Regrets. I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. (My Way, Frank Sinatra)
Wouldn’t you love to be able to hit rewind and delete entire episodes out of your past rather than have to deal with the fallout clean and sober?
When I used to try to kick dope, the physical withdrawal was nothing compared to the movies playing non-stop in my head of every single thing I ever did or said that made me feel like shit. It always touched on the things that hurt or betrayed the people I loved (whether they knew it or not) like birthday money from my folks I’d blown on coke, the time my dad drove from Toronto to Buffalo to meet a flight I’d forgotten about, relationships I’d discarded, friends I’d lost, the time I left my dog in my apartment while I spent a weekend on the Virgin Islands. It was all there in living color, the shit I did, accompanied by a gnawing soul-sickness.
The behaviors we engage in that fuel the beast don’t completely disappear when we get clean. The “disease” gets a lot of mileage from shame. Whenever we act out in our selfish or thoughtless behaviors in recovery and feel bad, thoughts of using pop up – always an unconscious antidote to our negative feelings. The way out of this cycle is in repairing damage we have caused and learning how to do things differently. Recovery gives us the opportunity to change.
On a positive note, guilt and remorse are natural healthy feelings because they let us know we are not psychopaths.
It’s through these feelings that we build our moral backbone in recovery. This moral compass lets us know how far we have strayed from our own deepest beliefs and values. They teach us right from wrong, teach us how to be loving – toward ourselves and others, toward animals and nature. We don’t learn this by having debates, or philosophizing over coffee with our friends, or because family, religion or the courts shoved a moral code at us. We discover morality through our feelings. And they never lie. They let us know when we do something that betrays our very nature.
Shame is the real killer for addicts because shame is personal. It’s how we feel about ourselves in the privacy of our own mind. How are we supposed to take care of ourselves, love ourselves, if we believe we are worthless? “We are as sick as our secrets” is true because shame is so personal. Guilt says, “What you did was horrible.” Shame says, “ You are horrible.” Secrets nurture shame – so get rid of them.
Imagine – even at the peak of our addiction we could not escape regret, guilt, or shame when we acted out against our most heartfelt beliefs. That says a lot about the human spirit. Even when we believed we truly didn’t give a fuck our heart was storing up the memory to haunt us later. The human spirit is pretty amazing. Even the madness of addiction can’t reach in and completely rewire our conscience.