Recovering from addiction is never easy. It’s an ongoing process that requires a level of introspection that can stir up uncomfortable emotions. One of the most powerful emotions those recovering from addiction may suffer from is that of shame.
Addiction & The Source of Shame
Several things can cause feelings of shame. Perhaps you’re feeling shameful about things done while grappling with addiction. Or maybe the shame you’re feeling stems from the events that led to your addiction in the first place.
Whatever the cause, overcoming shame is necessary to ensure a successful and sustained recovery. Fortunately, there are a few things that can be done to alleviate feelings of shame and encourage healing.
Understand the Difference Between Shame and Guilt
The first step of overcoming shame in recovery is understanding the difference between shame and guilt.
Guilt is when someone feels remorse for something they’ve done in the past. In contrast, shame cuts more in-depth and is when a person feels as if they’re an inherently bad person.
Some of the telltale signs of shame include:
- Ruminating over past transgressions
- Negative Self-Talk
It’s essential to recognize the difference between these two emotions as they can have different impacts on the recovery process.
Guilt is sometimes a good thing to feel, as it can make us consider how our actions have impacted others. With shame, its effects on the recovery process can be counterproductive. For example, if someone feels shameful, they may be less likely to reach out for help. Shame can also lead to uncomfortable feelings that may result in a relapse.
Once you’ve confirmed that what you’re feeling is shame and not guilt, the next step is to start looking deeper into the cause of these feelings—this doesn’t have to happen alone.
Find a Safe Space
One of the most damaging aspects of shame is that it can make us feel like we have to keep our most troubling worries a secret. In reality, the less we talk about shame, the more likely it is to fester. A powerful tool that can help combat this desire for secrecy is empathy.
If you’re suffering from shame, try finding a safe space where you can openly work through your feelings. A safe space can be several things, such as a place for sober living, a therapist, a support group, or even a family member.
Talking about shame within the context of a safe space allows our thoughts to be viewed from another person’s fresh perspective. In time, pushing feelings of shame into the open can help weaken its hold.
Learn to Forgive Yourself
Self-forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools on the road to recovery. While it’s difficult to internalize, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has regrettable things they’ve done.
A few things you can do if you struggle with self-forgiveness:
- Reach out to those you might’ve hurt and ask to make amends.
- View your past transgressions as learning opportunities as opposed to unforgivable errors.
- Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and that mistakes are an inevitable part of the process.
If you still find yourself struggling with self-forgiveness after actively trying, consider reaching out to a therapist or a sober living facility. A trained professional can help you become equipped with the tools needed for self-forgiveness and acceptance.
Need More Information on Overcoming Shame in Recovery?
Working through feelings of shame is a complicated process, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Our team is highly trained at Stairway Sober Living to help recovering addicts work through their pain and move past it.
Please contact us to learn more about how we can help build a shame-free foundation for your recovery.