Drugs and alcohol have a way of numbing emotions. Once all the substances are gone, however, you may be dealing with feelings that you’ve previously never dealt with before—feelings of remorse and regret.
With a clear head, you see the years of damage that drugs and alcohol created for you and for others. This can be an extremely difficult time but there are positive ways in dealing with regret without succumbing to a hopeless feeling that all is lost.
1. Take It One Day At a Time
Time is extremely valuable. After years of abusing substances, you may feel like you’ve wasted precious years that can never be replaced. A.A. even coined the phrase “one day at a time” to simplify how a recovering addict should move forward. The past cannot be reworked but by taking life one day at a time it can slowly begin to improve. There is no race in the road to recovery. It is a slow and steady process and in order to avoid the powerful emotion of regret the individual must grasp this reworked idea of time.
2. Look to the Future
Along with acknowledging the aspects of regret that are unchangeable, you can also make sure that the same follies do not happen again in the future. Focusing too much on the past halts the progress of aspirations for the future. There is no purpose in focusing on what is unchangeable. Instead, it is best to begin working towards a new goal.
3. Stay Busy
Another positive response towards regret is staying as busy as possible. Once again, A.A. has tackled this with the notion of “90/90,” which means attending 90 meetings in 90 days. It is hard to dwell on the past when the present is constantly in your face. Taking commitments at meetings or devoting more time to family can keep you occupied so that you continue to move forward.
4. Make Amends
Most of the time regrets are not so much directed inward as they are outward. You most likely regret what you have done to others more than what you have done to yourself. This then creates “a rock” that you have to carry all while treading water. In this analogy, treading water represents your work to stay sober and the rock is the pile of regrets you refuse to let go of. Staying sober is hard enough and as the story goes, there are passengers on a boat who scream out to the swimmer “just drop the rock and swim over!” It’s easier said than done but making amends is a positive way to ease the tensions of regret.
5. Put It on Paper
Much of the time a recovering addict’s mind is a chaotic place to be. Years of shrouded feelings seem to pop up at every corner and they may appear to be unbearable. By taking these thoughts and putting them on paper, you are better able to see which ideas are rational or irrational. Seeing things in black and white creates a sense of organization that can then be transferred into action. A regret that focuses on lost time is irrational while a regret of not finishing school is something that can be worked towards.
6. Accept Others
While personal regrets are housed within yourself, exterior regrets sometimes hinge on other people’s choices. Some family members or friends will never be able to let the past go. You must accept this and carry on with as much good as possible. Denial is largely what leads to addiction in the first place so tricking yourself into thinking everything is fine is dangerous. Instead, acceptance is a key way to positively deal with regret.