Many addicted people struggle with blaming themselves. A large part of the long process of recovery, of making the empowering choice to abstain each day, is learning how to move from shame to self-love, of viewing yourself as someone worthy and capable of sobriety.
As an addict, you may have done many things that violate your core values, and will feel an appropriate desire to change. Guilt should be a tool to help you make the necessary changes in your life, not something that continues to hover over you and make you feel shameful.
Here are some ways that you can learn how to manage your guilt, and learn how to let it go.
1) Strive to be better today than you were yesterday.
It is very a common human temptation to compare yourself to others, or to some illusion of "perfection," worried that you are not measuring up, not being the person you hoped you would be in your own head. These unrealistic expectations set yourself up for failure, and can be one of the main sources of shame and hopelessness, as you simply feel you'll never be "good enough."
The way out of this mental trap is to simply take one step on the journey to healing, one moment at a time. Break down your goals into simple, manageable steps, and just focus on doing things a little bit better. Recognize that growth is a cumulative process, with lots of little steps that add up over time.
2) Constantly remind yourself how far you've come.
However long you have maintained sobriety, it is an amazing achievement, and should be often recognized as such. At any particular moment, things may feel especially hard, stressful, or hopeless. You can often gain a more accurate perspective by reminding yourself of all the challenges in the past you were able to meet and conquer. Recognize all the mistakes you have made that you are not making now, and be encouraged that you can continue to grow.
3) Gain insight into the root causes of unworthy feelings.
Behind many people's addictions, there are often unresolved past hurts or unacknowledged feelings of shame or unworthiness. By digging deeply into your past, you can try to find the origin of the troubled feelings that you were trying to use drugs or alcohol to soothe.
Learning more about the truth of your past will cause you to stop seeing yourself as a bad person doing what bad people do, and instead as a normal human being who has the power to make good choices. A therapist, support group, supportive relationships, or even a journal can all be useful tools in helping us process these hurts, and finding new ways to deal with them.
4) Reconcile broken relationships.
It is very likely that your addiction caused pain to those around you. Under the influence of an addiction, people become less trustworthy and predictable, in ways that can often be hard on friends, family, and loved ones.
One important step in recovery is slowly finding ways to "make amends," to honestly admit the ways we've hurt other people, and doing whatever we can to make things better. Do more than apologize; do whatever you can to give back what was lost, and seek their forgiveness. Some people may forgive you and slowly let you back into their lives.
Even if they don't, acknowledging your past and changing can be a powerful way to tell yourself that you are no longer the person you once were, and have no reason to feel stuck in guilt.
5) Be helpful to others.
No matter how addiction has buried your true self, you have a lot of gifts to offer the world. Indeed even your own painful experiences can help others, if you share openly and empathize with those also struggling with addiction. Volunteering, sharing your story in a support group, or taking the time to be a true friend to someone else can help you find a purpose in life, and recognize your own value. Doing so can be an essential part of letting go of guilt about your past, replacing it with hope for your future.