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An Addict’s Guilt - Dealing with guilt during Addiction Recovery

Despite some misconceptions, addiction rehabilitation is ultimately a journey of strength, self-love and forgiveness.

Although there is a strong presence of pain, anger, guilt and shame, these are feelings or emotions that can be used as tools to overcome the past so that a happier future may be manifested.

Guilt is an extremely intense emotion and can contribute largely to the way we interact with ourselves and the people around us.

Guilt and Addiction - Rehab South Africa

For example, we are motivated to make positive choices in an attempt to avoid having to deal with feelings of guilt.

The difference between guilt and remorse

Guilt is a feeling of failing to meet certain requirements or obligations. In other words, you feel inadequate or worthless for not doing what you felt was expected of you.

Guilt can easily be considered as self-punishment.

Although guilt is often present in someone who is addicted, it is not always enough to motivate him or her to make better choices.

However, when someone has feelings of remorse they are willing to take responsibility for their actions while making every attempt at redemption.

Someone who is truly remorseful will learn from their mistakes and work at not making the same choices in the future.

Guilt and addiction

As much as guilt is a large part of addiction rehabilitation, it may very well be the very reason someone becomes addicted in the first place.

Guilt is a difficult emotion to deal with and people may choose to find a way to suppress these feelings in order to cope.

Addiction is ultimately numbing some form of pain and guilt, often excessive and unwarranted, is an extremely painful feeling.

Abuse of drugs and alcohol can easily be the cause or result of self-punishment and guilt.

Reasons people feel guilty


  • • They have been victims of abuse and tend to blame themselves for it
  • • Mental health issues such as depression
  • • Self-esteem issues
  • • They have done something that opposes their personal morals
  • • Being in an unhappy relationship where they feel that they are not a good companion
  • • Withdrawal from alcohol addiction and other forms of addiction can bring on a proverbial rollercoaster of emotions. Guilt is a predominant feeling during the withdrawal process


How to combat guilt during addiction rehabilitation


  • • Understand and love yourself – knowing that you are not your actions. Love yourself first and foremost. You may have made some bad choices in the past but this does not make you a bad person. “In the process of letting go you will lose things from the past but you will find yourself” – Deepak Chopra
  • • Today is a new day – let go of yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Today is your chance to make better choices for yourself. Now is your chance to break old patterns that are no longer benefiting you. “The past has no power over the present moment” – Eckhart Tolle
  • • Apologize – if you know you have wronged someone and this contributes to your guilt, make an effort to apologize to them. This helps you relieve guilty feelings and may be a stepping stone to rebuilding trust. “If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete” – Jack Kornfield
  • • Forgiveness – apart from forgiving others in order to make progress, it is absolutely crucial to forgive yourself. You may have made some mistakes but you also deserve forgiveness. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” – Mahatma Ghandi
  • • Taking accountability – owning up to your actions may be scary but it is also extremely empowering. “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands” – Anne Frank


Step Away Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center South Africa

Although addiction may make you feel isolated, you are not alone. However debilitating guilt may be, once recognised it can be used as an empowering tool to make better choices in the future.

Contact our rehabilitation center to find out more about our facility and addiction treatment programmes.

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