Coming to Terms With Shame in Recovery

Home / Addiction / Coming to Terms With Shame in Recovery


Coming to Terms With Shame in Recovery

Everyone struggles with shame and guilt occasionally, but these feelings are especially common for those in early recovery. While you might assume shame is an excellent motivator for helping you maintain sobriety, the reality is that dwelling in the past and focusing on negativity can endanger your progress by setting you up for a relapse. Here’s how to get past these feelings and preserve your health.

Understanding the Difference Between Shame and Guilt

Guilt and shame are closely intertwined, but it’s important to recognize the differences between them.

Guilt is feeling bad about your behavior. For example, you might feel guilty about neglecting your responsibilities while you were using drugs, or arguing with your spouse because you were drunk. Meanwhile, shame goes a step further and tells you that you are deeply and irreparably flawed.

The risk of focusing on guilt is that it leads to shame. Shame can cut deeper than guilt, and for this reason, it poses a severe threat to your sobriety.

Self-Punishment Takes You off Your Positive Path

Beating yourself up every day creates a downward spiral of negativity. The shame cycle is isolating, unproductive and tough to break out of.

Though you might tell yourself you have earned the shame you feel, punishing yourself leads to a cycle of reliving bad memories and engaging in negative self-talk. Ultimately, shame-based thinking makes you feel as if you are unworthy of recovery. And, as one study showed, shame about their past can make it more likely for recovering people to succumb to a relapse.

How to Cope With Shame in Recovery

In treatment, you will notice negative feelings creeping in on you from time to time. When you feel guilty or ashamed of your past, you should give yourself space to acknowledge and work through your emotions. However, after you have learned the lesson, you need to let these thoughts go to prevent them from becoming obstacles in your recovery.

You can release your feelings of guilt and shame by taking responsibility for the wrong you’ve done. Admitting when you did something bad and taking steps to repair the damage can go a long way toward healing and self-growth.

You will also need to make amends and seek forgiveness from the people you hurt in active addiction, including yourself.

Finding a New Way Forward

It is sometimes difficult to let go of shame, because doing so requires you to go through the emotional labor of admitting you have a problem and resolving to work through it. Shame limits you, makes you hide and does not offer anything positive to push you forward. Addiction can make you think you are not worthy of feeling better, but making bad choices in the past doesn’t mean you have no hope of a bright future.

Moving past shame in recovery is not easy, and often requires the help of qualified addiction specialists. If you are ready to take the next steps, or have any questions about addiction recovery, we encourage you to contact the Seabrook admissions team today.