How to Break Free from Feelings of Shame

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Do you feel guilt or shame when you’ve done something wrong? While we all feel these emotions from time to time, it’s not a good experience. Many people lose their self respect and isolate themselves from others. Sadly, addiction and shame go hand in hand. There is a stigma to using drugs and alcohol, so when a person abuses these substances, they tend to isolate themselves and engage in secretive behavior. This shame makes people feel bad, so they use drugs and alcohol to escape the feelings. And, the cycle continues.

Breaking Away from the Shame-Addiction Cycle

Recovery is a lifelong pursuit. You won’t overcome everything in a few weeks or months. As time goes on, you’ll continue learning about yourself and the reasons that led you to substance abuse. Part of your journey will be understanding where the shame comes from and how to break free of it. Here is what we recommend to our clients.

Acknowledge the shame

People think that by silencing shame, it will go away. But, this only makes it worse. To get through shame, you must acknowledge it and share your experiences with trusted people, such as your drug addiction counselor, your sponsor or trusted friends and family. When you see that you are still loved and accepted, you can develop new coping strategies to deal with shameful feelings.

Sort through your feelings

When you hear a voice in your head that says things like, “You should be ashamed,” you need to untangle why you feel the way you do. It’s likely that you are being hard on yourself and telling yourself that you are bad, when really, you just did something that was bad. In this case, you might feel guilt but don’t need to feel shame. By acknowledging what happened and making amends, you can move forward.

Connect with others

Connecting with other people in similar situations is powerful in recovery. It’s important that you know that you are not alone and that other people struggle with similar experiences. By getting your feelings off your chest and listening to others, you can develop a support system that will help you heal from past shame. Additionally, connecting with others brings new opportunities where you get to practice empathy. This might develop through your support groups or 12-step meetings, or it might come from volunteering your time to support your community. When you have accepted your journey in life, you can offer compassion to others and support their stories.

Recognize your triggers

Shame is a sneaky emotion, and it tends to hit when we are most vulnerable. To protect yourself, it’s important to know your shame triggers. Maybe you feel ashamed when you are around certain people or put in certain positions. You might be able to remove some triggers from your life but not all. Working with a counselor and attending your support groups can help identify these triggers so that you know how to respond. Shame is something that we all experience, but it can be particularly consuming for recovering addicts. For a complete recovery, you must learn to release this shame instead of carrying it with you. If you need additional support in your recovery, consider an outpatient treatment center in Agoura Hills that teaches you the tools and resources needed to release shame.