How to Overcome Guilt in Addiction Recovery

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Overcome Guilt in Addiction Recovery

You may or may not have felt guilt when you were in the depths of your addiction. Perhaps you did while you continued to take the substances that were ruining many aspects of your life. Or maybe you were so focused on your addiction and continuing to meet it that all other aspects of your life, including your impact on others, was just not part of your thought process at the time. Regardless of what happened then, it should not be surprising if you are experiencing guilt now as you work to recover from your addiction. This can manifest itself in guilty thoughts of your impact on others and on yourself, during addiction, during addiction treatment, and even now. Feeling guilt in addiction recovery is common, however, you can overcome this barrier to a life of freedom.

Why Is There Guilt in Recovery?

This is partly thanks to your emotions most likely being rawer now and you being under a bit more stress as your mind and the rest of your body adjusts to no longer having the substance that it had depended on. Regardless of why it is happening, you are not alone in feeling guilt in addiction recovery. You can, however, learn to address that emotion positively and a lot of good can happen in the long run.

How to Fight Guilt in Recovery

First, remind yourself that anything that you did in the past is just that: in the past. You may have burned some bridges in your life that will never be mended. Other aspects of your life may be damaged but can be mended. Regardless, what’s done is done. If you lied to others who trusted you, if you stole to fund your addiction, if you drove while drunk or if you did anything else that hurt others or yourself, you cannot change the past. But you can change your present, and you can change your future. It may take some time for others to trust you again, so you will need to take that step yourself and be patient with others as you very gradually rebuild your trust with them. (You can be trustworthy today. What might take time is being able to convince others that you’ve made this change.)

One important step that you can take once you’re emotionally ready and can do so with genuineness is making whatever amends that you can. Apologize to those you have hurt but have no expectations as far as how that apology is received. Some will appreciate it while others may not or may have a neutral reaction instead. In other words, don’t expect everybody to appreciate your efforts as, once again, it may take time for them to trust you again. But it is a definite step in the right direction.

Perfection in Recovery is a Myth

Also, allow yourself to make mistakes. No one is perfect except Jesus. As long as you are moving in a much more positive direction than you had been in the past, that’s the thing to focus on. Giving yourself a break will help relieve any guilt in addiction recovery that you may be feeling. Oftentimes, those in recovery experience tremendous amounts of guilt over relatively minor mistakes. Remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes, forgive yourself and move back in a positive direction.

It’s also important to remember that Jesus died on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven. Regardless of anything that you might have done in your life, you are loved by God. You do not have to earn His love. Be thankful for that and keep that in mind during both hard times and good and whether others in your life are upset with you because of things that you have done or they are grateful because of what you have done to enrich your life and perhaps theirs too.

Another consideration to keep in mind is that you may have felt shame before you became addicted to one or more substances, and that could have been what helped cause your life to go down that path. But, regardless of how you may have been treated by others in your life, then and now, know that God loves you and forgives you. And it’s important for you to face any guilt or shame that you may be experiencing for whatever reason face-on. That’s what’s going to cause you to have a much more balanced, healthy life than you may have had up to this point.

Experiencing Joy in Recovery

The bottom line is that you have been jarred into making a substantial change in your life, and engaging in recovery is exactly what you should be doing now. But don’t let that jarring effect result in crippling guilt that harms your ability to continue to recover from your addiction and to improve the quality of your life and the quality of your relationships with others. Understand that, even though you may not be proud of what happened in the past, you are doing everything that you can to recover from that, and that is all that you can ask of yourself.

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