others, and grace toward myself. Grace truly is amazing.
Have a remarkable day!