Forgiveness and Alcohol Problems: Indirect Associations Involving Mental Health and Social Support

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Forgiveness is argued, by scholars and lay persons alike, to play an important role in substance abuse recovery. However, little empirical research has been conducted to verify such assumptions. Cross-sectional naturalistic data from a sample of 126 Southern Appalachian college students identified as likely to be hazardous or harmful drinkers were analyzed through multiple-mediation statistical procedures. The general hypothesis of this study was that, while controlling for demographic characteristics, including lifetime religiousness, higher levels of forgiveness would be associated with both better mental health and higher levels of social support, which in turn would be associated with salutary alcohol-related outcomes. In the context of forgiveness of self, for four of the five alcohol-related outcomes, the relationships operated mainly through mental health and primarily in an indirect rather than mediating fashion. Feeling forgiven by God was directly associated with three outcomes. Forgiveness of others was not associated with any of the outcomes measured. While forgiveness appears to be important and beneficial in association with alcohol-related outcomes, it may be that forgiveness of self is most important. Limitations discussed include sample- and measurement-related issues.