The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.
-Theodore Roosevelt

The process of recovery from addiction is necessarily an imperfect one. If it were easy to transcend our addictions, then we would simply do so. There would be little need for intervention, rehabilitation and detoxification centers, or even for reading passages such as this. But addictive patterns are deeply imbedded and usually connected to emotional wounds that lie deep within our psyches. The path that may eventually lead us away from our addictions will have many twists and turns as we navigate new and necessarily uncomfortable emotional territory, carving new experiences, relationships, and eventually neural connections, along the way. This means that we will experience problems and mistakes while we find our way through this emotionally rocky terrain. In the current manifestation of our recovery model there is often great emphasis on physical abstinence—counting days we have spent away from our addiction of choice—for example. And while this can serve a purpose, it can also set us up for deep feelings of shame if/when we do make certain mistakes, periodically returning to our addictions or creating new ones in their stead. It is very important to be gentle with ourselves through this difficult process, even if we must simultaneously be rigorous in our attempts to learn from it. Mistakes are an important part of life, and if we are to grow, we must move into uncharted and unexplored emotional territory—so mistakes are inevitable. For our recovery to be meaningful, then, we must become adept at forgiving ourselves as we forge our way along the imperfect process of recovery.

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