Overcoming the guilt of your past in recovery
When you’re in early recovery, there are so many things to worry about. You’re battling physical symptoms along with constant cravings. You barely have time for guilt. But once the physical symptoms subside and you get a small handle on cravings, it’s as if you have nothing but time to think about everything.
Memories from when you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol come rushing back – and you can’t believe you were that person. How could you have treated your loved ones, that way? How will they ever forgive you? How can you possibly even forgive yourself?
It’s a rush of emotions, mostly guilt, that doesn’t go away.
But if you’re going to retain your sobriety and your sanity, you’ve got to get this under control. You can’t live every moment with guilt and shame. It’s simply not feasible, and it certainly won’t bring you to a good place.
We’ve all been there, and we all have to find our own way out of that place. Here are a few things you can try to deal with the guilt of your past.
Apologizing will make you feel better, if only for the moment. It’s also good for the people you’ve wronged. But don’t make the mistake of apologizing more than once or twice. You may think you’re doing right by your loved ones whenever you apologize, but your good intentions may have the opposite effect. When you apologize profusely every time you spend time with someone, you’re not allowing your relationship to move on from the hurt. Apologize sincerely one time and then attempt to move on. It’ll be good for you and everyone else too.
Practice mindfulness meditation at least 10 minutes every day. In this time, you can clear your mind and train your brain to live in the moment. When you meditate, you’re also gaining better control over your thoughts, and we all know how damaging our own thoughts can be.
If you can spend more of your time living in the present moment as opposed to the past, you’ll find it easier to get over past hurt. Here is a great article about counseling for relationships.
Give your loved ones some credit
Part of what brings us down when we’re feeling guilty is that we imagine what other people are thinking about us and our past actions. Instead of doing that, imagine that your loved ones are also being mindful and living in the present moment. This is the best-case-scenario for them too.
This way, whenever you’re having trouble living in the moment, your thoughts won’t run completely amok.
Learn to forgive yourself
There will be times when you can’t quiet the nagging guilt. These are the most difficult moments. It’s exactly these moments that will make or break your recovery.
Now is a good time to remind yourself of all you’ve learned about addiction in rehab. It’s a disease that affects your brain. It causes you to lose control. You weren’t in control when you did the things you feel so guilty about. You can take responsibility for them and apologize, but you don’t have to let those mistakes define you. It wasn’t even really you. It was the addiction.
Now that you’ve regained control, you won’t let things like that happen again. Forgive yourself for the past wrongdoing and try to move forward with positivity.
Break down your feelings
It’s difficult to get over something you don’t truly understand. Sometimes, we have feelings and we don’t completely know why.
The best way to overcome your guilt is to embrace it, understand it, and then let it go.
Instead of trying to will your guilt away, think about what happened to make you feel this way. Why is this thing affecting you so much?
You’ll certainly come up with good reasons, but then you can put those good reasons to work to make yourself feel better.
For example, you may feel guilty over stealing some cash from a loved one. But it’s not so much the act itself that’s problematic. It’s the fact that you broke someone’s trust. Maybe this person thought you’d be the last person to steal something from them. Maybe you’re worried that this event changed how they see you forever.
Since broken trust is at the root of your guilt, try to find ways that you can exhibit trustworthiness today. Even if you can’t make it up to that person, exhibiting trustworthiness can help you overcome the feelings you’re having about the past event.
Guilt is a natural part of recovery, so don’t feel embarrassed about the way you’re feeling. The important thing to focus on now is working through the guilt, so you can start feeling better. It may never completely go away, and that’s okay as long as you can forgive yourself and try to let yourself live in the present moment.
Guest post by Trevor McDonald