It requires time and patience, but it’s ultimately empowering. By choosing forgiveness over resentment, you can regain control over your emotions rather than allowing other people’s behavior to dictate how you feel about yourself. Recognizing guilt and shame for what they are — normal reactions to past behaviors — is an important step towards self-forgiveness. This distinction is vital to overcoming shame and guilt during recovery from addiction. These emotions can influence how individuals perceive themselves throughout their journey toward sobriety.
This network can include family members who provide emotional support, as well as professional groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous that offer understanding companionship. Given the intricate nature of addiction recovery, dealing with shame, guilt, and similar emotions like sadness and regret can be a major part of the process. These feelings are not just side effects; they often become central to the struggle. In the realm of substance abuse and addiction recovery, it is crucial to distinguish between shame and guilt. Although these two terms are commonly blended together, they are distinctive psychological states.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Approach
These feelings are common among people who use drugs or alcohol and while they can influence addiction, you can also harness them to break the addiction cycle and improve your quality of life. It is extremely common to experience guilt and shame in addiction recovery. Some people begin to abuse alcohol or other substances https://ecosoberhouse.com/article/how-to-overcome-shame-and-guilt-in-recovery/ as a means of suppressing negative emotions such as guilt, shame, fear, and frustration. They use substances to attain a level of emotional numbness that they believe will protect them from these feelings. People who battle with addiction or have family members who struggle have witnessed how much it hurts.
Learning self-forgiveness is essential to recovery. Because guilt and shame play such a large role in addiction, it is vital to address it at the onset of treatment. Once you’ve learned to recognize guilt and shame without identifying as your mistakes, you’ll begin to start socializing in a more socially hygienic way.
Overcoming Shame and Guilt
It can sneak its way into your world, grab a hold of things so tight, making you feel drained and burnt out emotionally. Guilt is just another layer on top of a struggle that is big enough on its own. Shame tells us about all the negative ways we have impacted others.
To the addicted person, meeting that need is more important than eating,
sleeping or any other basic need. Jennifer Gerlach, LCSW, is a psychotherapist based in Southern Illinois who specializes in psychosis, mood disorders, and young adult mental health. Whereas guilt holds to one action being wrong, shame says there is something wrong with you.
How To Fight Shame In Recovery
Don’t let shame get in the way of your recovery. It may seem like you’ll always feel this way, but research shows that shame diminishes during the treatment process. It means you will feel a hell of a lot better once you take that first step in accessing help. It evolves throughout our lives—a cumulation of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. With these experiences, we are labeled, stereotyped and stigmatized.
Both shame and guilt can influence an addiction from the offset. They can act as the initial causation of the likes of drug and alcohol abuse. Once those emotions have been experienced, substance abuse is seen as an escape, as a way to personally cope through negative emotions. Yet, this is where the danger of an addiction starts, to cope on an ongoing basis through previous behaviours. When we ignore our feelings of guilt and continue to do what
we believe is wrong, we feel shame. Shame is when we internalize guilt and
begin to believe we are a bad person because we did something wrong and ignored
our feelings of guilt.
How to Deal With Guilt and Shame in Recovery
It doesn’t remind us of the many times we have brightened others’ days or contributed to the community. Shame leads to an overwhelming sense of “badness.” It gives a message that your very essence is somehow flawed and should be hidden away. We hear a lot about the importance of forgiving those who have harmed us, but what about forgiving ourselves? The fear of rejection or abandonment can exacerbate a person’s sense of shame.
Dwelling on your mistakes does no one any good, including the person you harmed. When a person realizes that other people have been through the same thing they have, this can ease their level of shame. Part of embracing self-worth is self-care and it’s critical we all take care of ourselves so we can be of value to others too.
Bringing Real Change
Unfortunately, becoming a parent creates all three of these circumstances for someone who was abused in childhood. First-time parenthood, in particular, is stressful and almost always triggers memories of our own childhood traumas. They wouldn’t be ashamed of having diabetes or having heart problems, and they shouldn’t be ashamed of developing a substance use disorder. Many people may have been in situations where they were required to endure pain, demonstrate self-reliance, or prioritize others over themselves.
More recently, in fact, the guy that’s done the research is in India, it’s Steven porges. I’ll tell you because I’ve done clinical work for over 40 years now. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a client come in and say ever in 40 years say, Bob, I’m here to work with you on shame. But I knew that for me, in recovery, that mindfulness would be one of the resources I really wanted to explore. So I did my due diligence and found a group that focused on mindfulness approaches to addiction, and it was called refuge recovery. It’s actually more aligned probably with a Buddhist approach to recovery.
Forgiving the people in your life that have wronged you helps you heal. Perhaps you need to make amends for things you’ve done wrong to them as well; and, if so, making amends can be a freeing experience. If you can’t make direct amends or forgive them in person, write about it or journal your feelings of forgiveness. Shame and substance abuse aren’t a good mix, though they commonly occur especially in early recovery. When someone feels shame, they may look for a way out to escape the feeling and go to something that masks the feelings to get away from the world for a while.