Learning to forgive himself was the road less traveled—but he took it
Not only the getting and staying sober part but also the learning how to live and deal with life part of it. I have lost friends and family and fingers. I’ve lost jobs and had cars repo-ed. I have struggled at times with sobriety and have come close to throwing it all away but have managed to, some days by sheer will and stubbornness alone, get and stay sober. And through it all I have talked to God.
Having been a drinker of the alcoholic variety for many, many years I had never learned how to properly deal with the bumps and bruises of living. Good day? Get drunk. Bad day? Get plastered. It was a pattern that repeated itself in perpetuity for the greater part of my life and it was a known and comfortable way of processing everything—to search for whatever it was I sought at the bottom of bottles without ever finding it.
When I got sober, towards the end of 2017, it took the loss of everything I had- save for my truck and the clothes on my back- to finally humble myself before God and earnestly ask for the help to save my life, sanity and health. When I asked, the speed with which that prayer was answered was mind boggling. I literally went from the gates of insanity and death to an AA group and a new way of life and living in 18 hours. Because I asked God. Because at that moment I knew He was the only thing in the universe that could help me to begin to turn my life around.
When I found my home group I immersed myself in the program. Two or three meetings a day, reading my Big Book, talking to my mentor and my sponsor, being of service no matter how insignificant. Trying to make friends and develop new healthy relationships. I did my Steps with my sponsor and my mentor and with a new friend and we flew through them. After having been worried about doing my Fourth and Fifth Steps, for stupid and selfish reasons, I got through them and felt the ease of burden that all who do them feel. We quickly did them all, not out of a sense of competition or the need to simply get them over with, but, because that’s how it worked out.
I remain sober to this day because of the program and the way I was guided to, and through, the Steps. And because of the few close relationships I have been able to start and maintain within the program.
One of the things that I had really struggled with was the concept of self-forgiveness. Like all friends of Bill W., I wasn’t a sterling model of humanity. I made mistakes. I hurt others. I said and did things that, as I did my life review, made me cringe. Things that I was convinced were unforgivable and that I would pay a certain penance for until I died.
Surprisingly though, after I asked God for forgiveness for my past transgressions and then asked others for the same forgiveness, I was forgiven. How could that be? How could so many people say: “That’s okay, Matt. Learn from your past and don’t repeat your mistakes and we’re good?”
Because forgiveness is in all of us, given by God, so that we may move along with our lives once we have seen the error of our ways and because we ask for it. I know that I have forgiven countless people for their wrongs, real or perceived, and not given those wrongs a
second thought. Steps Four and Five were an integral part of that forgiveness. God was at the core of that process and the Big Book instructed me how to do it honestly.
But I still had this thing pressing on my heart. If God and everyone else had forgiven me for my past, and were allowing me to go forward with my new life, then why couldn’t I give myself the same courtesy? Why wasn’t I able to see who I was and who I am and who I am slowly transforming into and reconcile the three?
And then it hit me. Knowing that God wants us to be sober and happy and somewhat right in the head, and that he wants us to genuinely rely upon him to make it through this thing called life as joyful and fulfilled people, how could he deliver me from the bondage of alcoholism but still let me be lost in my already forgiven past? Why would he allow me to remain so full of regret and embarrassment over all of those yesterday things? Things already forgiven. He wouldn’t. That’s the short answer.
The long answer is that I had missed an important and vital tidbit of information somewhere that needed to be an almost instant part of my sober life and my new path.
Part of the knowledge of his will is knowing that he wants us to thrive. Part of coming to rely upon him is knowing what to ask. Part of being a benefit to others is to be the best you that you can be. All of those things mean that, along with asking him to forgive you and asking others to forgive you, you have to ask God to allow you to forgive you. We are not meant to live the remainder of our lives in a perpetual state of penance. We are forgiven and we must move past our past, in our heads, if we’re gonna move into our future. A huge part of that is forgiving ourselves.
So I did this. I prayed and asked God to allow me to forgive myself. To learn from but not be burdened by my past. To allow me to allow myself to simply move forward. To let
me be my best self, unencumbered by me, so that I may positively impact others. To take that dark cloud from me that keeps raining on my parade. For once to allow me to be a confident person.
When I said: “Thanks, Talk to you when I go to bed.” (because I talk to God like he is my fishing buddy and not some faceless omnipotent Sky Deity—but that’s just me), I instantly felt like an elephant stood up off my shoulders. Like: “Why didn’t I do this months ago?”
I guess that, in the end, I have come to understand finally that God wants the best for me. He wants us to be the best versions of us we can possibly be. He wants to bless us and if we ask for the right blessings he comes through immediately, if we are humble and genuine in our prayer.
It’s like Grandma used to say. “If you don’t love you, how can you expect anyone else to love you?”