guilt in recovery

4 Tips for Dealing With Guilt in Recovery

Published on January 2, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

There’s no doubt about it, addiction will make you say and do things that are misaligned with your character and the core of who you are. One of the toughest aspects of addiction recovery is facing the reality of the things you have done and the people you have hurt.

While guilt is a natural reaction when reflecting on past behavior, becoming overwhelmed with guilt and shame can be detrimental to your recovery. When you continuously beat yourself up, you begin to lose faith in your own worth and capacity for change, and in doing so, you are more likely to relapse. Learning to cope with guilt and use those feelings for positive growth is critical to your success in recovery from addiction. 

Forgive Yourself

Forgiveness is a complicated process, whether it be the act of forgiving someone or forgiving yourself for poor choices you have made in the past. It is unlikely to happen overnight, but work on being gentle with yourself. Each day when thoughts and memories of your past come up, pay attention to your internal dialogue. Don’t allow your subconscious to put you down constantly.

Work on speaking to and about yourself the way you would a close friend. We’re more likely to show compassion and forgiveness to others than we are to ourselves. Changing this habit can help you to see that we are all human and that we are all allowed to make mistakes in life.

Make Amends

An essential aspect of every 12-step addiction recovery program is the act of making amends for past wrongdoings. The ability to make amends is different in every circumstance. It is important to consider what is best for everyone involved before reaching out to offer an apology or an act of service.

However, finding a way to express your honest regret and willingness to do better can be an incredibly healing process. Additionally, if you are unable to make direct amends to someone you have hurt, try offering up your free time and energy. Amends can also be made indirectly by being of service to people in need.

It can be rewarding to become more involved in the recovery community once you are feeling secure in your sobriety. Give back to other people who are struggling with addiction through mentorship and support. You’ll find your own sobriety strengthening in return. 

Focus on What you Can Control

Anyone who knows “The Serenity Prayer”, commonly used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, is about letting go of aspects of life you can’t control. Instead, we ask God to help us focus on the circumstances we have the power to change.

One thing that you can and will never be able to change is the past. Learning to forgive yourself is only possible after you have acknowledged that the past is unchangeable. Look ahead – your power lies within the present and future.

It is also essential to understand that other people’s perception of you or their inability to forgive should not determine your ability to forgive yourself and move on. You can’t control how others react to your recovery or if they choose to let you back into their lives. You can, however, decide how you create and maintain other relationships going forward.

See Yourself as Courageous

Addiction has a way of making even the strongest and bravest among us feel vulnerable and weak. While substance abuse may have caused you to act in ways that did not exhibit courage or power in the past, your decision to seek treatment is noble and courageous.

Addiction is a physical and psychological illness that requires incredible persistence and commitment to overcome. Regardless of your behavior while in active addiction, you deserve credit for leaving that part of your life behind. For first responders and others in professions that require daily courage, the guilt of addiction can be even more intense.

First responders feel a sense of responsibility towards the public. They may feel as if they have let down their entire community by developing an addiction. In reality, people in recovery are more equipped to handle difficult challenges and face intimidating circumstances than most. Developing an addiction is simply a manifestation of your humanity.  

The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers. Existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially tricky.

Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career. Nor do you have to resign yourself to a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships. At Simple Recovery, we take a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction. This approach makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing.

First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community. At Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we dedicate our time to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490