Sounds like a double-edged sword but it’s true. Once you’ve gone through treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, feeling regretful for what’s been done in the past or having regrets over some life decisions is an expected part of the recovery process. Regrets after recovery are normal. Though there are two sides in looking at regret and wearing the title of “Quitter”.
The fact that you’re having regrets about your life while in active addiction mode is great because it means you’ve moved to the other side of addiction, the recovery phase. You’ve quit using, right? However, too much time focused on those same regrets can lead you right back to where you started. You quit recovery and nosedive into relapse. So how do you know just how much regret is healthy and how much is destructive?
To Quit Legit Takes Time
A common characteristic found in going through recovery is a new found motivation for living well, being productive and making a difference in each and every day. This exuberance can come with self-imposed levels of expectations. All the things you want to accomplish and defined timelines to see them through. Inspiring… yes. Self-defeating… possibly.
Having regret is a byproduct of owning one’s poor life choices. Once there’s acknowledgement and ownership of what’s been done, thoughts of self-judgment arise. All the ways you should’ve known better or could’ve done better take over and then it starts – that negative self-talk.
You Are Your Own Worst Enemy
This isn’t an emotional process exclusive to addiction recovery. People who have never been afflicted with drug or alcohol addiction can still spiral regret to the comfortable, irrational place they’re used to being. (What did she just say?)
Think about it. Say you’ve had a bad run on your luck. Put the addiction aside for a minute. For instance, what if you’ve been trying to get this promotion at work that you think you’re qualified for. You’ve already told your boss that you want that new gig. Over the last three months, you’ve put in extra hours, gone through extra training without asking for anything in return. You just want that promotion. Drum roll please…. The promotion goes to someone else.
Here’s what happens. You work over in your mind, 100 times or more, what you did, how you did it wrong, how you should have fixed it and “What was I thinking, I’m not good enough anyway. Never have been.”
Stop right there! That’s negative self-talk and we do it just like riding a bike. Once we practice it enough, it happens without thinking. We just take it there because that’s just how the mind has been trained to conjure up thoughts in response to life not going our way, or someone else in our life thought that way and we believed in their negativity and took it on. At the surface, we know it’s not good; yet at the same time, it serves a purpose. The negativity is where we feel comfortable. Yes, it’s twisted. But guess what? You have this awesome set of tools in your brain. Regrets? We can fix that.
How to Let Regret Go
Face it. Revisit it. Consider that you may not have made the best choices but at the time, you did the best you could with what you had to work with. Making any life decision while immersed in drug abuse or alcoholism could never put anyone in a position of emotional strength. But you’re past that and onto recovery.
How to Handle Regret
- Remember the incident
- Reflect on how you might have handled it differently
- Pat yourself on the back
- You know better now
- Let it go
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “If only I knew then, what I know now, life would be so much different.” And so it was. And so it is. And so it shall be. Simply stated: Cut yourself some slack.
Second Guessing Stops by Looking Forward
If you want to understand what it’s like to feel badly about the past with little time left to change it, just ask someone who’s dying, about regret. As a recovering addict, you’ve chosen to live. You have a future. Be grateful, celebrate all that’s ahead of you and focus on the wonderful opportunities that await you. There’s a reason we call it the past. It’s history.
More Support and a Better Future Are Ahead, Seize Today!
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888-512-1705.
Authored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.