If you struggle with addiction and are embarrassed to admit it, you are experiencing an incredibly common stage of recovery. Many people who have struggled with overcoming addiction often explain the embarrassment and shame that they felt about it, whether they had just begun their journey to sobriety or had experienced a relapse in the process. When you are considering getting help, it is common for pride to get in the way of progress. The stigma that accompanies addiction makes it even more difficult to ask for help and often plays a large role in whether or not people take those first steps towards sobriety. Accepting that you need help is one of the most important steps in overcoming your addiction.
The Link Between Addiction and Shame
While we all feel shame at some point in our lives, constant shame can keep us from accepting responsibility for our actions. Shame is a factor that can play a role in one’s life from a very young age. Children may grow up in a home environment that emphasizes shame and wrongdoing, which can be detrimental to personal development, especially when it comes to accepting mistakes. Environments that condone belittling, constant criticism, and even neglect can enhance feelings of guilt and shame that lead to embarrassment. Shame can cause a person to feel as if their entire being is unworthy of connection, love, and belonging.
Whenever shameful feelings begin, those feelings of unworthiness will carry far into adulthood if they are not resolved. Such feelings may lead to mental illnesses like depression or substance use issues as a form of self-medication. Shame could be the very cause of your addiction. Breaking the cycle of shame and addiction is essential for your well-being and healing.
How Do I Release the Shame of My Addiction?
It may help to recognize that feelings of shame are common and that everyone has experiences where they wish they had acted or said something differently. If you believe you are truly a bad person or are unworthy of love, you may benefit from professional treatment. Negative thought patterns can directly contribute to an inability to overcome addiction and can affect your entire being. You must recognize that negative self-talk limits your ability to recover.
To release the shame of your addiction, you must work through the causes of your shame. You might identify that your shame developed from family history or trauma, through societal expectations, or through personal experience. Once you are able to establish the cause of your shame, you will be better prepared to work through your addiction.
How to Overcome Shame
Here, we offer three suggestions that you can work to overcome shame. By recognizing what is limiting you from getting help for your addiction, you will be better able to fix problem behaviors and seek guidance.
#1. Learn to forgive yourself. Forgiveness is an important part of personal growth. Each of us experiences many opportunities to forgive others when they make mistakes or do us wrong. An important exercise you can try with yourself is to talk with yourself like you would talk to a close friend or family member. If you have the courage and willingness to forgive someone close to you, shouldn’t you deserve the same respect and compassion for yourself? You do not have to make excuses for your actions. Instead, you have to be responsible for any pain and suffering you may have caused yourself or others, learn from it, and move beyond it. Learning to forgive yourself can help you reduce feelings of shame when you make mistakes in the future, as well as reduce feelings of shame for your addiction.
#2. Recognize your unhealthy thought patterns. Our brains are incredibly complex systems that function in recognizable patterns. Negative self-talk is often experienced when one attempts to overcome their addiction but does not contribute to success in recovery. When you are going about your day, try to recognize the thoughts and feelings that surface. If you become uncomfortable or distressed about a situation you are experiencing, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?” Try to learn to accept your actions for what they are and forgive yourself for not knowing better in the moment. Transform your negative thoughts into more positive ones. Making mistakes is a part of being human, and recognizing them is a key to overcoming them.
#3. Seek treatment when you are ready. Success with recovery is not weighed out by how quickly you seek out help. Long-term success is much more likely to be achieved when you are finally ready to change your behavior and be better for yourself. There are many different options for addiction recovery treatment, so it is important to consider your options before kickstarting your recovery. Many treatment centers have a variety of inpatient, residential, outpatient, or support group programs. Just know that you are not alone, and you should not feel ashamed of your addiction. It is more common than you will ever know.
If you feel embarrassed about your addiction and about asking for help, you are beginning the initial stages of recovery. Shame and embarrassment create hesitation for receiving help and overcoming addiction. If you feel shame, you must first address the underlying causes of your shame. You have to learn how to forgive yourself, recognize unhealthy thought patterns, and seek treatment only when you are ready. Once you overcome your feelings of shame, you will be able to accept responsibility for your addiction and pave your path to getting help. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we specialize in mental health and addiction recovery treatment. We understand that your journey to sobriety can be challenging. We work with addicts to overcome feelings of shame and guilt, supplying you with useful tools and resources that will help you achieve long-lasting sobriety. For more information about the treatment options and programs we offer, give us a call at (760) 492-6509.