“Forgiveness is an act of self-love” ~Don Miguel Ruiz
By Mel Davis
My name is Melissa and I am a recovering alcoholic. I am now 32 and mother of two boys, Charlie and Harry, aged four and two. I am happy to say that I began my road to recovery 14 years ago. I guess you could say I am the classic case of a ‘damaged’ person, brought up in a home where abuse and violence were constant. When I was five, I recall my mother quickly packing up our things and moving us to a shelter to escape my father’s abuse. She pressed charges and my father went to prison, yet that didn’t exactly bring calm to our home. My mother took solace from her stressful life in drink, and often brought home boyfriends who treated all of us, no better than my father used to.
By the time I was 15 or 16, I was drinking every day. I turned to alcohol, more than anything, out of a sense of desperation. I think I just wanted to numb everything, to escape the feelings I had. The drink did that. My grades were awful. I knew I wouldn’t be going to college, and my dreams of being a veterinarian had long ago faded. At that time, it didn’t really feel like addiction, since I felt like I had some control over how much I drank.
Around 18, I started working at a local grocery store. Even knowing I had a problem, it was difficult to get through a shift without drinking. Eventually, my boss fired me when he caught me going to work in an inebriated state. At that time, I felt like I was completely alone because all my friends were caught in the same situation. Many popped pills in addition to drinking, and I felt like I would never find the strength I needed to quit.
Then I met Jim, my husband. Jim was new to town. His father was a Pastor and his whole family had recently come to live in our area. Funnily enough, I met Jim at a party though I did notice that he seemed to be the only one who wasn’t drinking. From the first time we met, we really clicked. I felt like it was okay to tell him about my life and my addiction. He never judged me; in this way, he made it easy for me to open up to him about the hurt I was masking through my addiction.
Jim invited me to a meeting led by his father, Vince, and I will never forget the subject of his sermon: grace. Vince explained that grace was something we needed to receive with an open heart, no matter how damaged and no matter how hurtful to others, we are all worthy of God’s love.
Jim and I began to develop strong romantic feelings for each other and despite my reputation, his family took me in with open arms. I was shocked when Vince spoke to me one evening as we watched the sunset from the porch. He told me that before becoming a pastor, he, too, had been caught in the throes of drug addiction. He said that he had a successful business, a loving family, yet something was always missing, until he let grace into his life.
This conversation with Jim motivated me to get help. I began attending AA meetings and realised that self-forgiveness was one of the pillars of recovery. Getting past self-blame and self-hatred is vital if we are to be strong despite the ups and downs that life throws before us. In order to forgive ourselves, Vince says, we need to forgive others first. He encouraged me to use prayer and positive imagery exercises to let go of past hurt and since then, it has been easier to resist alcohol even in the toughest of times. Prayer has helped me to forgive myself. Although the passage of time has helped me to understand my own motives better, there is still a part of me that cannot let go and totally forgive my father. Though I have, in part, come to understand why he behaved as he did. Maybe this will come in time. I truly do not know.
After successfully completing an outpatient rehab program, I went back to school and a few years later, graduated as a vet. I am now living my dream, taking care of animals and raising a wonderful family.
I thank God for putting Jim and his family in my life but also know that I am worthy of all the good things that have happened to me and that forgiveness is the first step towards lasting happiness.
About the Author
Mel Davis has overcome a longstanding battle with alcohol and some very traumatic times in her youth. She now works primarily as a vet, and in her spare time, writes and volunteers for various mental health charities. She is mum to two young children and hopes to instill the values of forgiveness into them as well.