Many people who struggle with substance misuse carry a lot of shame. This shame can be associated not only with their substance use disorder (SUD) but the mistakes they made and those they hurt because of it. For some people, this shame carries with them even after they have sought treatment for their substance misuse and are well into their recovery journey. It can follow them around like a black cloud over their head, always holding them back from moving forward.
If this is your situation, it is essential to realize that you don’t have to continue living this way. It is okay to heal, move on, and stop living in the past. Through time and self-forgiveness, leaving shame behind in 2022 and beginning 2023 as a better version of yourself is possible.
Understanding Why People Who Struggle With Addiction Carry Shame
Many people who struggle with addiction believe that they are only hurting themselves. But once they enter recovery, they often have a new perspective that allows them to look back, reflect, and realize that their actions may have caused more harm than they ever thought.
When someone struggles with substance misuse, all those around them are often affected in some way. The individual may say or do harmful things they didn’t mean. It’s possible they could get in trouble with the law and rely upon others to get them out. They may break the trust of those they love by letting them down, lying, or deceiving them somehow. They may also struggle to keep up with personal or professional obligations, forcing others to pick up the slack.
When an individual begins to realize the extent of the damage they have caused, they may experience a great degree of guilt. They may feel inclined to carry this guilt even after they have done what they can to make amends.
Leaving Shame Behind by Asking for Forgiveness
As humbling a process as it may be, a crucial part of leaving shame behind while in recovery involves asking for forgiveness from those you’ve hurt. This is not to be done casually, like by sending a text message or an e-mail. Instead, you should make time for a serious, face-to-face conversation with those from whom you’re asking forgiveness from.
During these conversations, make sure to acknowledge the specific ways you hurt these individuals and the particular steps you are taking to make amends. This should involve seeking continuing treatment for substance misuse. That includes attending therapy, support group meetings, or whatever methods were decided between you and your treatment provider. By showing your loved ones how dedicated you are to your recovery journey, you show them that you’re taking your future seriously. You’re making it clear that you intend to make a better future for yourself, no matter what that may involve.
Making amends may also involve working toward repairing any damage you may have caused. For example, this could include paying back debts or replacing damaged property.
It’s important to note that there may be some people in your life who aren’t yet at a place where they are ready to forgive you. That is okay. Make sure you give them their space and don’t pressure them to forgive you before they have processed their emotions.
Leaving Shame Behind by Forgiving Yourself
After you have done everything you possibly can to make amends for past mistakes, you must then begin the sometimes slow but worthwhile process of forgiving yourself. This is necessary for you to finally let go and leave your shame in the past to move forward.
It can help to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Consider if one of your closest friends or family members came to you in recovery to try to make things right. Would you push them away or agree to attempt to forgive them? Chances are, your care for them would trump any resentment toward them, and you would do your best to allow them to make amends. Now, having considered this, try to offer this same consideration to yourself. This can really help you put things into perspective.
Try Tracking Your Progress
Tracking your recovery progress can help you not only build up your confidence but also remember why you chose to get sober in the first place. You can track your progress by journaling about all the positive things that have happened in your life due to your getting sober. Maybe you got a new job or graduated from school. Perhaps you moved into a place of your own or achieved a personal goal. Taking the time to acknowledge that you have come a long way can make the process of leaving shame behind a lot easier.
Many people who struggle with substance misuse carry a lot of shame with them. This shame can still exist even after someone has sought treatment for their substance use disorder and has begun their recovery journey. This shame can make it very difficult to heal and move on. Leaving shame behind in 2022 is possible. It involves not only asking for forgiveness from those you may have harmed but, perhaps more importantly, learning to forgive yourself. It can help to look back and acknowledge the progress you’ve made along the way. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, our team at The Ho Tai Way can help. Call (714) 581-3974 today to learn more.