Dealing with Regret in Sobriety
Even though the power of human emotions is subjective, regret stands out as being one of the most complicated and negatively powerful. Regret is invariably associated with sadness, disappointment, and remorse. It can be painful and crippling, but it can also be a powerful motivator for change. Regret is what drives many individuals to substance abuse and addiction in the first place. Moreover, this negative emotion can be a major obstacle to recovery. Ironically, many alcoholics and addicts will embark on journeys to recovery only after experiencing deep regret.
Understanding Regret in Addiction Recovery
Regret is so powerful because it’s always about something that happened in the past, which means it can’t be changed. Of all the emotions that flow through the recovery journey, this one is the most pervasive. If you walk into any Alcoholics Anonymous meeting room at any given time, you’ll hear painful testimonies of regret. This is the principal aspect of regret in recovery. If it gets you into rehab, chances are you’ll continue to carry it through the journey. A more problematic aspect is that this emotion can trigger cravings, thus making the recovery process more difficult.
Regret in Neuroscience
A number of studies that describe the neurochemistry of regret link it with uneven activity in three regions of the brain that process emotions and make decisions. An even flow of dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol neurotransmitters is what allows us to manage regret efficiently. An example of an even flow is when addicts resolve that staying sober is the best way to let go of guilt and remorse. An uneven flow that’s heavy on cortisol, low on serotonin, and irregular on dopamine can generate the kind of deep regret that exacerbates withdrawal symptoms and lowers impulse control.
Regret in Psychology
When people wallow in regret, they generally experience compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Since the middle of the 20th century, psychologists have used narrative and cognitive reappraisal therapeutic techniques to help patients overcome crippling regret. Narrative therapy tends to be more effective in group settings, such as AA meetings and Encinitas sober living facilities. In essence, this technique helps patients forgive themselves for their regrets and move on with their lives. This is accomplished through sharing experiences and exchanging opinions that craft a different kind of narrative.
Dealing with Regret
This is a matter of learning from previous mistakes in a constructive way. It all starts with acknowledgement. We already know the past is immutable and regret is unavoidable. It’s normal to feel regret, and there’s no shame in admitting mistakes. The problem is dwelling on the past. There needs to be a focus on the present and the future, but you’ll first have to forgive yourself because holding on to anger and resentment will only make things worse.
If you’re newly sober and you need help dealing with the difficult emotions that come with sobriety, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing sober living housing for men in Encinitas, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, coaching, and mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. For more information about our sober living facilities, call us today at (760) 230-2996.