Attaining a reasonable level of emotional balance is essential for anyone who wishes to lead a happy and fulfilling life, and it is especially important for a person in recovery. This is because when drugs or alcohol are completely eliminated from an addict's life, it will be important to find alternative ways for dealing with uncomfortable emotions and other roadblocks.
A person who relied on drugs or alcohol in the past to cope with difficult feelings and other life stresses will find that living in recovery is quite challenging without the emotional tools needed to survive life sober.
One of the strongest emotions that continues to follow a person in recovery is regret. A constant feeling of loss and regret follows a newly sober person because of the poor choices they made in the past, lost opportunities due to their addiction, or damaged relationships. It's a good idea to acknowledge the role of regret in recovery, understand where its origins are, and acquire the tools needed to cope with it in a healthy way.
What is regret?
Regret can be defined as a negative emotional state that involves placing blame on ourselves for events that happened in the past and their unpleasant outcomes. The result is normally a feeling of sadness, loss, and shame over the past. A person may dwell on feeling the desire to have changed the past, the choices they made, and wishing they could undo things that have already happened.
In recovery, regret is all too often an emotion that becomes overwhelming. Addiction causes people to make poor choices and often hurt the people they care about the most. This understandably, leads to a great feeling of regret once they are in recovery. Once drugs and alcohol are removed from their lives, it's becomes very hard to ignore the regret and other unpleasant feelings that were being avoided in the first place.
Regret over relationships with friends, family members, romantic partners, and even coworkers is what normally produces the strongest feelings of loss. A tendency toward going over past decisions and wishing that they could be undone is also a big source of regret.
A person in recovery may continue to go over moments from the past over and over until they feel overwhelmed with loss, hopelessness, and even despair. These feelings put someone who is in recovery at a great risk of a relapse, and prevent them from making progress.
Some studies have shown that regret does have some benefits, including encouraging insight and self awareness, providing motivation to correct mistakes if it's possible, and motivating a person to act differently in the future. It's important however, to learn how to recognize regret and respond to it in an appropriate way.
How to cope with regret.
Learn from it, and move on. Take advantage of the beneficial aspects of regret by examining it for lessons that need to be learned about yourself, opportunities for making corrections if possible, and changing the way we behave in the future. Once you do this, it's important to stop dwelling on past choices and move on.
Forgive yourself. This is an essential part of moving on from mistakes we've made in the past, and also one of the hardest things to do. Do what it takes to forgive others that were involved, and then work on letting go of the regret and shame you may be feeling yourself. Talk to a sponsor or therapist, write a letter to yourself, or find some other outlet for those feelings.
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