Remoteness from God is, of course, not a matter of physical distance but a spiritual problem of relationship.
The person who is not going along the right path is not further away from God but is, rather, a man whose soul is oriented toward, and relating with, other objects.
The starting point of repentance is precisely this fulcrum point upon which a person turns himself about, away from the pursuit of what he craves, and confronts his desire to approach God.
This is the moment of conversion, the crucial moment of repentance.
It should be noted that generally this does not occur at a moment of great self-awareness.
Although a person may be acutely conscious of the moment of repentance, the knowledge can come later.
It is in fact rare for repentance to take the form of a sudden, dramatic conversion, and it generally takes the form of a series of small turnings.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From an essay, "Repentance," by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz