By Molly Lewis
I’m so excited that this year we are writing about forgiveness. When Meghan did the live video on Instagram, she explained that GoGetItLIFE Challenge was going to be about “Forgiveness”. They wanted to hear about stories of individuals forgiving other people, or other people forgiving individuals. I was so happy when she saw my comment asking about if forgiving yourself would be good to write about and was excited to add that to the list of stories to submit! (Yes, It’s me… lennon9091 on Instagram). I was excited because I have been able to forgive others and others have forgiven me for some of the terrible things I have done, but I struggled with forgiving myself for those things.
Allow me to elaborate.
First off, I would like to say I am a bipolar alcoholic. What does this have to do with my story? Well these are two of the main reasons I have such immense guilt. The things I did to my friends and family when I was drinking or manic would seem unforgivable… at least, I could not forgive myself.
I have been bipolar since I hit puberty. It went undiagnosed for many years until I started going to a wonderful psychiatrist for years now and have my bipolar relatively under control. When I wasn’t medicated or when I didn’t take my medications or drank alcohol with my medications, I could become a horrible monster. My mania episodes ranged from dancing in the middle of the room with the kids having a great time to screaming at them and being physically violent with them. When I think back on all those times, I feel so guilty about what I had done. I would apologize to them after I settled down and they would forgive me, but I just could not forgive myself.
I have been an alcoholic my whole life, even though I never drank before I turned 21. One does not “turn into an alcoholic”, it is a lifelong illness that we struggle with even when there is no alcohol involved. We have a “spiritual malady” more than a “drinking problem”. But, I digress.
It wasn’t until I lost my job as a very respected Intensive Care nurse that my drinking really took off. I would drink every night. It started out that I could control it, but within a couple years I was getting drunk every night. I was not able to find another nursing job, but that was no big deal to me at the time because I inherited a substantial inheritance. Needless to say, I looked for work very little. Drinking was more important to me than working and I had the means of getting the alcohol.
As my drinking progressed, so did the stupid things I did. I once thought that it would be okay to run into a bar and grill and order dinner. I was only going to be a couple minutes, so I left the kids (ages 8, 6, and 5) in the car, while they watched a movie. While in the bar and grill, I thought that I could have a shot and a beer while I waited for my food. Well, one shot became… to tell you the truth, I don’t remember much after that. I don’t know how much I drank.
I remember getting my food a while later (turns out I was in there for an hour) and I fell down the steps and out the front door. The owners of the bar and grill came out and helped me to my car where they found the children. They ended up calling the cops and while I didn’t get in trouble with them because I didn’t get behind the wheel. The police officers and the owners of the bar and grill walked us home since it was only five blocks away.
Sure, I wasn’t in any trouble with the police (thought they did do a breathalyzer test in which I blew three times the legal limit for Illinois) but they had to stay with us until my mother got to the house to watch the children because I was obviously incapable of doing it myself.
Now, my family had been warning me for awhile that I could lose my kids if I kept drinking, but I didn’t believe them. However the next day, the Department of Children and Family Services was at my door saying that I needed to stop drinking or my kids would be taken away and put in foster care. They apparently spoke to my kids one at a time while they were in school and told them this also. My kids came home upset, asking if they had to live in another house. The guilt of almost having my children taken away was unbearable, as one can imagine. How could I have done such a thing?
Is that the worst I have done to my family? Unfortunately, no. Without getting into much detail, I will completely admit that I cheated on my husband of 10 years with a 21 year old and a 26 year old (I was 35). Once I sobered up and I realized what I had done and realized my husband knew about the affairs, I could hardly live with myself. After a year of counseling my wonderful husband was able to come to terms with the infidelity and forgave me, but I could not forgive myself for almost tearing my family apart.
What other things have I done? I have driven drunk with my children in my car. We actually got into an accident which I don’t remember. We apparently backed into a car when leaving the mexican restaurant where I would sit and drink margaritas while waiting for our food to be done. I have been in and out of rehab multiple times and it never stuck so that was a waste of my family’s time and money. I drank and smoked away the inheritance that I received. I have tried to kill myself a couple times while I was drinking by taking my heart medication. My kids asked me why I did it. Was it because I didn’t want to be around them anymore? Ugh? Gut wrenching.
I can’t even describe the guilt that comes along with a miscarriage. We lost Sophia Rose at 12 weeks gestation. I will never forget the day that the doctor could not find her heartbeat anymore. He got very quiet and I knew something was wrong. I came home hysterical and hugged my husband and said “I lost the baby”. I had to have a D and C procedure the next day to end the pregnancy. But, how could this miscarriage not be my fault? I was the woman carrying her. No one else. How could it not be my fault? What should I have done differently?
I have been forgiven for these things by my family and friends. But, how can I forgive myself? Well, I have been going to Alcoholics Anonymous for about 5 years. I have been in and out their doors for awhile, but for the last two years I have stuck with it. I have been sober for 2 years, which is the longest I have been sober for since I started drinking. So that is one thing. Just don’t drink.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, forgiveness is key. We cannot stay sober unless we make amends with others and try to get them to forgive us. “Clear our side of the street”, some of the old timers say. That is step number 8. But, I remembered, when I was working on step number four, the step where you have make a “searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”, also known as a list of resentments, the person that had the longest list was myself. I found that I resented myself horribly for all the things I have done.
I have worked these two sober years trying to forgive myself. Things I have learned through my journey is that my Higher Power is always there for me. I can hit my knees and pray for forgiveness, pray for the feelings of guilt to be washed away and for peace to replace it. I have learned that I cannot change the past, nor do I “Wish to shut the door on it”. I have learned many lessons from these mistakes and will do my best not to repeat them.
Meditation and prayer every morning help me think about what it is I need to do in order to help other people and be of service to others. Mindfulness is key. Be truthful to yourself- admit your mistakes. You cannot forgive yourself if you are constantly lying to yourself. Asking forgiveness from others is very helpful in relieving those feelings of guilt. And you need to work on forgiving yourself and others every day. It is not a one and done sort of thing.