Regret and addiction are more linked than people think. Regret often triggers addictive behaviors, especially for people prone to destructive habits and patterns. It can build up over time if you don’t deal with your regret. The more regrets you have, the harder they are to deal with, and the more likely they will trigger addictive behavior. Moving beyond regret helps to accept what happened in the past while finding ways to forgive yourself and others who may have contributed to your situation. Overcoming regret is a crucial step in addiction recovery and a critical part of treatment.
How to Deal With Regret
Most regrets come from three main areas of life: personal, professional, and financial. The first step is to list all the things in these categories that bother or worry you. Try not to get caught up in what happened. Just make a list of everything that comes to mind without overthinking it. You can go back later and find specific examples. Then, try to follow these approaches to overcome regret.
1. Acknowledge Your Guilt
The key to moving past regret is acceptance and forgiveness. Acceptance and forgiveness are key to letting go of regret. When you accept what happened in the past, you acknowledge it’s real, and it happened, but you let it go. You move on to where you want to go next.
Forgiveness allows you to begin moving forward with a clean slate; when you forgive yourself for past mistakes and accept them as part of your story, they don’t hold power over you anymore.
2. Focus On Positives
When you’re feeling regretful, it’s helpful to stop and think about what you did right. Did you make a good decision by going to rehab? Even if your decision was wrong, there are still positives. Was it the best possible outcome given all of the circumstances? Were any lessons learned from this mistake that could help guide future decisions? You might find more positives than negatives—focus on those!
3. Talk to Someone You Trust
When you’re feeling regretful, sharing your feelings with someone you trust can be helpful. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, consider talking with a friend or family member. Consider attending a 12-steps meeting to share your regrets with someone who has been through a similar situation. This can help give you a different perspective on your situation and provide advice on overcoming regrets.
4. Accept You Can’t Change the Past
One of the most crucial steps to overcoming regret is accepting that you can’t change the past. You can only affect what happens in your future, and this concept is fundamental when it comes to regret. Avoid ruminating and focus on moving forward.
5. Start Taking Control to Prevent Future Regrets
Take control of your own life to ensure you don’t continue making the same mistakes. Set goals, and take action towards them. Be proactive in your life, not reactive to things out of your control. Be open to change, and most importantly, learn from mistakes made in the past, so they don’t happen again in the future!
The Connection Between Addiction and Regret
If you have regrets about your relationship with a loved one, it can trigger addictive behaviors that temporarily relieve the regret and pain. You might turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape from the pain of past events—but in the long run, these substances only worsen things by increasing your risk for addiction and creating more problems in your life.
The same happens when people struggle with financial troubles: they become addicted to gambling to deal with debt and economic woes. The problem is that gambling leads to more debt; thus, even though gambling may temporarily provide relief from financial stressors, over time, it makes matters worse.
Regret is a common topic discussed in addiction treatment and support group meetings. When you’re overcome with regret, it’s easy to focus on how things could have gone differently and what you could have done differently. You may be feeling guilty about something you did or didn’t do during a given time period in your life.
But when it comes down to it, there are always good and bad parts to any situation, and we can’t change the past, so instead of worrying about what we did wrong in the past, we should focus on what we can do right now. Eventually, you’ll be able to look past your regrets and feel content with how far you’ve come.