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How Do I Cope with Survivor’s Guilt?

Survivor syndrome, or survivor’s guilt, can happen after any traumatic event. It is especially present for people in recovery from addiction. The main question a person may ask is ‘why me,’ as they wonder how they survived addiction and friends or loved ones did not. Knowing how to coping with survivor’s guilt can help avoid negative coping mechanisms which can lead to relapse.

Defining Survivor Guilt

Survivor guilt can occur any time after a traumatic experience, including death, relapse, a diagnosis, or something else that feels painful. When a person shares a common experience, including addiction, it can bring feelings of guilt to realize recovery has begun, but others seem left behind.

Guilt and Addiction

During treatment, people will share stories about losing family members or loved ones along the path to recovery. Someone in treatment may seem fine one day and then relapse. There may be loved ones who never seek treatment and end up losing their life. Losing someone unexpectedly during recovery can feel like a gut punch. Despair can set in, depression, and even anxiety about whether relapse is just around the corner. It is common to ponder why some people make it and some do not. The trauma of senseless loss or seeing loved one’s struggle can bring back cravings to cope.

Coping with Guilt

Survivor guilt can be a great opportunity to practice skills learned during recovery. Some skills can include:

  • Reframing the situation
  • Prayer or spiritual reflection
  • Leaning on others for support
  • Temporary self-soothing distractions
  • Self empowerment

There is the tricky issues of free will. Sometimes we want to help others who are still ‘stuck’ but we have to realize that they are still making choices. Those who are in recovery bear no responsibility for others who are on the outside. Focus on positive things because sobriety is a choice and now recovery is the main goal. Talk about those feelings, learn to lean on others for support and return to a routine that suits a positive lifestyle. Do not use work to mask the pain, seek help from counselors or support groups. Look ahead to the future and see how much you can have now that you are in recovery and not mired down with addiction. There is hope and healing on the other side of addiction and now is the time to shine, even if it means letting go of others who haven’t done the same.

Survivor’s guilt can lead to relapse if you don’t deal with the pain. We are here to help if you are struggling. We encourage you to seek support from loved ones or friends.. Let us help you recover from addiction and seek the resources you need to keep you clean and sober. Whether it’s spiritual direction or something else, We will help you find what you need. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 844-339-6964