When I was in my 20s, I was so proud to say I had no regrets. Looking now at 41, I find that I'm weighed down with regrets. I've lived a horrible life and while I've certainly made much progress since starting out on this path, I have a loooooong way to go. I've read a bit about confession and repentance as it applies to Buddhism online, but I would like my community to weigh in here. What role does this play in Buddhism? What does this look like? To whom do I confess? If confessing something I have done to a person who does not know I did them wrong would cause more pain, do I still confess to them? What about people whom I've hurt but cannot contact for one reason or another?
On repentance, I know it means basically to change one's mind about an act or thought and to turn away from such deeds. Some acts that I commit that go strictly against Buddhist tennets are deeply ingrained habits that I want to change but am having trouble (smoking cigarettes for instance). How does one repent of such things? How do I stop? Not just the smoking, but one certain other thing that I will not mention here?
I want so desperately to change my life and make up for the things I ha e done, as far as I'm able to. Any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.