How do I forgive myself?

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of in my life. But, through the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, I’ve cleaned up the wreckage of my past pretty thoroughly. And most bad behavior on my part since then has been relatively minor. A lie here, a hurtful comment or action there.

But every once in a great while, I do something that is so against my core values, that I am left sitting alone, staring at a wall, wondering how the fuck that happened, and wanting to vomit. Oddly, self-harm doesn’t come into my thinking. Simply causing myself pain as punishment seems too easy. I know deep inside that I’ve violated something so vital to my understanding of the world, my understanding of what it means to be a good person, and my core evaluation of self-worth, that simple pain is insufficient. In fact, punishment is not something I can comprehend at all in these situations. How can punishment be sufficient when  I have violated something so vital at my core? And, similarly, how can I forgive myself. I have no scale to measure what is sufficient here.

I can’t even discuss it with others. Oh, I have tried. But how do you explain to someone the depth of the value you’ve violated? How deeply you are affected by your actions? The reaction is typically one of ‘why is this that big a deal?’ Or, that’s how I interpret the reaction, regardless of how supportive it actually is. Which simply makes me feel stupid for having such strong feelings about my core values. But I am proud of the core values that make me who I am. I am proud that I strive to hold myself to such a high standard. I do not WANT to sacrifice my core values. They make me who I am. They give my life meaning.

So I sit here, alone, staring at the wall (sometimes literally, sometimes metaphorically), feeling like I should vomit (almost always literally), and wishing I had a way to reconcile my actions with my core self.


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