Those dealing with addictions such as alcohol or drug addictions may often experience a number of emotions and feelings caused by their behaviour. While in active addiction, many of these emotions are pushed to the side, but when the affected person is trying to overcome his or her addiction, these will rise to the surface once more. It is not uncommon for recovering addicts to be plagued with feelings of guilt or shame because of what they have put their loved ones through.
Addicts will often act in a very unreasonable manner when under the influence of a particular substance. They may say or do things that they would never have done before addiction took hold. So it is natural to feel guilty about many things in when in recovery.
Reasons for Guilt
Recovering addicts often feel guilty for things they might have said or done while addicted and the impact that their actions had on those they love. Some may also feel guilty for wasting many years to addiction and for the damage their illness has inflicted on their health and the health of those around them.
Feelings of guilt can often lead to depression, which can be a real risk factor for relapse. Affected individuals experiencing excessive feelings of guilt may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs and could then find themselves right back where they started before beginning their recovery journey.
However, not all guilty feelings are bad or dangerous. In some cases, feelings of guilt can be enough to prevent recovering addicts from falling off the wagon. They may be afraid of causing any more harm to their loved ones, which could make them more considerate of the needs of the people they care about.
Risk of Relapse
While guilt can be enough to prevent relapse in some individuals, it can be what sends some recovering addicts on a downward spiral back to substance abuse. For many recovering addicts, it was guilt that drove them to abuse alcohol or drugs in the first place. So if they continue to feel guilty in recovery, they may be tempted to abuse alcohol or drugs again as this is something they are familiar and comfortable with.
A large number of addicts fail to progress in recovery because of their feelings of guilt. They feel as if they do not deserve to get better and be happy, and they use their guilt as an excuse not to fully commit to the programme. Others feel so overwhelmed by their guilt that they are unable to give one hundred per cent towards getting better.
Dealing with Feelings of Guilt in Recovery
If you are one such affected person, while there is no harm in feeling regret and remorse about previous actions, there is no need for you to feel guilty. Guilt is a negative emotion that does no good to you or the people you have hurt. If you had no control over your actions, you need to come to terms with this fact and move on. The best thing you can do now is make amends for things you have done and look to the future.
If some people refuse to accept your apology, there is nothing you can do about it. All you can do is try to rebuild bridges with those you have hurt and then move forward. Accept that you have made mistakes and know that by working hard to get clean and stay sober, you are making amends for those mistakes. You are not perfect, but you are doing your best.
When feelings of guilt strike, learn to use meditation techniques to allow you to accept them and then move on. Mindfulness is the perfect example of how you can see these feelings of guilt for what they are without letting them overcome you.