Survivor’s guilt is a powerful emotion that can negatively affect your recovery. It is important to know that this guilt of having survived an addiction when a friend could not is not a rational one. The situation was never of your own making. You are responsible for your actions.

Survivor Syndrome

Survivor’s guilt is also known as survivor syndrome. You have to come up with your mechanisms for dealing with this guilt and overcoming it. There are some standard techniques available, adapt them to your situation.

The first step is to take stock of the situation. What are you feeling guilty about? Counselors and therapists who help patients with addiction recovery will ask you this question. The road to catharsis and overcoming this irrational emotion begins with answering this question.

Deal with Emotions

It is best if the emotion is dealt with early on. Survivor’s guilt can be a particularly severe impediment during the early stages of recovery when the mind is still weak from substance abuse. A friend relapsing into abuse or succumbing to the ill effects can leave you emotionally distraught. Plus, this is an intense phase of your life where you’re already dealing with myriad emotions, and not all of them are positive. This feeling of guilt is an additional burden that you should jettison as soon as possible.


Instead of feeling guilty, focus on being grateful for being given a second chance. Gratitude is a powerful positive emotion that will help you see events around you in proper perspective. It can help strengthen your resolve to do the things that you need to each day so that you can increase the distance between you and the addiction.


Mingle with people. Compare experiences in group discussions. It will give you perspective on why you’re still around. You definitely did a few things right. Rekindle old interests and go back to your hobbies. Try to get into a healthy daily routine as soon as possible. Doing things that you enjoy will release endorphins that will lift you above morose thoughts.

You need to find meaning in life. A reason to stay alive is powerful motivation for staying away from drugs and shifting focus from the past to the present and the future. You need to let go of the past. Your therapist will tell you as much.


Survivor’s guilt is a natural part of the healing process. You will experience it. For some, the guilt may weigh heavy on them and hamper recovery. While others may find it relatively easier to cope such emotions. Whatever the case may be with you, it is important to talk about your feelings and implement the tips mentioned above so that you move ahead with the recovery.

Hired Power has the expertise to help you create a foundation for lasting recovery. We can assist you in overcoming issues such as survivor’s guilt. We’ve helped addicts reach the stage of recovery, and more importantly, live in recovery. Call us to find out how we can help you. 800-910-9299