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Managing shame and guilt in addiction: A pathway to recovery

If you are in recovery, you have most likely had to confront the heavy feelings of guilt and shame. These emotions will naturally emerge as you progress through therapy, exploring the behaviors you may now regret. Step Four of the guilt and shame in recovery 12-Step Program helps you come to terms with past actions that caused others harm in some way. Joining a 12-step program is another powerful tool that individuals in addiction recovery can use to promote long-term sobriety.

This may seem like a daunting and frightening step, but many people are more forgiving and understanding than you may believe. In fact, these people may become your biggest supporters that will offer their help in the future. Having a strong support system is very important in addiction treatment because it improves the chances for a smooth addiction recovery.

Focus on your recovery

Self-Compassion and Self-Care Practices are essential tools that help individuals cope with shame and guilt during addiction recovery. These practices allow individuals to embrace self-love, kindness, and care while addressing negative emotions like shame and guilt. Alcohol and drug addictions can be damaging to those an addict is around. However, apologising for your past actions is the first step that you can take towards making amends with people.

For some, the role of shame and guilt in addiction recovery can motivate greater susceptibility to professional support. However, for others, shame and guilt can be deeply ingrained emotions, linked to behaviour, linked to a lack of control, and linked to negative perceptions of oneself and their actions. This can hinder addiction recovery if enabled, if left to the backburner. Both shame and guilt can influence an addiction from the offset. They can act as the initial causation of the likes of drug and alcohol abuse. Once those emotions have been experienced, substance abuse is seen as an escape, as a way to personally cope through negative emotions.

How to Overcome Shame and Build Self-Confidence

They provide individuals with added resources and assistance that can help them overcome challenges they may face during their recovery journey. While there are many resources available online for developing a plan for relapse prevention, it’s essential to seek professional help when going through addiction recovery. The guidance of experienced healthcare professionals can be invaluable in ensuring the success of long-term sobriety. Developing a plan for relapse prevention is an essential step in addiction recovery. It involves creating a detailed plan to avoid the triggers that can lead to relapse, identifying potential risk factors and developing coping mechanisms to deal with them. While it may seem like a daunting task, developing a plan for relapse prevention can be incredibly effective at reducing the likelihood of relapse and promoting long-term sobriety.

guilt and shame in recovery

In addition, consider joining local support groups or seeking professional help from therapists or counselors if needed. In the U.S., only 10% of people struggling with some form of addiction actually get help. It may seem like you’ll always feel this way, but research shows that shame diminishes during the treatment process.

Why shame is a roadblock to recovery

The role of uncomfortable emotions in recovery typically requires seeking professional counseling. Attending recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and seeing a counselor are integral parts of the recovery process. Guilt and shame can become overwhelming and often are one of the biggest obstacles for people seeking sobriety.

guilt and shame in recovery

I had become a manipulator of my own emotions and would often do whatever it took to obtain my alcohol to satisfy my addictive thought patterns and behaviors. The next healing practice on our list is practising self-forgiveness. Although it may be easier said than done, this is a crucial step in addiction recovery. It is important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, and some of these mistakes may be bigger than others. First, you need to acknowledge and recognise these past mistakes. This recognition can include apologising to those that you may have harmed from the past, going through various types of therapy, and attending support group meetings.

Forgiveness is the key!

Seeing your shame for what it is will help you understand the severity of your actions. It’s likely that you’ll feel shameful for a human error, for a behaviour which has been controlled by an addictive stimulus, rather than yourself. To break away from shame, you must see your experience with drugs, alcohol or addiction as an illness, rather than a choice. Seeing shame and guilt as counterproductive emotions will progress your healing.

  • Most days I am extremely grateful for the direction in which my life has led as I have been able to work with those individuals who still suffer from addiction.
  • In addiction recovery, accessing additional forms of professional and peer support is crucial for long-term success.
  • Forgiving the people in your life that have wronged you helps you heal.
  • Guilt is ok when it is warranted for the right reasons but when it consumes you and your emotions, it can get in the way of your healing & recovery process.
  • Throughout the time in which I have been in recovery, I have learned that I had to face these feelings head-on.
  • It may seem like you’ll always feel this way, but research shows that shame diminishes during the treatment process.

This sense of belongingness makes it easier for individuals to come out of their shells and break out of the cycle of self-blame and guilt that often accompanies addiction. I touch on this in my TEDx talk on shame and mental health labels. I’m easily frustrated and bored, and I hate sitting still. It can maintain addictive behaviors, but shame also gets in the way of recovery, self-acceptance, and accessing help.

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