Today I’d like to look at “dealing with guilt: strategies for managing feelings of guilt in addiction recovery.
If you were from a family in turmoil, (or in later life, a relationship), where addiction or violence or some other form dysfunction, or neglect was present, then the likelihood is that the family would have adapted to that situation, and any young children in that situation would have taken on a certain amount of guilt due to the family adaptation, because if kids don’t have things explained then they tend to blame themselves.
Later, that guilt may be added to from things we have done, to ourselves and to others, rather than it being inherited or imagined guilt.
Guilt can manifest in different ways, but some common symptoms and feelings associated with guilt include:
1. Regret – feeling remorseful about past actions or decisions.
2. Self-blame – feeling responsible for negative outcomes or consequences, even if they were out of your control.
3. Shame – feeling embarrassed or humiliated about your actions or decisions.
4. Anxiety – feeling worried or stressed about the potential consequences of your actions or decisions.
5. Low self-esteem – feeling like you are not worthy of forgiveness or redemption.
6. Anger – feeling frustrated or angry at yourself or others for the situation you are in. Anger can also be a secondary emotion that arises from underlying feelings of sadness.
These feelings can be overwhelming and can make it difficult to move forward in recovery and so it’s important to develop strategies to manage these feelings.
Even as a person in long-term recovery I find myself feeling guilty almost as a default life-position, blaming myself when situations go awry, or disproportionately apologising to others for ‘everything’.
Managing feelings of guilt is an essential part of addiction and I am definitely still a work in progress in terms my recovery. Here though are some ways we can try to deal with guilt in our individual addiction recovery journeys.
1. Acknowledge the pain:
It’s important to acknowledge the pain that others have caused you, and allow yourself to experience the full range of emotions that come with it, including guilt. This can be a challenging but crucial step in the process of forgiveness.
2. Acknowledge your feelings:
Another step in dealing with guilt is to recognise and acknowledge your feelings. It is natural to feel guilty where we have caused harm but living in that guilt (setting up camp there) can hinder your recovery. Part of my recovery journey is learning how to accept my past, change my relationship to it and focus on the present.
3. Practice self-compassion:
Self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and understanding. Instead of beating yourself up over the past, whether for your mistakes or the mistakes of others. Try to offer yourself the same compassion you would offer a friend. Recognise that you are human and that nobody is perfect.
4. Make amends:
Making amends, where possible and when doing so doesn’t cause further harm, is an important part of the recovery process. Apologise to those you have harmed and make efforts to right your wrongs. This can help you move forward and let go of guilt.
5. Focus on the present:
Guilt often stems from past events, and focusing on the present can help you move through those feelings. Instead of dwelling on the past, focus on the actions you can take today to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
6. Seek support:
Talking to a therapist or a support group can be helpful in dealing with feelings of guilt. It can be beneficial to share your feelings with others who understand what you’re going through and who can offer you support and guidance.
Remember that managing feelings of guilt takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and focus on the present moment. With time and effort, you can overcome guilt and continue your recovery journey.