Many individuals who fall into the trap of substance abuse do so because of an inability to deal with guilt, whether it’s feeling bad about themselves and their lot in life, or about something that has happened in their life to create this negative attitude. Using alcohol and drugs functions as a great coping mechanism to deal with these problems – for a short time – before it ultimately makes the situation far worse and creates a palpable feeling of unbearable guilt.
Often times, addicts feel guilty due to imagined offenses and a large, over-arching sense of inadequacy that is rooted in low self-esteem and creates offending behaviors that make treatment and rehabilitation difficult.
In recovery specifically, guilt can be a significant challenge to overcoming addiction and making treatment work in the long run. Those who experience excessive guilt may find recovery difficult to enjoy, and it may be difficult to find happiness in a new, better life while still feeling bad about addiction behavior in a past life. Doing so may cause some former addicts to sabotage their treatment efforts, in an effort to re-live their guilt and cope the only way they know how, with substances like drugs and alcohol.
Guilt can harm the motivation to recover fully, and even cause individuals to become stuck in recovery with a high level of discomfort and stagnation. To snap this stretch of guilt and a hampered recovery, it is important that addiction therapists and the former addict themselves understand that doing wrong does not make them a bad person, nor are their mistakes permanent or long-term. Everyone, including every former addict, is due a second chance, and it is important for those former addicts to stop using their own problems against themselves to harm rehabilitation.
Practices like committing to loving kindness, focusing on meditation, and working with small group support can come a long way to prove to former addicts that they are valued, important members of society who can still contribute after their problems have been overcome. Addiction therapists and psychologists can go a long way to accomplish these goals and promote these behaviors, teaching former addicts that their lives matter, and that their mistakes are not permanent.
Every person has value. It can be a challenge for an addict in rehabilitation to understand and appreciate that, but it is a necessary component of treatment and recovery to get past the issue of guilt, understand that no mistake is fatal, and move forward to creating a better life for the former addict and the people, family, and friends who are around for the long haul.
Psychologists and addiction counselors can work here to promote feelings of positive self-worth and attitudes that promote looking forward into the future, instead of backwards into the past. The more a former addict can do that, the more destined he is for long-term success.