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San Diego Sober Living - Recovery

Understanding Drinker’s Remorse & Its Impact on Addiction Recovery

When actor Matthew Perry passed away in November of 2023 at the age of 54, he left behind a set of business plans to form a charitable organization that would provide mental health advocacy to addiction patients. Perry had struggled with addiction and relapse since he was a teenager. His 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, surprised many of his relatives and close friends who didn’t know about the crippling guilt he’d lived with for more than two decades. Guilt, shame, and remorse are complex emotions that are almost universal among alcoholics and addicts. In Perry’s case, the incapacitating remorse he felt over his addiction caused him to relapse time after time. Being able to manage these emotions is a crucial aspect of addiction recovery, and it begins with understanding how they unfold.

The Multiple Feelings of Drinker’s Remorse

Remorse isn’t a single emotion. It’s a complex state composed of many feelings, sensations, and physiological responses. Mental health professionals refer to this emotional state as a phenomenon or syndrome that’s most often felt after intoxication, but it can also arise during binge drinking episodes. The most common feelings involved are anxiety, regret, and shame. They often exacerbate physical symptoms such as dehydration, nausea, headaches, and withdrawal. The mildest degree of drinker’s remorse is a bad hangover. The most severe manifestation can result in long-term depression, anhedonia, and suicidal ideation.

Remorse Associated with Other Forms of Substance Abuse

Although the name of this syndrome suggests an association with getting drunk, it can affect anyone who engages in substance abuse. Anytime your brain chemistry is disrupted by the consumption of psychoactive substances to the point of intoxication, you can count on a remorse episode happening. The physical discomfort you get from hangovers is largely driven by psychoactive effects wearing off, and this is when the brain goes into overdrive to try to restore balance. With substances such as liquor, stimulants, opioids, and benzodiazepines, the remorse tends to be more intense as the frequency of consumption increases.

When Remorse Turns into Dangerous Guilt

A mild hangover can bring about some feelings of remorse. A severe hangover, on the other hand, will make you feel terrible. Drinking to oblivion will gradually worsen remorse episodes until they turn into deep-seated guilt. If you’re left to carry this guilt, which will likely be crippling, the surging feelings will be of unworthiness, isolation, and despair. In some cases, guilt can prompt self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts. When guilt consumes you to the point of causing pain and anguish, it can make you stop caring about recovery, thus raising the potential of severe relapse.

Dealing with Negative Emotions & Guilt during Addiction Recovery

You don’t want drinker’s remorse to devolve into addiction guilt. If this happens, you risk falling off the wagon and sabotaging your recovery. Guilt needs to be acknowledged before it can be managed. Some patients don’t become aware of it until mental health professionals detect it. Depending on the degree of severity, treatment of obsessive guilt may include staying at a facility such as a Solana Beach men’s sober living residence. This can help in terms of providing the structured lifestyle everyone needs before achieving sobriety. At minimum, guilt should be avoided to prevent relapse, but you won’t be able to reach your recovery goals if you’re bogged down by guilt.

If you’re newly sober and you need help with avoiding relapse, call on the compassionate team at Casa Pacifica. Along with providing sober living housing for men, we work with our individual residents to develop customized plans that integrate treatment, aftercare, and recovery support. Our services include sober companionship, mentorship for those who are recovering from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, and coastal sober living. Solana Beach residents can get more information about our sober living facilities by calling us today.

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