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How to Reduce Guilt in Recovery

How to Reduce Guilt in Recovery

If you or your loved one is struggling with overcoming addiction, no one needs to tell you that it’s tough – you’re living it. An encouraging word of hope and change can often go a long way to help the healing process – even in the darkest times. With that in mind, Vertava Health often brings to light important and newsworthy topics as they relate to drug and alcohol addiction. Our focus in the month of January turns to a four-part series with an esteemed author and colleague, Dr. Jason Brooks, who will explore the aspects of freedom from addiction.

Recognized as one of the most prominent emerging voices in personal and organizational transformation, Dr. Jason is also likely to be one of the most authentic, transparent and “real”. His life mission of “bringing hope, health, and inspiration to everyone he meets and leading on the journey for change, growth, and success” provides the foundation and focus where his purpose and passion are fully unleashed.

As a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, and Chief People Officer of Vertava Health, Dr. Jason brings a heart for helping others to achieve their greatest potential and  success…one step at a time.

Freedom from Guilt

Guilt…shame…regret…We’ve all been there! The unfortunate reality is that many of us continue to live there as a sort of “safe prison”. We know what it feels like. It’s familiar to us. And even though we absolutely know it’s tearing us apart, breaking through the chains of guilt seems like an impossible task.

Over the years, guilt can become a growing monster that, if not specifically and aggressively confronted, can absolutely consume us. Often we experience situations that cause us or others pain which then results in guilt, shame, or regret. We say things to those we care about most that break their hearts. We violate people’s trust and confidence and leave scars on their lives. We see only our failures and want desperately to make the pain go away. So, what do we do? We look for ways to numb the feelings…to get even a short break from the guilt, shame, and regret we’ve been feeling. So, drink after drink…pill after pill…line after line…we slip deeper and deeper into a prison of pain which started with trying to “feel better”.

Days, weeks, months, years down the road, your life is now completely out of control and the guilt from the past event is compounded with the guilt of a life marked by prescription drug addiction, alcoholism, broken families, lost jobs, financial ruin, legal issues, and health problems that plague you daily. The cell you once called home is now a fortress and escape seems impossible. It is in these moments where you must accept for the last time the lie that nothing can ever be different and you’re lost. That’s the lie you’ve accepted and embraced from the past, founded in mountains of guilt, shame, and regret, which have brought you to this place. You must believe, even though you may not be able to see, there is freedom.

No longer does alcohol, or Oxycodone, or meth, or Xanax, or heroin need to be your warm blanket while everything around you is crashing in. No longer do you need to feel the guilt and shame of the brokenness you’ve brought to those you love through the addiction that’s held you for years. No longer do toxic relationships need to be kept in your life for fear of being alone. No longer do you have to accept financial ruin as the “norm” of your life. No longer do you need to walk alone in darkness, separated from the light found in a life of faith and forgiveness.

Through the years I have been blessed with the opportunity to come along side many, many folks struggling with issues in their lives and not living the life they had dreamed. I’ve heard story after story of people who had lived for years in the bondage of guilt, shame, and regret where they tried to cover the pain instead of addressing the core issue, creating a path to freedom, and building the life they had always imagined…free from the guilt and the consequences of the self-medicating decisions they had made in the past which, ultimately, consumed them.

So, what about you? Does any of this sound familiar. Do you see that you’re living today in a prison of guilt and shame and know that you need to break free. The reality is the prison was built over time, and it will take time to tear down the walls. But, there are three steps you can begin today, three small things, to start you on the path of a huge change in your life…free from guilt, shame, and regret.

Step 1: Believe, truly believe, things can be different and better for you. If you’re saying, “That sounds great, but there’s no way I could ever do that”, and if you truly believe you won’t be able to make this change – you’re probably right. But, if you believe this is a better way and you would be willing to try, I promise you’ll be amazed with the change it makes for your life and the results you’ll achieve. In reality, whether you believe you can’t or you can, you’re right. It takes discipline, ongoing commitment to live a life different than everyone else, and motivation for change, but with your daily decision to reset your life, you’ll look in the rearview mirror in a relatively short time and be amazed at what you’ve accomplished and even more importantly…what you’ve become.

Step 2: Forgive yourself. There’s no greater lie in life than we can’t be forgiven and begin working toward a fresh start. Unforgiveness takes the power away from the ability to make things better. Often the greatest unforgiveness we have is for ourselves. You can’t go back and make a different start…but you can start today to make a different ending. That new ending begins with forgiving yourself for the pain you’ve caused others…and yourself.

Step 3: Forgive others. No doubt there are times when those who have been close to you have hurt you. As a result of this hurt, you convinced yourself that you could never forgive them for what they did. Colossians 3:13 says, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is not condoning. Forgiveness is not a form of self-sacrifice. Forgiveness is not a clear-cut, one-time decision. Marie Balter says, “Forgiveness is a way of reaching out from a bad past and heading out to a more positive future.” It is with this dream in mind…a better more positive future…that forgiveness of self and others must come.

Freedom from guilt is not easy. It will require an ability and willingness to admit things are not where you want them to be and a commitment, dedication, and a willingness to take the steps necessary to take the next steps for a better life…a balanced life worth living. The choice is yours! Take the next step by believing things can be different and better, forgiving yourself, forgiving others, and resolving to never let guilt take hold of you again, but in openness, transparency, authenticity, and truth face situations with confidence and courage.

Live your life of purpose with passion!

Dr. Jason