One of the challenges of recovery from addiction is the acknowledgement of the damage you have caused in your own life and the lives of others. Parents must sometimes admit that their addiction has left them unable to provide proper care for their children. Employees must sometimes admit that they have not performed their duties at work because they were more focused on getting more of their drug of choice than on completing their work. Worse, they may have to admit that work sometimes just didn’t get done because they were unable to get to work. Recovering addicts must admit that money which should have been used to pay bills was instead used to buy drugs. The wreckage of a life of addiction must be confronted and acknowledged, and that can be both difficult and painful.
We must be careful, however, that acknowledging the damage we have caused no lead us to wallow in guilt and shame. It is one thing to admit that we have done wrong; it is something very different to give in to self-hatred and despondency. That fact that we have done wrong does not necessarily make us bad people. The wreckage of our past is part of the reality of addiction. Our failure to live up to our potential is a result of our addiction to drugs, not of simple laziness or inattention. This does not mean that we can exempt ourselves of any responsibility for our past. Rather, we must acknowledge that our decision to use drugs and to continue using drugs has harmed both ourselves and others.
Just as we must take responsibility for the damage we have caused, we must also take responsibility for our present and future choices. We made choices in the past to engage in self-destructive behaviors, including the use of drugs to cope with our lives. That is the past. Now, we are given the opportunity to make different, better choices. In the Gospels, Jesus is presented with a woman who was engaged in adultery. He does not condemn her for her past, but He does expect her to make better choices in the future. “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.” He offers the same message to us. He does not condemn us, but He does expect us to make better choices in the future. Your past is over and done with. Your future is in your hands. What will you do with it?