Regret in Addiction Recovery Doesn't Have to Lead to Relapse

July 30, 2017 Jami DeLoe

Regret in addiction recovery can be a dangerous emotion that leads to relapse. But there are healthy ways to put regret behind you for good. Here's how.

Overcoming regret in addiction recovery can feel impossible because when a person is in active addiction, he or she tends to repeat the same mistakes over and over. I’ve been there, I know the guilt, shame and embarrassment that accompany regret, and I know how important it is to find a way to overcome it. It’s important because regret can be a huge obstacle to people getting better and a huge risk for relapse. That happened to me, too. I wasn’t able to deal with my regret and that caused me to go back out and drink – time and time again. Since then, I have learned that even though regret is painful, dealing with it is part of the recovery process and healing. It is possible to overcome regret in addiction recovery, even if it isn’t easy.

How to Deal with Regret in Addiction Recovery

The following is a list of some of the ways to properly deal with regret so it doesn’t hamper addiction recovery.

Be Mindful.

It’s important to stay grounded in the present; the only day you can do anything about is today. Placing focus on negative memories, missed opportunities, or comparing yourself to others never brings positive change. You have to consciously avoid thinking about what should’ve, could’ve or would’ve happened if you hadn’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Though it’s important to stay mindful, that doesn’t mean completely shutting the door on your past. But it does mean that you need to work through it effectively. In 12-step programs, there are steps that help you do that. If you are not involved in a 12-step program, talking with a therapist or addiction counselor will help you deal with your past and understand how your future can be better.

Have an honest perspective.

It’s easy to get caught up looking at the past and assuming your life would have been different but for a few poor decisions. An honest perspective about it can help you let go of regrets in addiction recovery and reveal that which you have learned from the experience. You have to be honest about whether those few choices would really have changed things. Has the memory been distorted over time? Was it really something within your control at the time?

Embrace lessons learned.

Every regret in addiction recovery has a lesson built in. When you are able to turn your regrets into lessons learned rather than a shameful story that defines who you are, you will find peace of mind. Learning from your experiences – especially the bad ones – helps you to grow in recovery, and as a person. Obviously, with some regrets seeing the silver lining is much more difficult and may take some time. But, eventually, you will be able to look back and see that you learned something valuable from the experience.

Make amends.

The 8th and 9th steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are all about making amends to those you have harmed due to your addiction (when it’s possible). This means being accountable for the impact that your addiction had on others. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but making a genuine attempt to make things right with those you have harmed will make letting go of regrets much easier. When you hold onto regrets, even when you believe that by having them you will be less likely to repeat them, it only keeps you stuck in a self-focused state that will hamper your healing.

If you are not part of a 12-step group, you should still make amends to those you have hurt. You can ask your therapist or other addiction professional to guide you through the process.

Accept your consequences.

Sometimes, even though you do your best to make amends, you simply can’t mend past harms. When that happens, regret may become even more crushing. You have to learn to accept that there are many things that you have no control over and the only thing you can do is accept what is and move on. While it’s important to make the effort to accept responsibility and make things right, when you can’t, you have to move into acceptance about the situation and forgive yourself.

Stay positive.

It is easy to get stuck in the cycle of regret and self-pity. The human mind is skilled at adjusting to habits. Think about the last time you had to learn a new task. You probably had difficulty the first few times you attempted it. But once you had performed the task a number of times, it became almost automatic to do it. The same can be said for what it is we say to ourselves. If you continually wallow in regret in addiction recovery and have a lot of negative self-talk, it can become automatic. Working toward replacing those thoughts with positive ones is a habit that will help you let go of regrets.

Dealing with Regret in Addiction Recovery

There really is nothing easy about addiction recovery including dealing with regrets from the past. But when you try to do the above things, it will make things easier and it will lessen the power that your regrets have over your addiction recovery. The freedom you feel in recovery will increase exponentially when you stop living in regret.

APA Reference
DeLoe, J. (2017, July 30). Regret in Addiction Recovery Doesn't Have to Lead to Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 15 from

Author: Jami DeLoe

Jami DeLoe is a freelance writer and addiction blogger. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and addiction recovery and is a recovering alcoholic herself. Find Jami DeLoe on her blog, Sober GraceTwitter, and Facebook.

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