What is remorse?
You may feel remorse for things you have done wrong. Remorse is often caused by feelings of regret over the past, guilt or shame about past behaviors, or feeling sorry for hurts you caused to your loved ones and others you know.
Remorse can be healthy when you honestly look at the past and how your drinking and/or using impacted others, and you use that feeling to make personal changes that prevent repeating those patterns.
But we feel unhealthy remorse when we get stuck in regrets, we find it impossible to forgive ourselves or others, or we make no effort to change our attitudes and actions so we don’t hurt ourselves or others in the future. That kind of remorse is wasted energy. Remorse should motivate us to a positive good, not keep us stuck in a negative past.
How can remorse affect your recovery?
If you don’t adequately address your feelings of guilt, shame, or remorse, it could lead to telling lies to cover up what you’ve done. Though a burden, you can do something positive with remorse—admit the wrong, apologize for it, and take corrective action to make things right.
Those who aren’t addicted may have a few things to feel remorseful about, but it typically ends there. However, for alcoholics and other addicts, who have done many negative things in the past and who struggle mightily with feelings of inferiority, it takes only a slight prompting to sink into deep feelings of shame and guilt.
To turn your remorse into a positive element in your life and in the lives
of others, work the Steps. Step Four advises you to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself. Step Five says we “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Working the Fourth and Fifth Steps will help you deal with remorse, shame, and guilt by helping you take responsibility for your actions and accept yourself and others.
What a heavy load remorse puts on your shoulders! What a terrible mental punishment it is to feel ashamed of the things you’ve said and done! You may feel afraid to face people because of what they might say to you. You might feel afraid of the consequences of things you did when you were drunk. What an awful beating the mind takes! When you come into AA, that terrible load of remorse falls from your shoulders.