Shame and Addiction: Breaking the Cycle

shame and addiction

Shame, guilt and hopelessness can be heavy burdens to bear. These poisonous emotions affect your relationship with the world and color every interaction with others. Even when you feel good about yourself, there could still be a tiny voice in the back of your mind saying, “You don’t deserve this.”

To ease your pain, you might turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. However, substance use can eventually become an entirely new source of guilt. Breaking the cycle of shame and addiction should be one of your chief goals in substance misuse treatment.

Understanding the Link Between Shame and Addiction

Shame may result from many other complex feelings, such as loneliness or depression. These might compound on top of each other until they affect every facet of your life. On some level, you know not everyone feels this way, but you might struggle to let go of the emotional baggage that holds you back.

The stigma surrounding substance abuse often causes people to hide their behavior, thus intensifying guilt and self-blame. A lack of inhibition due to intoxication might cause you to behave in ways you’d never dream of doing when you’re sober. Lying, stealing and self-isolation can make shame an even more prominent presence in the life of a drug or alcohol abuser who is already vulnerable to intense feelings of self-loathing.

How to Forgive Yourself and Move Forward

Self-forgiveness is an essential component of substance abuse recovery, but if you’ve struggled with shame and addiction for years, this aspect may be a significant challenge for you.

The first step to escaping the shame spiral is to take affirming actions. For example, make a list of all the ways you remember harming yourself or others. Next to each item, note at least one takeaway or lesson it has taught you.

Then, do at least one thing each day that boosts your self-esteem or helps you achieve specific goals. Post uplifting reminders where you’ll see them each day. Remember, confidence is the opposite of shame. Doing activities that help you turn negativity into positivity will make you look forward to the future, instead of trying to stifle your potential with substance abuse.

Moving From Shame to Love and Acceptance

Most of us have a harsh inner critic who can be hard to overcome, so you can’t expect to break the cycle of shame and addiction overnight. Remember, there’s a reason addiction recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous place such a tremendous emphasis on accountability, personal growth and owning your mistakes.

Ample research indicates that addiction is a disease, not a lack of moral fiber. At New Found Life, we give you the tools to manage your illness and its symptoms for the long term, including 12-step immersion. To experience accredited substance abuse treatment in Long Beach, California, request help today. We have led adults to discover greater purpose, meaning and determination since 1993, and we are here for you when you’re ready to accept that you need expert guidance and support on your recovery journey.