People who struggle with alcohol use problems often experience a range of emotions relating to their alcohol use, including anger, frustration, shame, and most importantly guilt. A new study, conducted by Jon R. Webb of East Tennessee State University and Elizabeth A.R. Robinson and Kirk J. Brower of the University of Michigan, suggests that forgiving oneself helps decrease relapse for people with alcohol problems. “Forgiveness is not a denial of justifiable or legitimate negative responses to offense, but is an internal process, freely chosen by a victim of offense, irrespective of subsequent interaction with the offender,” said the team. “The relationship between forgiveness and health is thought to be both direct and indirect. The direct relationship is conceptualized to be based on an inextricable association between rumination and the process of (un)forgiveness and the resolution of the negative emotions associated with un-forgiveness, such as anger, hostility, resentment, hatred, and fear.” They added that the increased stress resulting from not forgiving another or oneself can also negatively impact physical health.
Previous research has indicated that forgiveness can also provide psychological health benefits when applied to alcohol issues. Specifically, people with alcohol problems have stated that a key factor of their recovery is the ability to forgive themselves for their behaviors. To examine this relationship further, the researchers evaluated 149 individuals who were undergoing alcohol treatment. They assessed their psychological well-being and how often they drank at the beginning of the study and six months later. They found that forgiveness was the primary issue influencing alcohol related problems, and psychological distress was specifically linked to the number of days abstinent and the number of drinks consumed per day. “Higher levels of forgiveness of others (indirect only) were associated with lower levels of psychiatric distress, which, in turn, was associated with fewer alcohol problems.” The team added, “Understanding the nature of the forgiveness-alcohol outcome relationship, albeit in the initial stages, facilitates and informs the utilization of forgiveness as an intervention tool.”
Webb, J. R., Robinson, E. A. R., & Brower, K. J. (2011, March 28). Mental Health, Not Social Support, Mediates the Forgiveness-Alcohol Outcome Relationship. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022502
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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