By: Donnie Huffman
“They say let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And to be without sin requires absolute forgiveness. But when your memories are freshly opened wounds, forgiveness is the most unnatural of human emotions.” ― Emily Thorne
When Will I Be Good Enough to Forgive?
I lie sometimes. I lash out at people who don’t deserve it. I am prideful enough to beat myself up over not living up to my own impossibly high standards. I think someone in AA may have given me the impression that a life in recovery had made them a holy and sinless person. This is not my experience.
When I was younger, I always thought there was this better version of me that I was waiting to grow into. That may very well be true, but thinking of a heaven in the future can make a hell out of the present. Speaking of damnation, I’ve had a deep, vicious fear of hell all throughout my life. One that waited, hungry for me at the end of this life.
After I got into recovery in August 20th, 2014, I took advice from old-timers, started taking the Steps, and my life got better. But more than that, on a subconscious level, I was rendering myself pure. All that wickedness and all those shameful acts of my past would be wiped off my eternal tablet with prayer, moral inventory, making amends, and service to my fellow man and woman.
With enough redeeming actions, I might escape being thrown into the Everlasting Lake of Fire after all. God was not love. God was the score keeper and God needed appeasing, needed convincing that I was worthy of salvation.
My first two years of recovery, I thought there were two sides to me. There was the Donnie that meditated, prayed, wrote, carried the message into detoxes and treatment centers, did laundry for his family, and went to work early so that he could sit and chat with one of his discouraged clients.
There was another Donnie. One that hid behind a closed door. One that spent too much time on seedy online dating sites, talked down to people, bent the truth to avoid consequences, indulged in slanderous gossip, and had a cigarette for breakfast.
No matter how many 12 step calls I took, no matter how much inventory I wrote, and no matter how many times my knees hit the floor, I just could not seem to get rid of the “bad” version of me. This is the shadow side of me that had to be abolished, the side that will take me to hell, the side that had made me unworthy.
Working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous had brought me into periods of spiritual ecstasy. I had found a new life and I had gotten out of myself.
When I would sever one of my less-than-honest, romantic entanglements, I was saved and on top of the world. When I went back to her, I was condemned and fallen from grace.
When I told a difficult truth, I was worthy enough for the Almighty’s love. When telling the easier lie had won out, I crawled right back up on my cross and resented anyone who looked happy.
I heard a man say in a meeting, ‘Asking for forgiveness from God and the people you’ve hurt is all well and good, but the person who you should really be seeking forgiveness from is yourself.’
I had the next hand to raise after he wrapped up his share. Looking back, I suppose it had been obvious that I was telling the room to disregard everything that the man had said. Forgiveness of self is impossible because self has no forgiveness to give, I had preached from my mountaintop. Self is the root of addiction, self is the enemy that must be vanquished, and self can only be beat by working the twelve steps. I took myself really seriously and I would jump at the first chance to be able to tell this man what a jackass I had been.
That was exactly my problem – I took myself too seriously. I still take myself too seriously. I sometimes think I am too good for the human condition. People can bend over backwards for the approval of another or waste their lives watching TV all they want. I am Something Special, I am better than that.
So, when it’s my mouth, letting out tall tales or when it’s me sitting on the couch instead of writing, I mentally whip myself something good and proper. I become self-loathing and discouraged.
Sometimes, something that I find downright despicable arises out of my mouth or in my behavior. I spiral into depression and misery, not able to accept love or kindness from others.
What, then, are my options? Do I keep striving for purity and perfection, hoping grimly that I’ll finally evade my numerous transgressions? Do I stop resisting and give in to my animal nature?
Progress, Not Perfection
“Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable? Can He now take them all – every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.” – page 76, Alcoholics Anonymous
Step Six says I am human. There are times when I will fall short and there are things about me that I plain don’t like. I’m not as productive as I would like to be. I am not as honest and transparent as I would like to be and I have a special penchant for self-pity.
Those tendencies are still with me. I acknowledge that there may be some force outside of my current way of thinking that can take me to bigger, better, worse things and I ask for help.
Some days I will be open, caring, smiling, dialed in and bullet proof. Other days I’ll be a whiny liar. I will always work towards giving my best and I will always have some days that are full of despair and failure. I ask my higher power for the clarity to see that we are all God’s children and that this life is something truly magical, for the steady temperament to understand that dark days and pain are a necessary part of the journey, for the courage to love myself and those around me, and for the willingness to let go and enjoy the ride.
One Simple Question to Ask Yourself
A lack of creativity can also be to blame. The whole paradigm of character defects was a delightful undertaking for my ego. Here were moral deficits of character, here was something to fix, something to improve, something to work on. The ego has tunnel vision. “The twelve steps will fix me” was a narrow, though noble, belief system. Beyond my ‘submission to addictive behavior vs. spiritual perfection’ scope of life lay more choices than I realized, like taking control of your life. The topic of free will can be taboo to discuss in some recovery circles.
After all, we’ve turned our lives over to the care of God. Well, what does that statement mean?
If your understanding of God is not one that would allow you a thrilling, enchanting life as co-creator with the Divine, perhaps it’s time to get a better understanding of God. One that isn’t so damned boring perhaps.
I cannot control you and I cannot control the events of this world that happen outside of myself. I’m not even certain I will ever be able to control everything that takes place between my ears. We have, however, been given the gift of conscience.
We are beings capable of having awareness. Changing behaviors and habits is a necessary part of the recovery process. It is a good thing to feel remorse and wish to live differently.
I can seek to do more good than evil, but I have found that the whole mess can become simplified by asking myself one question – Am I thinking/behaving as a victim or as the creator of my world and my perception
I blame my boss, my girlfriend, the weather, God, my mental illness, my parents, 21at century American society, the economy, my car, social norms, and Verizon Wireless. I use drama and low feelings as an excuse not to write.
All this precious pity and victim hood can lead me to feel unempowered and helpless. I throw my hands up. Of course I can’t control my behavior.
Where, then, am I coming from? Have I forgotten my power in the situation? Am I forced at gunpoint to stay at a job I don’t like, or am I choosing to stay because the money is decent and I don’t feel like changing my environment? If I take responsibility for the course of my life I find that the relief-giving and escapist behaviors I dislike sort of vanish on their own.
I hope reading this helps someone. I don’t think this article will be for everyone, but if this can help even one hyper-analyzing, constantly unsettled, ever-seeking, over-thinking, complicated person like me, then I suppose time writing this is well-spent.
About Donald Huffman
Donald Huffman is an aspiring writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Struggling with trauma, mental illness, and alcohol/drug addiction, substantial segments of his adolescence and early adulthood had been spent in and out of hospitals, treatment centers, halfway houses, and jail.
After a suicide attempt, he got sober at the age of 29 through 12-step recovery and therapy.
Clean, refocused, and rekindling a passion for writing, he began his autobiography shortly into his recovery.
Donald now has a full-time job in the healthcare field and has a daily practice of meditation and writing. More writing from Donald Huffman
More posts from Donald Huffman on From Addict 2 Advocate
Writing, and recovery heals the heart