How to Manage Guilt During Recovery?

Guilt is an emotion almost everyone has felt at some point in time due to doing or saying things that hurt us or others. On one side, guilt can be helpful because it shows you recognize that your behavior was wrong. On the other side, it can be harmful because it robs you of your self-worth and self-esteem. Guilt can make you feel so bad. You just want to give up on yourself.

Guilt can be especially detrimental to someone in recovery. If you’re suffering from guilt due to things you’ve said or done during a period of addiction, here are a few ways to manage these feelings and move on with your life. 

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Stop Blowing Things Out of Proportion

Guilt can make you magnify your bad behavior to the extent that it seems impossible to redeem yourself. Don’t let it. It’s important to recognize where you went wrong so you don’t repeat the same actions. Once you’ve acknowledged your mistakes, take measures to correct them, so you can stay sober and succeed in your recovery.

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This second volume in Guy Kettelhack’s recovery series, Second Year Sobriety, takes on the “terrible twos.” Here people in recovery share their experiences and insights in dealing with long-suppressed feelings of anger, loss, guilt, love, and self-acceptance.

Forgive Yourself and Others

Another problem with guilt is that it doesn’t motivate you to do better. It simply berates you for your mistakes, taking you further down the road of misery and despair. Forgiveness can help break the cycle of guilt and give you the motivation you need to move forward. If you’ve wronged others, apologize for the harm you’ve done and forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. If others have wronged you, forgive them and move on.

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Don’t Let Past Mistakes Define You

Guilt can rob you of your future by making you feel so bad about the past. You have no motivation to change or do better. Although you are responsible for errant behavior and past mistakes, these mistakes don’t have to define you. Once you acknowledge your mistakes, you have a chance to change and build a more productive future. Remorse is a greater motivator than guilt when it comes to changing your life for the better, especially during recovery.

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See a Therapist

If guilt is keeping you trapped in the past, seek help from a professional therapist. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with a therapist can be helpful in working through your guilt so that you can succeed in your recovery.

Therapist’s Guide to Addiction Medicine

Throughout his three plus decades as an addiction medicine specialist, Dr. Barry Solof has observed that many well-meaning therapists and counselors working in the field seem to know relatively little about the biological and medical aspects of addiction.

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