Series Three: Blog Thirty-Seven
“Nothing is more wretched than the mind of a man conscious of guilt.”- Plautus
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night swimming in yesterday’s guilt. Things that I have done that hurt others years ago and have forgotten. Now, I remember them as if I had done them the day before. I tell myself that I have already made amends to others for the destructive behavior but guilt lingers. Sometimes it was something I did that I never told anyone about. I am the only one who knows. Recovery and activity over the years buried the behavior way down deep and now it somehow has worked its way to the surface of memory and I ponder what to do with it at 3am! Do you ever have bouts with yesterday’s guilt?
Guilt is not a pleasant experience. It’s the hound dog that never loses its scent and always relentlessly pursues. There are overlays of guilt. You wake up each morning with the desire to do right. Yet, before noon you have already acted out with addictive substance or process. Your heart descends from your chest to your stomach. There is a bitter taste of failure and guilt that seems to permeate every cell in your body. There is an overwhelming desire to be someone else somewhere else. You feel sad, lonely, desperate and guilty.
Guilt is a feeling experience that dominates most addicts. Even in recovery guilt becomes a nemesis that is difficult to shake. Addicts feel guilt about the destructive things they have done and the good things never completed. Lying in bed replaying the things you did that were so hurtful. Like a nice warm glass of regret, depression and self-loathing, guilt powerfully dominates the present with past memories of hurtful behavior.
How to manage guilt when you are committed to a life in recovery? Yesterday you stumbled. Maybe you did worse and fell off the edge of the cliff. You got drunk and killed someone driving. You had a sexual affair with your brother’s partner. You molested a child. You broke your partner’s heart with addictive behavior that created unbelievable pain for people you really love?
Guilt can be redemptive and can trigger love. Hating yourself and the feeling of guilt within intensifies the possibility of unwanted behavior. The power of self love builds bridges to the destiny of future healing and positive actions.
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