I’m Sorry or I’m Sorry I Got Caught

sorryWe speak these words often as addicts. They seem to fly out of our mouth upon exhale—regularly—even after we have gotten sober.

I remember believing if I said sorry I was absolved of my behavior, my responsibility. If I blacked-out it wasn’t my fault, it was the alcohol’s fault. It did it to me. Not the other way around.

As we sober up, we release from the substance, but somehow the “I’m sorry” continues. Releasing self of the obsession to drink is but the crawling stage of recovery.

Evolution of Growth in Sobriety












Get sober

Stay sober


Extraordinary Living

Changing how we think and therefore function is the walking, running, and soaring of life. We have to get BEYOND our default mode of sitting before any lasting change can take root. Most revert back to sitting mode because the latter stages don’t come soon enough, quick enough, fast enough … now!

What does any of this have to do with sobriety? Everything.

When we define the word sorry we begin the process of freeing self. We can inquire and understand the noise, confusion, anxiety, and fears that have crept into our head—lingering. These thoughts, albeit our own creation, are not there to help us soar. Their sole purpose is to keep life the same. Change is threatening = sobriety is threatening. Change is not on the subconscious radar.

So what does sorry mean? How do we know we are sorry?

“We know we are sorry because, if we could do it again—differently—we would. Being sorry means we wished it hadn’t happened. If we don’t care that it happened, we aren’t sorry. The implication is that if the situation arose again, we would make a different choice. The question is, how many times have we said we were sorry only to repeat the behavior? This is more like we wish we were sorry, but we’re not. We want what we want without consequences. We want what we want without getting caught.

When we recognize that we wished we had done it differently the next time the situation arises we will have that momentary conscious thought that we can choose again. Even though our subconscious is screaming for us to do it the old/programmed way, we have a moment, one tiny moment, to make a choice we will not be sorry for later.

(And for the record this moment will be fleeting.)

We no longer live from a place of I’m sorry. We exercise our freedom to discipline our mind to learn to think differently. We learn to respond rather than react.

Does all this mean we are journeying through life never having to say we are sorry? Nope.

It means we are gaining control over our behavior. It means we are thoughtful of the words we speak and the action we take. It means we think the action through. We see from experience the natural consequences or rewards of our behavior.

Yes, we say sorry in sobriety, just not for the same action that we repeat over, and over, and over.

We say sorry with the intention and desire to not repeat the act again. We say we are sorry because we want to love those who love us. We show people we love them by not repeatedly harming them. We show self we love self by not repeatedly harming self.

I’m sorry is a tool to move the relationship forward. When we say the words, mean them.

If we mean them we will choose different the next time. And there will be a next time.

That’s how we evolve.


Excerpt quote, page 91, Sober Identity: Tools for Reprogramming the Addictive Mind 

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No Responses to “I’m Sorry or I’m Sorry I Got Caught

  • Good stuff Lisa!
    That’s along the same line as “action, not words.” Don’t just say you are sorry, show you are sorry. And the best way to show that is by, as you wrote, not repeating the same behavior or action.
    Love the sitting to soaring analogy too–so hard for us to break that initial inertia, but once we’re going, we have the force of momentum behind us making everything easier.
    Thanks for this! xoxo

    • Yes, the momentum! It’s challenging to explain to someone the momentum that’s created on our behalf. Our job is to get moving. xox

  • As usual, stunning stuff. I’ve said this before and I will say it again – you have the innate ability to distill very powerful and deep parts of the human condition, filtered through addiction and recovery, and lay it out in a way that is accessible, approachable and attractive. I certainly learn from you not only here but out there through your comments and replies to other blogs. Wonderful stuff.

    What I really enjoyed about this was the distinction between responding and reacting. That is a simple sentence, but complex in the thoughts behind it. My life was based simply on reacting – most of the time I did not think through things, fueled by an impaired mind with impaired emotions, and said and did things that were counter-productive in so many ways. I didn’t have the tools, nor the *want* to respond in a manner that required it. Even in sobriety, there are times I react – boom! bang! done! and then the other half of my brain arrives.

    But it’s in the sorry – that really hit home. Like any alcoholic, my life was a collection of sorry’s, one less authentic than the last. And you’re bang on – I *wished* I was sorry. But I didn’t have the capacity or the access to my emotions to make that “sorry” meaningful. Where I really learned to change my behaviour was through the step work. In making amends, I not only make amends to those who I need to make amends to, but I amend how I act from that point forth. So if my amend is for theft, I just make damn sure I am not stealing again…or it’s just a “sorry” and not a proper amend. Big difference. Do I fail sometimes? Of course I do, I am human. I am a man in recovery and I am still grasping at certain things. It’s a process. One day, I will soar. But it’s a thing of wonder to watch it in other recovering people. Such a wonderful thing.

    And I thank you for this awesome post, Lisa.


    • I still have “bing, bang, boom” moments as I say. It’s strange because when I got sober I felt this would stop. I was seriously under the impression that other people (non-addicts) did not experience this. It floored me to realize that people do, in fact, experience a moment to ponder or a moment of total response, but either way, they don’t drink over it.
      Shocking, truly shocking.

      It challenges me to write on sobriety because I don’t want to evade the reality of it. Nor do I want to make it not seem worth the journey. I think what screws so many of us up is that we think it should be perfect, life should be perfect, there should never need to be a time to say “I’m sorry” … yet there is. It’s the default mode of being human. Heather Kopp just wrote a beautiful piece on this.

      I can’t remember a day of soaring, but I remember many moments of it. I’m content with a walk or a run now of days. LOL

      As for your kind words, I feel I write via recycled-filtered-ideas. Nothing original, as much as it is my interpretation of how I do it.
      Angels all over your day today Paul.
      Thank you for always a generous comment. Lisa

  • recoverysi
    11 years ago

    I remember having one of those tough “Ninth Step” conversations. This was with a person I very much wanted to repair a badly damaged relationship with; I really needed to feel like I was ‘back on track’ with them.

    The conversation seemed to be going well, she was listening actively, and acknowledged that I understood what I’d done that had been so damaging. And that my regret was sincere. So I went on to the next thing, which is of course, “What can I do to make amends for this?”

    And the response was “Don’t do it to anyone else. Now or ever. If you’re never going to do this again, we’re good.”

    Of course I promised. But I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and in fact, I broke it, more than once. It took me quite awhile to learn to pay attention to that little moment you describe so eloquently: The momentary conscious thought that I could choose again. And choose differently.

    If we get “stuck” in the sorry, piling on the regret and self-disgust and generally unproductive negative thought patterns, we will indeed stay on our hands and knees, crawling along. Not a bad place to be compared to sitting tied to that chair of our addiction, but who wants to stay there when we can stand up and move, run, soar, as you put it so beautifully?

    “Sorry” is a tool. Learning to use it positively is a great recovery lesson.

    Thanks, Lisa!


    • Cecile,
      Wow, “of course I promised” love this, I get this. And we do it so smoothly don’t we. We really and truly believe these words when we speak them. The best gift I ever gave myself was that moment to think (aka invite in God). I remember often God’s words for me in early sobriety, “Lisa the answer is in the silence, be quiet.” I wasn’t too please with that at the time (still not at moments) but I have learned (even a little bit) to choose again.

      I remember feeling bad about feeling bad. For so many years I just bogged myself down with “regret and self-disgust …” as you said. It is nice to be free of this. It is still, at times, my first thought, but I don’t let it linger for long, if at all.

      I love getting to know you. Thank you for the very personal share on this post. And thanks also for the Twitter shares.

      xox Lisa

  • This is some seriously uncomfortable material for me to ingest… which means it’s powerful stuff. I was the type who uttered the phrase “I’m sorry” about every other sentence, and, at the time, I genuinely thought I meant it. I knew I said sorry too much, but didn’t think too much further beyond that fact. Now, having read this post, and considering using “I’m sorry” in its authentic capacity… in other words, saying it and meaning I intend not to repeat the behavior… well, let’s just say I probably still misuse the word quite a bit. So, thank you Lisa, for the thought-provoking post, and for the introspection!

    PS… still waiting by the mailbox 🙂 Just kidding, but, really, the anticipation is building!

    • Ohhh see, now I want to say “I’m sorry” because I know I stirred you up inside. But truly I’m not sorry. This is the stuff that pushed me to grow. It was a love/hate thing for me. I craved the introspection and then when I felt it I wanted to run. I know you love it deep down inside or you wouldn’t keep following. LOL Please, please, please remember these are ideals to work toward. I am far from never saying I’m sorry again. My intention in writing is to push people to see more, see deeper than before. If we always stay comfortable we don’t grow and in some cases we miss out on those dreams, those big dreams we let slide by because we sere too scared to look deeper.

      ps … It should be there. I will check with my company SendOutCards.com and see what is happening.

  • Interesting stuff here, Lisa. Maybe the reason we kept doing the same sorry things over and over again is because we didn’t trust or even know sobriety would make it easier to do the right thing. That leap feels so hard to make, only to find out everything else falls into place. Great, great post.

    • I think you nailed it … TRUST. In my opinion, our ability to trust is either, 1) not yet developed, or 2) shattered. I could write a book on this topic alone. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. AND thank you for being a supporter of SI. Many come and read, but never have the courage to comment. It really helps when everyone shares. Your blog is one of my favorites and one of the first I started following. xox

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