As your mind clears in recovery, you might feel like a very different version of yourself. You may want to separate current you from the past you who was in active addiction; I know I did. That’s okay, but even as you distance yourself from past you, it’s important to save them some compassion.
Guilt vs. Shame
Guilt about something you did or said during active addiction can show you that it doesn’t align with your values. It can lead you to make choices that feel better for you, or make amends with those you might have hurt. But shame is the sense that there is something wrong with you, and it typically feels more paralyzing than galvanizing.
My first year of sobriety, I held a lot of shame about things I did and said during active addiction. My body and brain were healing, but I was still sorting out how to move forward without getting stuck in shame. That’s okay—recovery is a process. When we first get sober, it can be overwhelming, and there are a lot of things to contend with.
Self-Forgiveness is a Healing Process
Over my seven years of recovery, forgiving myself for my past has been an ongoing process. In the last couple years, I feel like I’ve finally begun to internalize it. As Liz, who I interviewed for the Sober Stories series, put it, “There’s a practice of self-compassion of thinking: at that time in my life, [drinking] was the tool I’d learned for self-survival. I wasn’t taught healthier tools before that, so it was how I was taking care of myself and what I needed to survive.”
Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean shirking responsibility for the ways you hurt people. It helps you take accountability, rather than feel stuck in a pattern of shame.
Our relationship to ourselves has a chance to heal so much in recovery, and that will ripple out to all other aspects of our lives. One facet of that healing is self-forgiveness. Tara Brach–a psychotherapist and meditation teacher who has explored meditation as a therapeutic modality for treating addiction—called self-forgiveness “the portal to healing.”
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you heal in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 833.641.0572.