Of all the emotional and physical damage addiction can cause, regret might be the hardest to overcome. You’ve probably done things while intoxicated that you’d never consider while sober. Maybe you’ve done things you don’t even remember, but that other people still hold against you. These are the kind of things that get pushed to the background during recovery, while you’re struggling through detox and learning how to reclaim your life, but can come back to haunt you just when you think you’re on the road to success. The important thing to remember is that a little regret might be good if it leads to positive changes, but don’t let it overtake your life. Thinking about what-if and what-might-have-been is a completely normal process called counterfactual thoughts, but if you spend all your time pondering them, it can consume you.
We’ve all done things we regret, addict or no, but addiction can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, agitation, and other mood swings that make it more likely you’ll take your problems out on someone else. Maybe you started off having small arguments with your spouse, but the more you drank, the more fights you picked and the more you tried to blame all your problems on her. In hindsight, you can see where your addiction turned you into a person you don’t recognize, but even if the relationship survives there’s going to be regret for your actions.
So, how do you deal with regret and not allow it to set you back in your recovery? First, just think about it as part of the process. You’ve gotten to a point where you can look pasts the drugs or alcohol and do some self-reflection, and that’s a good thing. Understand that nothing you can do will change the past. You can recognize what you’ve done and try to atone for it, but it can never be undone. Focus on the now, whether that means repairing relationships or knowing when it’s time to move on. Some people might not forgive you, or they might be unwilling to set themselves up to possibly be hurt again, and you can’t force them to lessen your regret.
Don’t let regret be an excuse to relapse. It might be easy to say, “My wife will never forgive me/I won’t get my old job back/None of my friends stuck by me, so I might as well go back to using drugs.” This is the addiction talking – don’t let it win. There are places you can seek help, such as 12-step or other programs. If you’ve completed treatment at a rehab center, they might have a follow-up or outpatient program of some sort. You could also attend individual or group therapy to learn how to deal with these feelings.
If you’re at a loss for how to dig yourself out of the pit of regret, consider doing some good in your community. Volunteer somewhere that helps addicts, or even a soup kitchen or donation center. There’s nothing wrong with making yourself feel better while doing good.
If you or a loved one need help to quit drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.