As an alcoholic in recovery, I was forced to face my past and all the shame that came with it. Shame, guilt, disgust and regret are common emotions to someone new in recovery. Suddenly the blinders are removed and they see in full color the wreckage of their actions. It can be overwhelming. I call it “The guilt gates” opening up.
That guilt and shame will get you to go back out just as quickly as a bottle or a drug. Suddenly you’re seeing the extent of the damage you’ve caused not only to yourself, but to those people who have gone through your addiction with you. It’s not an easy thing to deal with it, and your first instinct might be to drink or drug to make you forget rather than deal with it. Deal with it you must. We must “feel” the pain, in order to heal from it.
First and foremost, no matter how far down the rabbit hole we’ve sunk, no matter how much wreckage we’d caused, no matter how much pain we poured upon others, it doesn’t mean that we’re bad people, it means that we were sick. Had we been clean and sober, chances are we would not have done the things that we had done. Thinking of it like that will help you get past that shame and guilt. We’ve all done our share of dirt, present company included. I tried to throw my son out of a window in a drunken stooper, I don’t remember my wedding night, became a walking Tornado damaging everything and everyone in my path over a 28 year period of time. Being a black out drunk made it easy for me to justify my bad behavior. The way I saw it, if I didn’t remember it, than it didn’t happen.
When I first got sober the guilt was overwhelming. My youngest son told me once that he liked me better when I was a drunk. (Because when I was drunk, I didn’t care what he did) You wanna talk about guilt???? My sponsor once told me, “You can’t build a better past so stop trying.” There was something so very profound about that statement. I couldn’t change anything, I couldn’t go back in time and fix my wrongs. The ONLY thing I could do was move forward and lead by example. In recovery we work on becoming better people. It’s not going to happen over night, but it will happen in time.
It may not seem like it right away, but there will come a time when your biggest screw ups will become your best assets. You can use them as examples while trying to help another who is still sick and suffering. Before that can happen, you must learn to forgive yourself. Being “sorry” for our actions isn’t enough. The people we hurt during our madness have heard the words, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again” so many times that those words hold absolutely no weight. It will be our actions that will say it all. Recovery opens up all kinds of doors, we just have to be willing to walk through them and put in the work that it takes to pull ourselves out of the darkness. Is it an easy process? Not at all, but anything worth having is worth fighting for.
Sitting on a “Pity Pot” feeling sorry for yourself once the guilt gates open will get you nowhere except back in active addiction. You MUST take the necessary steps to learn to forgive yourself and move forward. Remember, you were a sick person, not a bad person and you’re finding your way back. Keep reminding yourself that you’re NOT that person anymore and you don’t ever have to be that person again if you remain on the path of recovery. Like with anything else, you have a choice. You can choose to wallow in your misery and guilt, or you can choose to move forward and embrace your sobriety which will in turn, give you a much better life. The choice is yours. Both choices have consequences and you must decide which of the two you want.
AJ Menendez, Master Male Illusionist