Shame is a common feeling for those in recovery for a variety of reasons, but it can be dangerous: When they’re struggling with addiction, some people use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and “escape” negative feelings and emotions. When shame is prevalent in recovery, it can lead them to start using again and erase the progress they made in rehab.
In this piece, we’ll discuss the main causes of shame in recovery and how to deal with it in a way that reduces the risk of relapse.
What Is Shame Caused By in Recovery?
There are many reasons why shame can arise in recovery. Here are two of the most common:
Feeling Embarrassed by Past Actions
Most people with addiction in their past have done things they’re not proud of. Maybe they stole money from a family member to support their habits, or maybe they made poor decisions while under the influence that they are ashamed about. Often, in recovery, people have to rebuild relationships damaged by these actions. This is a common experience, but one that can cause shame nonetheless.
Internalized Addiction Stigma
Despite the fact that 21 million Americans are actively struggling with addiction, it’s still looked at as a moral failing in large parts of society. This stigma and the shame that results from it can be a major reason why people don’t reach out for help even when they know they need it. But it’s more than just a barrier to treatment — it’s something that harms people in rehab and recovery as well.
Successfully completing treatment is extremely challenging. Addiction is pervasive disease and it’s difficult to treat effectively. When a person does the work needed to have an opportunity, they have a reason to feel pride, but they exit treatment to a world where people think they’re “lesser” because of their past. This can easily be internalized to the point where the person in recovery believes that they’re morally bad. This can be the source of shame for many people in recovery, even if it’s a warped point of view.
How to Deal with Shame
Letting go of shame and forgiving yourself for past actions can be difficult, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind as you continue to work towards your lasting sobriety and a future free of drugs and alcohol:
Your Past Actions Are Not Who You Are
A relapse prevention skill that many rehab programs focus on is forgiveness. A common lesson in group and individual therapies is the theme of making peace with your past. People are taught to focus on the understanding that the things they’ve done in the past are impossible to undo, but they can be left in the past and they do not define you.
Addiction Is Not a Moral Failing
Society is slowly becoming more understanding about the true sources of addiction, but there are still groups of people who will judge you for your past. But it’s important to remember: the scientific community, doctors, and addiction treatment specialists agree that addiction is a disease that cannot be cured.
For many, it takes takes time in counseling to let go of shame and remove the risk of trying to hide behind drugs and alcohol. For help with your recovery journey, contact Hickory Treatment Centers today.