How Shame Fuels the Cycle of Addiction

We’re all familiar with experiencing shame and how it can be an isolating emotion. Shame often leads to feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt which can greatly affect those who are in addiction recovery. While most of us deal with shame and move forward from it, some people aren’t able to escape it. The feelings remain constant and create a deeper void in the person’s existence.

To fully understand how shame fuels drug and alcohol addiction, we must learn how to distinguish it from guilt. Guilt is a natural feeling that occurs after making a mistake or a poor decision. Feelings of guilt come from our moral conscience which lets us know that we’ve done something against that of our moral compass. For example, you feel guilty for being angry at your spouse because they made an honest mistake or you yelled at your kids for interrupting you at work.

    Shame is quite different from guilt in that the former creates feelings of inadequacy. With shame, you may feel that simple mistakes devalue your worth as a person. For example, if you were at the receiving end of your spouse’s anger, shame might prompt you to isolate or stay out for a while. As these feelings build up, you start to look for ways to escape and for some people, they achieve this by drinking or resorting to drugs.

While guilt can enlighten you in correcting your mistake or behavior, shame makes you feel trapped in a self-loathing vortex. Let’s discuss how shame can feed addiction and make it difficult for people to recover.

When does shame become painful?

Shame is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences. However, things are quite different when it comes to addiction as this feeling becomes almost unavoidable. It brings a profound sense of separation not just from yourself, but from other people as well. These constant feelings are what wears people down from feeling shame:

  • You feel undeserving of love.
  • You feel unimportant
  • You feel as if you’re a bad person
  • You feel like a complete failure
  • You feel like you deserve to be alone
  • You feel like you are not worth it

When a person feels shameful because of their addiction, it can turn into an internal battle that’s hard to win over. The chronic sense of inferiority and unworthiness makes the person believe they’re undeserving of love, happiness, or respect. They feel ashamed of who they are and this cultivates hopelessness, numbness, and depression.

Such an emotional state will eventually form a barrier to self-help, rendering the person incapable of being receptive to assistance. 

External stress coming from work, relationships, and finances starts to feel overwhelming. Because of this, the person may resort to using drugs or alcohol to escape from the stress. Substance abuse affects one’s self-esteem and as they delve deeper into addiction, they start to lose control of their life. With this comes hopelessness and disappointment escalate that further engraves their shameful feeling.

 As the cycle repeats, the person becomes let down by their inability to handle the pressure. They feel as if they don’t deserve help from other people because they’re afraid of disappointing their friends and family.

How to heal from shame

While shame and addiction can keep a person trapped in the cycle, that doesn’t mean that healing is impossible. It takes incredible heart and courage to acknowledge your addiction and with this self-awareness comes the opportunity for healing.

Recovering from shame requires a safe environment where you are surrounded by people who can help you move forward. In a professional addiction treatment program, you can triumph over shame by:

  • Identifying shame – The first step in healing from shame is to learn what human error is. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s important you don’t let those mistakes define you as a person. It’s okay to feel guilty for what you have done, but never allow that feeling to turn into shame, or else you will feel defeated whenever you make a single error.
  • Commit to change behavior – Self-awareness is the catalyst of addiction recovery. Once you’re able to recognize the root of your problem, you can address that with changed behaviour. There’s no point in beating yourself up over the same mistakes you made in the past. Instead of wallowing in shame, take it upon yourself to change for the better. 
  •  Redefine your self-worth – Your thoughts reflect your actions. If you think you’re unworthy of love, then you’ll end up making the wrong choices to justify that thought. But if you start to think positively of yourself, you will start to rebuild your self-esteem and become more confident in your decision-making.

Healing from shame and addiction requires an honest effort coupled with professional help. If you’re dealing with bouts of shame, do not lose hope. There is still a way for you to break free from the shackles of shame and addiction and the sooner you start your recovery, the better it’ll be for your future. If you require any further information then look no further than Bali’s leading rehab centre who can provide you will all of the necessary information.

 

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