“Guilt, as experienced in Western culture, is connected with hopelessness and discouragement and is past-oriented. Genuine remorse, however, is a healthy state of mind–it is future oriented, connected with hope and causes us to act, to change.”
I came across this quote on iamzion.com the other day. It resonated with me because I had been thinking about how long I have been wanting to change and been unable to do it. I have wondered why this time it’s different, why I feel different…more determined and resolved. I feel less narcissistic and internal and more giving, loving and centered. The ideas expressed in this quote help make sense of it for me. In the past,when I have made poor choices related to imbibing too much…I have felt horrible guilt. We call it “drinkers remorse”. That feeling when you open your eyes in the morning and ask yourself what you did last night and whether you have anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. That feeling, that pang of shame…I believe it kept me wanting to get wasted. I hated that feeling, and a good cure for it was always to just get wasted again. It’s easy to stay disengaged from the feeling of guilt by just staying a little drunk or stoned.Obviously, I have raised three, pretty well adjusted kids…so I wasn’t wasted all the time…but I know for sure that when I was feeling down on myself an instant cure was a glass wine or a beer and a couple of puffs off the peace pipe. Then I was happy again…disengaged, able to deal with “my emotions”.
Standing in that hotel room in Las Vegas…looking at my daughter and feeling the absolute disgust she had for my behavior…something changed in me. I have never been more resolved in my life to never experience that feeling again. It was, without a doubt, the defining moment in my life so far. I saw myself when I looked at her…every moment of disappointment I ever felt towards my parents was wrapped into that moment. And I knew that I was doing damage to her that she would have to forgive me for someday. Just like I have had to forgive my parents. I knew that I was changing who she would become in that moment. Something clicked in my head and has yet to “unclick” if that’s a word. I really, really hope I stay this focused and determined. This quote resonates because it explains the difference between quilt…a feeling that keeps you stuck and sad and feeling sorry for yourself…and remorse…a feeling that pushes you forward to change. Throughout these past five months, one thing has propelled me forward…the desire to never feel what I felt that morning in the Las Vegas again. The desire to never let my daughter down again like that. I am not perfect and she will want things from me that I can’t or won’t give her so it is possible (even likely) that I will disappoint her again. But the genuinely bad behavior I exposed her to, I can never let that happen again. And I cannot wallow in the intensity of that level of remorse and still live my life. I don’t think its possible. So I must change. I must take this intensely personal experience and use it make a new life for my family’s sake. And that little change, not drinking or smoking anymore…its affecting everything else. My understanding of the universe is shifting. I am finding myself more able to disengage from the “guilt” feelings and step outside of it and say…wow, I don’t want to go back there again.
My head is quite clear and it leaves me feeling vulnerable and confused. I don’t know who I am or what I want. I don’t know how to behave or who my real friends are. I am a little lost…and I am very weepy. The tiniest thing will make me cry. I feel awkward in social situations. I am suddenly noticing how disengaged I have been in my relationships with my husband and children. I am turning off the voices in my head and turning up the voices of the people around me. I am listening more and speaking less. And this blog helps me with that…helps me work through it. I feel weak and I can honestly say that I am OK with that feeling.
All these little things are because I stopped drinking and smoking.
And I believe I was able to do that because of the future oriented emotional state of REMORSE.
Now, all I need is the secret to maintaining the forward momentum.
Dalai Lama? Blog friends?