Letting go of guilt is an important part of the recovery process. Regardless of whether an individual is working to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol, process trauma, or learn to navigate their own mental health, guilt can be a prevalent part of daily life. Feeling that one has wronged themselves or others can easily become overwhelming if left unaddressed. Relinquishing guilt is essential to pursue one’s own goals for recovery. There are a number of different ways to take the first step towards processing and letting go of one’s overwhelming feelings of guilt.
The Overwhelming Nature of Guilt
Guilt is a powerful emotion that encompasses many other aspects of one’s life. Guilt can bring anxiety and depression to the forefront of one’s mind and cause an individual to harbor feelings of extreme self-criticism, self-doubt, or even hopelessness.
While one’s individual experience with guilt will be unique to them and their experiences, these feelings can be prevalent for any number of different reasons. Feeling guilty over the deterioration of relationships or bringing emotional distress to others can all be reasons an individual can harbor these feelings. The sources of one’s guilt need to be addressed in order to truly navigate their recovery journey.
How Guilt Affects a Prolonged Recovery
Guilt can also carry a number of other effects on an individual so long as it remains unprocessed. Those who experience extreme levels of guilt associated with their past can find it very difficult to develop new relationships due to their own feelings of doubt or perceived pretense that they do not deserve to be happy.
Feeling as if an individual does not “deserve” to be happy is a major hurdle that can halt the progress that an individual is otherwise striving for. This can often lead to the feeling that one has “plateaued” in their recovery, creating more stress and self-criticism as a result.
Others may experience physical manifestations of their guilt. Unprocessed guilt can cause nightmares and anxiety to flare up, leading to insomnia or difficulty staying asleep. Guilt can also cause an individual to feel emotionally and physically isolated and can even affect one’s appetite. This can all cause guilt to be an exhausting experience, directly impacting the energy that an individual has to process the guilt and incorporate other healthy lifestyle practices or recovery strategies.
Taking Steps to Combat Guilt
Guilt needs to be deliberately addressed in order to effectively process. While working to relinquish guilt can come with a great deal of vulnerability, it can also take a major weight off of one’s mind. Doing so can also aid in the development of other recovery techniques and a healthier lifestyle. Below are some strategies for overcoming guilt and moving forward in recovery.
Writing Down Your Guilts
The complex nature of guilt can make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what an individual feels guilty about. Writing down the sources of one’s feelings, including any surrounding details, can help an individual begin to fairly judge themselves.
Memories can be a fickle thing, and an individual may be remembering certain events with a very self-critical lens. Objectively recording the events can help create a more fair depiction of the situations in question. Writing down the same event multiple times across multiple different parts of the year can also help illustrate how an individual’s perception of the events may subtly change. Looking at them together can create a more accurate depiction of whether they had any objective control in the scenario or anything to be guilty about in the first place.
This can also help an individual challenge any hindsight bias. Hindsight bias is the feeling that an individual could have accurately predicted the outcome of events, but only after the event has happened. Saying things like “it was obvious that this would go wrong” following the event, regardless of how difficult it may have actually been to determine while still in the midst of one’s experience is one example. Hindsight bias can make an individual feel as if they “should have known,” and can otherwise lead to an individual unfairly blaming themselves based on a false perception.
Taking the time to apologize or make amends to a close friend or family member is a major step in recovery. It is common that an individual experiencing these extreme levels of guilt will continue to harbor them until they are addressed with those they think they have wronged.
Carving out the time to rehearse what one wants to say, either in writing or verbally to oneself, and making a meaningful apology can go a long way. This can be especially pertinent once forgiveness is granted. One can better see how their actions may–or may not–have affected other events in one’s life.
Be Willing to Accept Forgiveness
One of guilt’s most powerful tools is that it can compromise an individual’s willingness to receive forgiveness at all. It may even convince an individual that they “are not worthy” of this forgiveness, happiness, or recovery. If an individual is ready to face their guilt, they must also be ready to accept forgiveness and have an open mind about their role in past events.
Guilt is a major hurdle that must be addressed in your journey through recovery. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we understand the difficult and emotional effects of guilt and are ready to help you take the first step in relinquishing these prevalent feelings and work with you to create a healthier outlook on your own recovery. We offer an array of therapeutic approaches to help you navigate your own recovery path, such as art therapy, music, 12-Step programs, writing therapy, and more experiential therapies all available to you. Whether you are suffering from addiction, trauma, or navigating your own mental health, guilt can be a barrier to your own success. Our community atmosphere and homelike, intimate methods are prepared to help you better understand and relinquish guilt on your recovery journey. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, call to speak to a caring, trained staff member today at (866) 338-6925.