When we finally find freedom in our relationship with alcohol, what are we supposed to do with all of the guilt and regret for the things we did in our past? Annie offers some amazing insight into how guilt and regret can be both a positive and a negative thing depending on how we allow these emotions to manifest in our lives.
Guilt, Regret and Remorse
First of all, I would say that all the research that I’ve done, and all the experts agree, that guilt, regret and remorse are very, very good things. They are things that, while they don’t feel good, bring you awareness and give you the capacity, and the desire, and the will to change. We’re going to talk about the difference between guilt, regret, and remorse, and a very narcissistic self-centered self-loathing, which ends up being completely counterproductive.
First, lets talk about guilt. Guilt can be really valuable because it encourages our moral compass. Guilt is a feeling that you want to do something better. You want to compensate. You want to give recompense to somebody you’ve wronged or somebody you love. In the case of driving the car with your girls in it dangerously then you want better for them. You want to make sure that they have a better life and it actually spurs behavior. This has been actually demonstrated in studies.
Guilt, true guilt, really stems from a desire to make things better in the future. It comes from our moral compass. Guilt is encouraging. It encourages us to make up for acts, and it’s really valuable.
Regret also is a very good and very important emotion. There is benefit to basically every emotion we have. The key, a lot of times, in this journey through becoming alcohol-free, is to really start to flip things on our head, things that we’ve been beating ourselves up for maybe aren’t so bad, maybe are the moments where we can say, “Okay, this is where I need to change.” This is where I’m realizing this moment of awareness, of realizing that you’re off the path that your life is supposed to be on, and it feels so painful to have that realization, to have the awakening to, “What am I doing in my life? What am I doing to myself?”
That moment is actually the most beautiful moment because without that moment none of the future can happen, and that moment, you recognized that it’s probably going to get harder to get back to that path than it is to, you know? Because you’re going to be bush whacking. You’re going to be going back to try to get to somewhere you once were, and you’re going to have the knowledge that you’ve gotten yourself off this path. This brings these feelings of guilt, regret, and remorse but those moments of awareness are honestly the most miraculous gifts of this life, because that is where the change happens. That is where the life happens. That is where things get better.
I have a few tools that I recommend to reak out of the self loathing cycle remorse can bring. First of all, what I do is I carry around a little journal with me. I don’t have it with me right now, but basically, I have been working on how I talk to myself for years now. If I start to feel really anxious, or uncomfortable, or bad, or tempted, I stop, and again, it’s that moment of awareness, and say, “What did I just say to myself?” It used to be stuff like, “What the fuck, Annie? What are you doing? Why are you … ” I just beat myself up, because guess what? It felt good in the moment. It gave me some sort of release to be mean to myself. I beat myself up. Then, I’d write that down. I’d be like, “Would I say that to a stranger? Would I say that to somebody I love?” You know, you’re the only person you got. You’re stuck with you. You have to make the best of it. Even if you don’t feel emotions of self-acceptance, you need to try to work through that for the people that love you.
The biggest gift that you can give to your daughters and to your family is to start to respect and love yourself, to own your behavior, to start to come out to them with your feelings of how you’re feeling about the guilt, because that does a things. Number one, enables them to be able to forgive you, which feels really good. It brings you closer by sharing with them what you’re going through. Then, it creates really positive pressure on your actions in the future because then it’s not just you.
Listen to the complete podcast to hear all of Annie’s research and advice on dealing with guilt, regret and remorse around drinking.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License