How some deal with guilt

I had a strange thought last night after having some conversations with a group of not very successful recovering alcoholics. It was funny because it was kind of a flashback to my late teens. Something that had not crossed my mind in almost 50 years.

I was raised Catholic with all the guilt that goes with it. As a young man going out into the world and experiencing new things I was often faced with moral delemnas. Sometimes it involved being part of a group or gang that would do things I didn't feel moraly good about or sometimes just moral choices I would have to make about activities I was exposed to. 

The flashback involved a method of logic I would entertain. The logic was that if I were to just continue this behavior I would harden up and it would no longer bother me. This often meant actively pursuing this bad behavior to speed up the hardening process. It didn't take me long to figure out that my best option was to simply accept that I did wrong make a commitment to never do it again and move on with maybe some minor guilt but basicaly forgive myself and just accept it as a learning experience.

Now this comes back to the conversation with the alcoholics. These were a group from about 35 to 55 years old. They were still repeating the same bad behaviors and then drinking to deal with the guilt. It made me wonder if they were not using the same logic I had enetertained as a young man or if they were just driven by self centered compulsions for instant gratification. Guilt and shame can be a powerful influence in ones life.

I agree with this. You murder enough people and it doesn’t bother you anymore.

Yeah. I hear that the first murder is that hardest.

RE: the OP. Are they doing the bad things while drunk, or are they doing them sober, then getting drunk?

When a person has been drinking long enough, they will probably have developed a physical dependence on alcohol. It makes getting alcohol the overriding factor in daily events. It also means their judgment is constantly impaired, because they are always buzzed to some degree.

They’re going to feel just as guilty for doing bad things, but be less able not to do them, at least until they get help with their physical dependence.

This is probably what is going on with the age group you are dealing with.

It isn’t impossible that someone can drink heavily for many years without developing physical dependence, and it is also possible that younger people will develop physical dependence (a lot do), but with a more mature group, who would generally outgrow the “Hey, let’s do this because, why not?” mentality, perpetual intoxication is probably a factor.

Maladaptive behaviors become habits, too. You keep repeating them because, even though you know they don’t serve you well, you don’t know what else to do. Someone who has an addiction on top of that is not about to start repairing behavior patterns any time soon.

So while there probably was some “I feel bad-- fuck it, gimme a beer,” going on a long time ago for some of these people, I doubt anything as circumspect as “I’ll stop caring” is going on-- in fact, I suspect there are probably a lot of things they already don’t care about, although if they are going to AA meetings, it could be worse.

That’s my take on it too. There’s some sense of inevitability about it – this is just how I am and what can I do? And it feels comfortable. I saw a Hoarders recently where the counselor was telling the hoarder it takes a lot of courage to do something different from what you have been doing.

There’s also the wishful thinking that this is the last time; if I just allow myself this one last cycle, tomorrow will be different. Hey guess what, tomorrow ended up being more of the same.

I know a teenager who has no guilt - has no moral values…

He is in jail BTW!

(Feel LUCKY you have a big stop sign in your head!)