Intermediate Recovery: Guilt

It’s been awhile since I’ve written in this category, I’m not sure why that is.  But since I’ve missed another Monday post, now’s as good a time as any to write one.

I missed this past Monday because I didn’t attend the meeting; I asked a regular attendee to cover for me.  I didn’t attend the meeting because I have been feeling under the weather for past 10 or so days, whatever’s got me has really grabbed hold!  I have been through all the regular permutations of an infection… sore throat, cough, aches, chills, and I’d say for the most part they’ve come and gone.  What’s lingering now, and has been for at least 5 days, is this unrelenting lethargy… it feels like I’m moving through water, and I could sleep at any moment.

It’s bad enough that I actually went to the doctor, which may not mean a lot if you don’t know me, but says something significant if you do.  I intensely dislike going to the doctor’s.  He gave me an antibiotic, and paperwork to get my blood tested, and told me the exhaustion is normal; since my body is fighting an infection, it is working overtime, so it’s tired!

Problem solved, case closed.  For what possible reason would I be writing about such an inane subject?

Answer:  I have uncovered an interesting mental side effect of this physical illness, and that is guilt.  I feel guilty for feeling sick.

Illogical, irrational, and most likely makes me sound unbalanced, but it’s the truth.  I have no energy, and I berate myself for getting nothing done.  The monkey mind creates a laundry list of things I should be doing to get well:  exercise more, fight through the exhaustion!  Drink more water, eat healthier, meditate harder, snap out of it.

“You’re not that sick,” says the monkey mind.

I do try to talk back to criticism, but suffice it to say the circular argument is exhausting to think about, let alone write it out, let alone have it in the first place.

And even when I’ve completed the laundry list, there is always, always another item added for which to feel guilty because it has gone uncompleted.

Three days ago, I awoke from a disturbing dream.  All I can remember from it is that I was diagnosed with cancer.  The disturbing part was the emotion I experienced, which was guilt, because I was convinced that the cancer was my fault for something I had done, or something I had failed to do.

When I realized that was my take-away from the dream, I knew I was troubled.  And I examined where guilt was infecting my life, and was startled to discover how pervasive it was.  Truly, it is egotistical how much responsibility I give myself.

So my inflated ego… something else about which to feel guilty.

While the illness is the catalyst for this self-examination, I believe I will find that, even as I heal, even as I become more active, take on more responsibility, and so on, guilt will still be playing a role.  My best guess is that it’s always been there, I’m just painfully aware of it now that I’m sober.  I’m still not sure what that is, if it is:

A.  connected with addiction

B.  residue from being raised in an Irish Catholic household

Or maybe it’s

C.  all of the above

And more important, here’s the essay question that needs to be answered:

How the heck do you overcome an addiction to feeling guilty?

Feel free to respond, especially if you’re in recovery… from guilt!

Today’s Miracle:

Taking the time to write this post, because I know I am going to get great responses to help me tackle this issue!

Posted on October 22, 2015, in Intermediate Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Beautiful, thank you. 🙂

    On guilt: I know that for me feeling guilty works as a method of not being confronted with the underlaying emotion. As long as I feel guilty I can imagine that I am still in control. If I don’t feel guilty I move to feelings which I obviously perceive as way more guilty: feelings of overwhelm, of powerlessness, of having no control what so ever….
    So yeah, for me there is a connection to addiction: I don’t want to feel the powerlessness so I feel guilty, as if I could have influenced everything and then it would be ok. If I could have, I would have. I have come up with this saying which gives no solace at all, apart from that it is how it is: Nature does not reward, nor does it punish, it has concequences.
    Hope my musings bring you something,
    xx, Feeling

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow…this is brilliant. I have never EVER thought of it this way before. Thank you for this Feeling.


      Liked by 2 people

      • I am glad my musings have brought something. 🙂 And I see now that there is a sentence which does not make sense
        ‘If I don’t feel guilty I move to feelings which I obviously perceive as way more guilty:’ The second guilty should be something like ‘horrible’ or ‘painful’.
        And were I say ‘it is just as it is’ I mean that there is no need to find meaning behind the words but that it tries to, exactly without blame or reward to analyse it. Clinical, or truthful but aaaahrg… uncomfortable state of mind. I find that I want things to be labeled in good or bad. But that extreme thinking is very addicty and does not get me anywhere. Apart from ‘booze = bad’. 🙂
        So I don’t mean a truth that is written in stone or so.
        xx, Feeling

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nope…I get exactly what you’re saying and I still think it’s brilliant.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ghegheghe. Ok. It’s eh, a revelation to in deep deep guilt try to see, feel, what is behind that. It is not a nice experience. But very, eh, truthful. And it allows a place for healing. In me guilt blocks movement, blocks energy, blocks healing. Powerlessness, when experienced is something I can cry about, and cry, and possibly sob, and then it flows away and life can happen again. Older, wiser, but it flows. 🙂
        However…. ghegheghe, getting there. :-/ I don’t find it easy. Ooh, also because guilt is one of those emotions that I like to hide from. Deny. Yeah. Pffff.. Well. There is a path. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not only do I ditto what Sherry says, I will go one better: you are blowing my mind. Wow, guilt as a cover-up for fear and powerlessness… I don’t know what to say, except: you have blown my mind. This makes so much sense! Feeling, thanks so much for taking the time to write this comment, and expound on it. I am taking this with me today!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Happy that my sharing this has brought you something. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, dear, I wish I knew how to recover from feeling guilty! Hope you are feeling better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Catholic guilt is the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. i relate. I often say that I don’t have time to be sick. I have over 1200 accumulated paid sick hours. The only time I have used sick hours is when I just don’t feel like going to work. When I had skin cancer surgery, I went to work the next day. When I had very invasive dental surgery, same deal.

    And if someone else doesn’t do something, even if it is their job, I am compelled to do it, and so and so forth.

    I like the line that we are “egomaniacs with an inferiority complex.”

    I am not certain of the answer, or even the question, but accept that this will be a lifelong tension that I will experience – like so much else. With alcohol, everything was very black and white – I was either drunk or sober. I suspect that for me being guilty vs. not guilty is a false dichotomy. Although not guilty might be the incorrect description, I would like to think that there is a long continuum between say guilty and guiltless/moral/innocent – that those two expressions are like the tail ends of a bell shaped curve and that my reality is mostly somewhere else along the curve.

    I know that do better today than I have done in the past. But I also know that it is an ongoing process. If I were to say that I am worse off in any behavior than 30 years ago, that would be a problem. But the fact is that I do function better than in the past is a true statement. I attribute that to being conscious of the issue and wanting to live in the solution. You are clearly doing the same by just even addressing this issue in your blog post today.

    Best wishes as you continue forward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As always, Robert, your words are balm to my wounded… everything! Framing this experience as a lifelong tension… that sounds like it should be depressing, and yet I read it and find it liberating. I need to, as they say in our circles, take the whip off my back and stop thinking that because I am in recovery that I am perfect. Why do I think I will never experience guilt again? I needed the reminded you give here, and I am reading it at the exact moment I needed to read it. As always, there are no coincidences!

      I hope you are well, and plans for your retirement are progressing. Might I suggest taking advantage of those 1200 sick hours now, before time runs out 😉

      I am forever grateful for your wisdom, Robert!


  5. Perfect timing for me! As always.
    I felt off on the weekend and woke up Monday morning completely demolished. Ear ache, migraine, intense body pain. Even a fever. I got up and tried to get ready for work and eventually called in sick.

    It was so hard to do. I felt like I was lying. Monday, sick. I started doing that in my last year of drinking. Because I would be so hungover.

    I slept from monday until Tuesday afternoon. Completely wiped. I even Cancelled my yoga class Tuesday night. And finally revived Wednesday.

    But the inner guilt, the feeling like I was lying, was very real. Even though I was actually sick.

    A small part of me was also scared to stay home. The last time I called in actually sick I drank and drank. It didn’t go well. Those were the last days of drinking, when I could see clearly that it was hurting me physically and I couldn’t control myself at all.

    I had some fear that would happen again. Even at almost 2 years sober, I can see how he low mood of sickness can impact my thinking.

    Sigh. In hindsight I am glad I took myself to bed and let myself heal. And that I still have some unresolved stuff.

    As an aside- I used hydrogen peroxide in my ears and it worked amazing. No more ear pain or sore throat. The fatigue lingers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I sympathize with your ear infection. In all the things that have happened to me in 45 years of life, I mean it when I say the two times I’ve had ear infections remain the most painful times of my life. So I’m sorry for your pain!

      You have given me something to think about here. Might this experience be subconsciously reminding me of unproductive days in active addiction? That is a distinct possibility, and I thank you for giving me pause.

      I am hoping your fatigue has abated, mine is still present (it’s Sunday morning), but reading all of these amazing comments has brought me peace. Time to practice some (gasp!) acceptance, that the fatigue will be here as long as it needs to be.

      I pray you feel back to your normal self very soon, and a million thanks for this insightful comment!


  6. “Catholic Guilt” it’s like its own special brand of guilt. I love it!
    I hear you girlfriend. My therapist calls these meta-feelings. e.g. feelings about feelings. Like everything in life I take it to the A/B journaling and let one voice speak for Love and one for ego (Love’s opposite). I inevitably find an answer. My choice is “C” All of the above.

    As of late, with my retreat coming Jun 2016, videos, etc. I am almost always feeling guilty about not doing enough for the kids. I really need to snap out of this. Guess I better hit the journal before the day is out.

    Thanks for the perfect topic for me. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lisa, when I say you open something up for me every time you comment, I mean it. You talk about the A/B journaling and I am transported back to my first year in recovery, and reading your illuminating book (Sober Identity, for those reading this comment, I cannot recommend this book highly enough!). I was enthralled, but apparently not enthralled enough to continue on with the suggested exercises, such as the A/B journaling! Interestingly enough, I have been reading a bit of Geneen Roth and Marianne Williamson, and they have very similar exercises that I have found enlightening. So thank you for the reminder to practice this in all areas of conflict. I will be doing so the next time I am caught in this cycle. Which, knowing me, will be 5 minutes from now!

      And now I am off to your website to see what is the retreat of which you speak, and might I be able to attend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. All of the above my friend…all of the above.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. I hear you, and now it’s time for a little acceptance 🙂


  9. Hi Josie!
    I feel guilty about just everything.
    And being sick is the worse! I SO relate to this.
    When I was teaching I NEVER called in sick, and I get sick a lot.
    I think it’s part of the “Pull yourself up, and stop being a wuss!”
    Or something like that.
    I hope you are feeling better, too!!

    Liked by 1 person

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