Acknowledging and Releasing Guilt and Shame in Addiction Recovery

September 13, 2019

It is not easy to ask for help. Unfortunately, the stigma is that asking for help shows a sign of weakness when really it is an indication that you have great strength—enough to know there is a problem and that you need to work on a solution.

Seeking help for drug addiction can be even more difficult because you must acknowledge that you made some bad choices. These bad choices can lead to guilt and shame both during and after recovery. While guilt and shame in addiction recovery are normal, you must not let them overwhelm you and become destructive.

Exist in the Present

One of the most difficult lessons you may have to learn and relearn as you are seeking help for drug addiction is to let go of the past and not worry incessantly about the future. Identify what you can and cannot control, and let the uncontrollable lay to rest.

Do not stress about and continue to shame yourself over mistakes you have made. They are in the past and you cannot change them, but you can make every effort to make amends. Apologize to those you have hurt through your addiction. Focus on what you can do, work at it, and then move on. Today’s choices are what matter most, the past is the past and should be left there.

Forgive Yourself

No one is perfect. No one. So, cut yourself some slack. Things happen, mistakes are made, and only those who never try are truly lost. As you are progressing through recovery and asking others for forgiveness and understanding, have that same conversation with yourself. Learn to love yourself again and you will be more open to loving others.

Overcoming Guilt and Shame in Recovery

In order to deal with the guilt and shame that often accompany a recovery journey, it is important to understand what those two terms actually mean. “Guilt” is how you feel about an action you completed, intentional or unintentional. “Shame” is how you feel about yourself when that guilt becomes internalized and you begin to feel like a horrible person.

Guilt and shame are not motivators and can be counterproductive, but they are not all bad. The fact that you feel guilt or shame means that you care. Just do not let your feelings of guilt or shame sabotage your recovery.

Acceptance and forgiveness, combined with positivity, can culminate a successful recovery and sobriety. Acknowledge your courage! It takes an incredibly strong person to fight the daily battles of recovery.

Other things to keep in mind to help deal with guilt and shame in recovery include:

  • Being honest with yourself and others
  • Communicating openly
  • Identifying your triggers
  • Purging toxic relationships
  • Finding others who can empathize and support
  • Using daily inspirational quotes to help you stay on track

Does Guilt + Shame = Relapse?

Evidence indicates that 90% of alcoholics are likely to relapse within the first 4 years of recovery. Allowing your guilt and shame to control your life can play a huge role in your decision to use again in order to numb and hide those negative feelings.

Communication is Key

Brené Brown has spent the past 2 decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, and she captured the essence of shame perfectly when she stated, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.”

It is tempting to keep our addiction and our recovery attempt(s) to ourselves. If no one knows, then we can put off truly accepting that there is a problem, and we can avoid letting people down . . . again.

The guilt you can deal with on your own, especially if you acknowledge and rectify the situation immediately. However, shame you cannot work out by yourself. You already have a self-loathing feeling that is damaging and debilitating you directly. The best way to remedy shame is to talk to a mental health professional. They can help you better understand what you feel and teach you ways to cope.

Steps Recovery Centers Can Help

If you are ready to start down the path to recovery, or are already down that road but need some extra guidance and support because you don’t want to turn back, please contact us today! We are also available to speak to and assist concerned loved ones of someone struggling with substance abuse. Making the call to Steps Recovery is taking steps in the right direction.

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