For those of us who are new in recovery, guilt and shame are common feelings. We may have these feelings for things we have done or things we didn’t do when we were actively drinking or using. We were “guilty” because of bad behavior and the addiction that caused it.
We have to keep in mind that the things we did and said were likely not the “real” us and the guilt and shame we feel when we get clean and sober come from ignoring our values and morals when we were deep in our addiction.
It is important to our recovery that we deal with these feelings of guilt and shame – we have to face them, share them with someone, and then let them go. We can’t change what has happened but carrying guilt into recovery is not constructive nor does it have a place in our newfound sobriety. If we did something to cause the guilt, we must first forgive ourselves. From my own experience, I found this was difficult and took time, but it was not impossible. We also have to make sure we don’t revert back to the behavior that caused us to act the way we did. We may even have to develop new values that more closely echo our lives in recovery.
We can and should make an effort to apologize or make amends in order to achieve our own internal peace, but once we have done this, it is time to move on. We can work through the guilt and shame but we cannot live in it. Our pride and self-worth in sobriety depend on letting go of the past and looking forward to a brighter, healthier future.