Many women, sometimes more so than men, carry a lot of guilt and shame because of their addiction. Sometimes, this shame can last even months or years after they sought treatment and began their recovery journey. The terms “guilt” and “shame” are often used interchangeably, but, in reality, shame is a step beyond guilt. Someone may feel guilty for the things they did while they were engaging in active use, but they may also feel shame in the sense that they believe that because they did these things, they are now a bad person. This is not true, and it is possible to move beyond these feelings and find peace and healing.
Understanding Why Shame Due to Addiction Is Illogical
Feeling shame over one’s addiction even after getting sober may be very common, but it’s not logical. The primary reason is that addiction is not a choice. While the individual made the initial decision to drink alcohol or try a certain drug, they didn’t plan on becoming addicted. Their substance use simply reached a point where they could no longer control it and needed outside assistance to stop.
Secondly, addiction is a mental health disorder and should be treated as importantly as any other mental health condition. Just as someone didn’t choose to struggle with depression or anxiety, an individual didn’t choose to struggle with addiction. In fact, if they have family members that struggled with addiction, they may have even been born with a genetic predisposition to addiction.
When you take on this new perspective upon addiction and understand that it is not something you chose for yourself but something that affects your brain function, you can begin to start shedding some of the shame you are experiencing.
Take Control of What You Can and Let Go of What You Can’t
A very important aspect of addiction recovery is learning to identify what aspects of your life you can control and what you can’t. One thing that you can’t control is the past. You can’t go back in time and take back the poor decisions that you made while engaging in substance use. You can’t take back hurtful words that you said to someone when you were under the influence that you didn’t really mean. What you can do and what you can control is taking steps to make your future better. You can work to make amends for mistakes you made. You can work on repairing relationships that have been strained. You can also work on bettering yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Learn to Practice Self-Forgiveness
One of the most important aspects of overcoming shame surrounding addiction is learning to forgive yourself. This can take time and hard work, but it can be accomplished. If you have done everything that you can to make amends for any mistakes that you have made and are sticking to your recovery plan and taking it seriously, the only thing left for you to do is give yourself credit for how far you’ve come. Continuing to punish yourself for the past can only increase your risk for negative thought problems and depression. Self-forgiveness is necessary to move on to the next chapter of your life.
Self-forgiveness will likely be discussed frequently as you attend support group meetings. It might not come easy, but you can learn from other people that know where you’re coming from and have been in your shoes before. If they have managed to forgive themselves, then you can too. It may also help you to work with a therapist to sort through your emotions and develop healthier, more positive thought patterns.
Don’t Forget to Practice Self-Care
Shame surrounding addiction can be debilitating when it is not properly addressed. It can even hold you back from doing the basic things that are necessary to take proper care of yourself. This can only lead to additional mental health problems. While you’re taking the necessary steps to let go of this shame, you’ll also want to be sure to practice self-care on a regular basis. Self-care involves doing anything necessary to care for your mental, emotional and physical health. Self-care looks different from person to person, and it may take you some time to figure out what works best for you. Some examples of ways to practice self-care include:
- Take a break from social media
- Get out into nature
- Make sure you’re eating regularly
- Fit exercise into you’re daily routine
- Spend some quality time with a friend
- Take a walk
- Practice meditation
- Do some journaling
It’s common to experience shame even after seeking recovery from addiction. This feeling can be overcome through therapy, time, and healing. It can be helpful to acknowledge that addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s not something that an individual chose or should feel guilty for. It can also help to learn how to take control of what you can and let go of what you can’t. This involves letting go of the past and focusing on building a better future for yourself. It is also important to learn how to practice self-forgiveness so that you can move on to your next chapter of life and begin to heal. If you or a woman you know is struggling with substance use disorder, there is hope and our team at the Ho Tai Way can help. Call (714) 581-3974 today to learn more about the types of services we provide.