Are you stuck in a cycle of shame when it comes to your addiction? Shame is a very powerful emotion. It occurs when an individual feels embarrassed or humiliated over something they’ve done. For example, maybe the individual may have walked out of a bathroom with toilet paper stuck on the bottom of their shoe. Instead of someone discretely informing them of the issue, they pointed and laughed. This could cause the individual to feel embarrassed and humiliated. In order to forget about the incident and other embarrassing moments, some individuals might turn to alcohol or drugs to help themselves forget about the incident and feel better. However, this can lead to addiction, and intense and frequent feelings of shame can often contribute to addiction. Let’s take a look at how shame contributes to addiction and what you can do to cope with your uncomfortable feelings and recover.
Table of Contents
- What Is Shame Versus Guilt?
- Understanding the Cycle of Shame and How It Affects Individuals
- How Shame Leads To and Fuels Addiction
- How to Break the Cycle of Shame
- Get Help from the Professionals at Live Free Recovery Services in New Hampshire
What Is Shame Versus Guilt?
Shame and guilt are often confused. This is because the feelings are similar, and individuals may feel both shame and guilt over the same incident or pattern of behavior. Shame and guilt also play a role in addiction and addiction recovery, so it’s important to understand them and their differences.
Shame is the emotion that people feel when their self-image doesn’t match their ideal image. For example, an individual may feel ashamed of one of their physical traits. Someone with substance use disorder may be ashamed that they can’t quit using their drug of choice, no matter how hard they try. Shame is less about responsibility and more about the fact that the individual feels defective when they compare their ideal self to their current self. Feelings of shame can multiply and intensify, contributing to a person’s substance use disorder.
Guilt is the emotion people feel when they are responsible for a harmful behavior or attitude. This could occur when an individual tells someone something deliberately unkind or hurtful. Guilt can also happen if an individual spills a drink on someone else’s clothing. An individual with substance use disorder may feel guilt over their behaviors and actions while they were drunk or high. Guilt can sometimes lead to an individual making changes so that they do not make the same mistakes. For example, if an individual, who drinks or takes drugs, does something deemed embarrassing, they may seek out help in order to avoid similar situations.
Understanding the Cycle of Shame and How It Affects Individuals
Feelings of shame can both lead to and fuel addiction. This is known as the cycle of shame and it has five parts.
- Feelings of Shame – Feelings of shame typically occur because the individual did something that they feel is improper, immoral or dishonorable. For an individual with substance use disorder, they may feel shame every time they use their drug of choice.
- Hiding the Shame – This involves doing things that prevent people from finding out about the shameful act. For individuals with substance use disorder, they may go to great lengths to hide their drugs, alcohol and paraphernalia.
- Isolating Yourself – This involves staying away from other people in order to prevent new shame or to hide shameful behavior. For individuals who drink or take drugs, it could mean hiding away in their bedrooms or homes when they’re not working or going to school.
- Separating Yourself – This refers to keeping a distance from other people, even when you are in public or interacting with others. It can also refer to not letting people see the real you and even disassociating from yourself because your current self and your ideal self do not match.
- Experiencing Triggers – This can be anything that causes the individual to remember their shameful feelings or anything that contributes to new feelings of shame. For individuals with substance use disorder, it can mean driving past a local club or hangout where they used to imbibe, or it can mean socializing with people who use drugs or alcohol.
- Performing an Action or Acting Out – This doesn’t usually refer to something positive, like getting help for the shameful feelings. For someone with substance abuse, it often means relapsing and continuing the cycle of shame.
How Shame Leads To and Fuels Addiction
Shame is a very powerful emotion. It can lead people to believe that they are unworthy or less than. They may also think that they are unlovable, a bad person and unimportant to other people, even their family members. Because of these feelings of worthlessness, the individual may believe that they are unworthy of happiness and a good life.
These feelings and thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies when they’re combined with self-destructive behaviors. Individuals who feel a high level of shame and do not have the appropriate healthy coping skills may engage in unhealthy and even dangerous behaviors. These can include drinking alcohol, using drugs, binge eating, taking part in risky sexual behavior and even self-harm or self-injury. The reason individuals with a lot of shame engage in these types of behaviors is to dull the pain of the shame and even to forget about the shame for a short period of time.
How to Break the Cycle of Shame
Shame can be and often is an underlying factor for addiction and mental illness. High levels of shame can lead to depression, anxiety, social phobia, OCD, mood disorders, co-dependency and PTSD. Individuals with a lot of shame may also have low self-esteem and self-worth. Individuals with mental illness are also more likely to take drugs or drink alcohol to self-medicate. The good news is that there are ways to break the cycle of shame and recover from addiction.
1. Acknowledge the Shame
Recognize the feelings of shame and admit to them. Humans have a lot of emotions, and it’s okay to recognize those emotions and to feel them. This is a lot like the act of standing in front of a recovery group, stating your name and verbalizing that you are an addict. It makes it real, and it allows you to take responsibility and own the feelings. When you own your feelings, those feelings can stop owning you.
2. Gather Information on Your Triggers
Recovering addicts and individuals who feel a lot of shame must discover their triggers. These are events or situations that make you want to use again or cause feelings of worthlessness or embarrassment. By knowing your triggers, you can begin to develop healthy coping skills. You’ll also be able to avoid some triggers.
3. Work on Changing Your Negative Thoughts and Behaviors
Start working on ways to change your negative thinking into positive thoughts and actions. You should also start working on self-compassion, self-love, accepting yourself and forgiving yourself. It’s impossible to change the past, but it is possible to learn from the past and make positive changes that will lead to a happier and drug-free future.
Get Help from the Professionals at Live Free Recovery Services in New Hampshire
Don’t be afraid to get help from professionals. Professional addiction counselors and medical professionals can help you deal with feelings of shame and substance use disorder. Live Free Recovery Services can help individuals with drug and alcohol dependency as well as mental health disorders. They offer detox and treatment for a range of drug use disorders and alcohol abuse. Their treatment programs include inpatient, outpatient, MAT, partial hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation. While you’re in treatment, you’ll also receive a range of counseling services, including cognitive and dialectal behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy and individual therapy.
If you’re ready to stop the cycle of shame and get help for your substance use disorder, call our friendly representatives today.
Published on: 2024-01-14
Updated on: 2024-01-14