The addiction treatment community is constantly learning more about how shame fuels addiction; the more we learn, the more we can help people move forward in recovery.
Guilt, embarrassment, depression, hopelessness – these feelings are cornerstones of the toxic ways in which people with addictions think about themselves. They often stem from childhood experiences, though they can be reinforced throughout one’s formative years and well into adulthood.
When someone feels deep shame, they carry a burden. To ease that burden, they might turn to drugs and alcohol. These substances then become an entirely new source of shame. When people rely on drugs or alcohol to mask their suffering, they fail to address the roots of their problem, and they strengthen the grip that shame has on their lives.
This toxic cycle is part of so many people’s substance use disorders, and overcoming it is one of the chief aims of addiction treatment. Let’s look at how shame fuels addiction and why letting these feelings go is so important.
How Shame Fuels Addiction
Shame is complex. Its roots might stem from childhood experiences, societal pressures or any number of other factors. Shame is closely linked to many other feelings – loneliness, guilt, depression, inadequacy. Many people that live with toxic shame aren’t fully aware of why they feel the way they do; they simply know that these chronic feelings are impacting every facet of their lives.
Shame is so pervasive in the lives of those who experience it that sufferers often do whatever is necessary to escape it. For many, that means turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the effects of shame. As any person living with an addiction will tell you, this is not a solution to the problem. Substance use becomes one more source of shame, and it renders someone incapable of addressing the roots of their problem.
Addiction Causes More Shame
Addiction experts agree that substance use disorders are diseases, but the antiquated idea that addiction is a moral failing still looms large in many people’s minds. For people who are geared to look for reasons to shame themselves, they find yet another ally in addiction. This is just the beginning of how shame fuels addiction. The things people do when under the influence of drugs and alcohol also feed feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment.
People with addictions often hide their substance use, and this deception increases the shame they feel. In some cases, an alcoholic might wonder what they did when they blacked out and feel embarrassed over things they say or the way they act toward others. The grip of drug addiction causes people to do things they aren’t proud of – stealing from loved ones, lying to everyone around them and isolating themselves from others. All these things make shame an even greater presence in the life of someone who is already prone to intense feelings of self-loathing.
Shame Prevents People from Getting Help
When someone feels embarrassed by their disorder, they typically avoid seeking help. Admitting that you have a problem takes courage, and it is difficult for people who are constantly trying to outpace feelings of anger they have toward themselves. Breaking this barrier through self-forgiveness is the only way to move forward.
It is essential that a person struggling with addiction reframe the way they see their condition. It’s equally important for loved ones of someone with a substance use disorder to rethink how they feel and communicate their feelings about addiction. Understanding addiction as a disease rids people of toxic ideas that create unnecessary obstacles to recovery.
Let Go of Shame and Find a New Path
Forgiving yourself is one of the first lessons someone with an addiction learns in the recovery process. Letting go of the burden of shame is fundamental to living a substance-free life. Like recovery itself, it is a process, and it takes time. But it is also one of the greatest rewards of the journey.
Ridding yourself of these unnecessary feelings gives you the tools to move forward. It also makes you more compassionate and understanding of the challenges facing others. On the other side of shame and addiction is an engaged life, one where you are free to connect with others and be present in the moment without judging yourself.
Contact Makana Path to Take that First Step
Feelings of regret or embarrassment should only serve one purpose – to take that first step toward recovery. We’ve discussed how shame fuels addiction, but it’s equally important to understand how better your life will be once you let it go. Forgiving yourself for your mistakes is part of the process. First, you need to accept that you need help and begin your journey.
There is a better life waiting for those who want it. At Makana Path, we understand that everyone’s journey is different, and we customize treatment to address each of our client’s needs. To learn more about how we can help you, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-905-4550.