How to Respond to Sober Feelings of Guilt about Actions during Addiction?


My husband is doing the best I’ve seen in a few years - long periods of sobriety, less frequent slips/relapses that are much shorter than before, talking about going to meetings, being more present, taking better care of himself - pretty much everything I could hope for, but lately he’s started to express intense feelings of guilt. During his worst periods of addiction, he was awful with money & drained all of his savings - he also hasn’t worked at all in the past three years so I’ve been solely financially supporting our family.

The last few days he’s expressed extreme feelings of guilt over the financial strains his addiction & actions have caused specifically. I really don’t know how to respond to this. On one hand, it’s very validating to me to hear him recognize the difficulties this has caused for us but on the other hand, it’s hard to hear him beat himself up over it. In my eyes, the past is the past - we learn from it, grow from it, & try to do better moving forward but I know for some people that it’s easier said than done. How can I best support him & be here for him through this? I fear it putting him in a downward spiral. This has all been amplified by a very sudden, very large expense suddenly coming up today.


@va.ra - it sounds like you already know what you’d like to say to him. Can you share with him what you’ve shared with us?

Can you say something like this? (My changes in italics)
“In my eyes, the past is the past - we learn from it, grow from it, & try to do better move forward but I know for some people that it’s easier said than done. How can I best support you and be here for you through this? I fear this will impact your recovery, and I want you to know I believe we will get through this together.”


I have been through a similar situation with my husband. @momentsandlight said it best - what you already said in your post is a great place to start! By asking how you can support him and let him know what your feelings are about dwelling on the past and sitting in guilt, it might help him start to let go and appreciate the present. I know that when something replays over and over in my husband’s head like this, it helps when I validate his feelings and let him know I still love and support him.


Wow I wish I was given the support you women have inside you. I’m on the opposite end of this. A wife with a husband ready to leave me and. The kids because after 14 years he found benzos on me, I had another baby a year ago, right before that lost my GMA who raised me, my home, and then my niece who was only four drowned in the family pool in the middle of the night. I hit my breaking point. I wasn’t abusing them it’s just the betrayal of me having them behind his back and the fact that prescription abuse is in my past. In wasn’t going crazy or doing anything odd, I was honestly just taking one to go to sleep at night basically. I have held his hand through so much abusive controlling behavior, he cheated on me in 2018 which really hurt and took a lot of forgiveness but the same can’t be given to me not one time. I have to be flawless and perfect. I grew up with a lot of trauma but at the same time my grandparents taught me about unconditional love. He wasn’t taught the same obviously because there are many conditions that come with his or he takes it even from the children. We walk on eggshells and a angry person and a anxious person don’t mix well. But I have health issues and I know realistically I won’t be able to pull us out of homelessness alone, the kids will be hurt by a divorce which he is dead set on. Idk what to do or where to turn. I haven’t even cried yet. I am sorry for it, I just feel alone and didn’t know how to make my mind stop spinning and to me I was seeking mental health treatment to him I was using so what is it? Can u have a addiction 15 years old and then later in life get mental health treatment ever again with a medication you have once abused and not be satan? I just don’t know if I’m in denial or what.


Hey @va.ra - how are things going today? Any progress, updates, challenges since you posted? We’re here for you. :star2:


Thank you all for your responses :hearts: Sorry for posting then disappearing! This year has had a rough start for us & my family so we’re all just trying to do our best to support one another.
I have read your responses & tried to incorporate them as we’ve navigated these challenges. And, of course, as we’ve gotten more space from the moment of stress, it’s easier to see the situation more clearly/calmly.

@momentsandlight - You hit the nail on the head, I knew what I wanted/needed to say, I just didn’t know how to say it in the moment. It can still be strange to approach the topic in such a straightforward manner but wow, isn’t communication so much better when we say what we mean??

@Selfcare31 - As much as I’d never wish this on anyone, I love how this community helps me to feel so much less alone. You make such a great point about validating his feelings; especially when realizing that if I were in his shoes, I would feel similar things helped me express everything with more grace.

@Jacqui - Thank you for checking in & reminding me to respond. There have been some ups & downs. Thanks to the advice here, we navigated that situation well - we’ve just continued to face more challenges. I’m focusing on giving him positive reinforcement & pointing out how much he’s grown & how much better he is at handling things. At times, I still feel frustrated or like it’s unfair to have to be the responsible/level-headed one who doesn’t take things personally in hard moments, but when he comes to me with a clear head & tells me what it means to him, it gives me hope & encourages me to keep going.


“In my eyes, the past is the past - we learn from it, grow from it, & try to do better move forward but I know for some people that it’s easier said than done. How can I best support you and be here for you through this? I fear this will impact your recovery, and I want you to know I believe we will get through this together
@momentsandlight, @Thinkstet,
I haven’t checked in for ages, and something showed up on my email to remind me of my resource group right here at my fingertips.
This response is also helpful to me, to be able to say to my adult son when he expresses deep remorse and regret for the mistakes in the past. It gives me a new tool to use in our discussions.
My son has been sober for over a year, now. ( as far as I can tell.)
He applied for a job and was hired, offering complete transparency about his addiction, treatment, and ongoing determination and work at staying sober. He knows that his life depends on it.
He has regained some self confidence, begun having some contact with healthy friends from the past, and communicates and visits with his children.
To say that this part of the journey has been challenging would be an understatement.
As his mother, living on high alert is my biggest struggle. Learning to trust is also difficult for me. Having him living at home is somewhat a curse, but for the most part, it is a blessing. I continue to struggle with my own issues of enabling vrs empowering. At the same time, as we age, having him at home and healthy is very helpful to us. Families used to live in multi-generational homes successfully, and they still do in some other countries. Because he lived 25 plus years independently, first in college and then married with children, he already experienced leaving the nest.
Returning to the nest so that he could have more support as he struggled with trying to overcome his addiction has worked for us. But there is this nagging insecurity about how “normal” this is.
Ultimately, my son has stated repeatedly that he couldn’t have managed this past year without the safety net his childhood home and parents provided. He has grown significantly, and recognizes the difference from the first weeks when he couldn’t manage filling out a questionnaire on the computer, could barely get out of bed to take a walk, was afraid to drive anywhere, to today, when he manages most tasks on his own-even frustrating, challenging ones. When he asks for help, I am mindful about whether or not my help is necessary, or expedient, of if I should suggest that I am confident that he can figure out a resolution.
He very seldom asks for help now.
I hope that all of you are well. I hope that you find strength in knowing that many of us live with a loved one who struggles with addiction, and that the more we learn, the better we become at managing our own behavior.


I love seeing those types of reminders, whether in my inbox or just anywhere throughout my day! I like to think they’re the universe’s way of supporting and guiding me. :sparkles:

Don’t worry about what is “normal,” @Alair - what you’ve shared is major GROWTH and that is something to be celebrated every day. Keep going and keep checking in here, too! Love hearing from you. :seedling: