How Forgiveness Led Me To Ultimate Healing (From The Wife Of A Former Addict)

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This is a follow-up to Shannon’s original story, which you can read here.

“The definition of forgiveness is ‘to cease to feel resentment against (an offender); pardon.’ Another definition of forgiveness is ‘the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.’ Both definitions have two powerful words, ‘feel’ and ‘action.’ In order to forgive properly, we need to stop feeling resentment and anger towards the other person. As we change the way we think, we change the way we treat the other person.

Forgiveness was vital in our marriage. It was also equally important we forgive and practice that daily, so we could heal.

After my husband battled and beat addiction, one would think we would be in a state of euphoria. We were for a moment, but it didn’t last long. When we came off the high of accomplishment, we were left with smoldering piles of rubble everywhere we looked. We didn’t know where to start, but with one piece at a time, we started to clean up the disaster.

A woman and her husband, who is wearing glasses
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

I never realized the hardest work starts after the addiction, not during. As we slowly started to pick up the mess, resentment started creeping in. ‘Why did this happen?’ I would say. ‘Why did I have to go through this?’ ‘Why did I have to lose so much?’ ‘Why did I have to be the bad guy?’ I was letting bitterness sink in. I felt slighted. I felt robbed of the best parts of our life by something I never did, by someone else, by someone I loved. It was a tough pill to swallow, no pun intended.

My bitterness was making me become reactive to life, not proactive. I was trapped in this victim mentality mindset. I felt like a fighter: I was always ready to go to battle. I was letting life and circumstances steer my ship, not me. Even in our marriage, we both were reacting to each other, whether it was sarcasm here or there or just walls built up over time from being in fight or flight mode for so long. We were letting what happened to us define us, but we were not taking control of how it was going to define us.

A woman with her three children and her husband, all dressed in orange
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

Harboring all that bitterness and unforgiveness daily was exhausting. Is this how we wanted our story to go? Were we going to let this beat us, or were we going to remember we were on the same team and be proactive for both our marriage and our life? It was time to start taking control and stop being controlled by our past. We knew that meant having to let go and move forward.

There’s freedom in knowing you are in control of your life. Even though life might throw some curveballs, we can choose how we want to react to them and how we want them to define us. This was a big step in the healing process for us both.

After a year or two of reflecting, I realized I needed to find myself again, but it seemed like no matter what I did, unless I forgave both in feelings and actions, my healing was going to fall flat. And it did for many years.

As I was starting down this journey of forgiveness and healing, my husband was going down the same road. He couldn’t shake the shame and the guilt and all the years he lost. He struggled to forgive himself. Here I was, his wife, not truly forgiving him either.

I needed to change that.

A man holds his young daughter's hand by the water
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

We spent the next few years after our monumental victory trying to rebuild a different life. We were checking off all the boxes needed to create this magical, textbook life. We started new careers, had beautiful babies, set up healthy boundaries with people to ensure peace, and traveled. We were busy, too busy to realize we hadn’t dealt with our need to forgive and heal.

A couple sit on a bench with their three children
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

Healing is a funny thing, it comes and goes in waves and has no time limit, especially if you don’t deal with it head-on. We weren’t dealing with it. We were pressing it down, but now, after all these years, it was overflowing. There wasn’t any further down we could push this. We had to muster up the courage to tackle this dead on.

At the center of it all was forgiveness. We needed to forgive ourselves. I seemed to have held us hostage in this invisible box that didn’t allow for any mistakes. I had to release us from that. I had to forgive God too. I was mad at Him. I need to shift my thinking and instead of asking God why this happened, I had to change to asking Him how I could use this to help or inspire others?

This was a pivotal moment.

A woman and her husband wearing camouflage sit in their car
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

From that point, I made the brave decision to start talking about our past. I always loved to write; it was therapeutic for me. So that being said, writing is what I did. I started a new social media account, and I chose the name Warrior Marriage because that’s what I thought we were—warriors in our marriage. The name seemed more than fitting.

I started posting bits and pieces of our story. I wasn’t sure how it would be received, but this battle was always going to be a part of our story, like it or not, and until I embraced it, forgiveness and healing were never going to happen. I was held hostage for too long, my husband as well. It was time to break off the chains once and for all.

My husband has always been an advocate for speaking your truth and not being ashamed. Even while he was struggling with addiction, he would openly talk about it with others. He was always honest about where he was on his road to recovery. We always told ourselves someday we wanted to tell our story because we didn’t want to have gone through all of this and have this experience go to waste. While my husband is the talker, I’m the writer. I get my thoughts out better when I pen something to paper.

A man props up the side of his hand by leaning on his elbow
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

When I came to him with the idea of starting Warrior Marriage, he was all for it. I remember him saying, ‘Go for it, Shan. Let’s use our story for some good.’ I couldn’t agree more. ‘Let’s turn this situation around and make it something where we can give hope or inspiration to others.’

A new chapter started.

As I started writing and being open, honest, and raw, I noticed a difference in the way I felt. It appeared every word I wrote was breaking off guilt, shame, and bitterness and replacing it with purpose, passion, and gratitude. My mind was shifting, and forgiveness started to take place.

A woman sits at a long table writing
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

I was forgiving myself for not being as open and present in the early years as I would have liked to be, but I was in survival mode, and I did the best I could then. I forgave myself for taking my frustration out on my husband from time to time (he forgave me too). I was scared and confused at the time.

I forgave my husband wholeheartedly—he never intended for this to happen. He is the kindest soul on the planet, and not a day goes by when he doesn’t try to replace the sad memories with new happy ones. I also had to forgive those who didn’t know the whole story, what we went through, and why we made the decisions we did but still gossiped about us.

A woman kisses her husband on the cheek from behind
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

Even just this past year, someone wrote hate and lies about me specifically, and it was at that moment I realized healing comes in waves, and that it’s a journey, not a destination. Healing is also messy, very messy.

Even though those hurtful words stung, and took me back to a dark place again, I had to choose forgiveness for myself and my healing journey.

One step at a time. Keep going.

Through my quest for forgiveness and healing, my husband has started releasing all the weight he has been carrying around. He told me he has a hard time forgiving himself for not being driven at a much younger age; not being more independent. He regrets not starting a business at thirty and hates that he couldn’t be where he’s at now in life sooner than forty. He mentioned having to change his thinking, feeling proud of how far he’s come, and being grateful for his bright future. He is starting to forgive, to let go, and to heal.

A woman leans her head on her husband's shoulder
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

It’s been amazing to see.

The best years of my life were not those years I thought I lost. Those were just years, years I needed to have happen. They taught me resilience, courage, and love. The best years of my life are now. I’ve been refined in ways only difficult times can refine you. I have gained perspective that only comes from learning life’s hard lessons. I also love without conditions now, which only comes from learning the art of forgiveness.

Mastering forgiveness has given me the best gift of all: healing.

And healing comes with the greatest prize of them all: pure happiness.”

A woman and her husband together outside their house
Courtesy of Shannon Quirk

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shannon Quirk. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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