There is so much shame surrounding addiction, whether real or perceived. Much of that comes outwardly from the cultural and societal stigma attached to addiction. Some of it comes from your perspective and perception, based on behaviors you exhibited associated with drinking or using drugs. Shame can make you feel worthless and prevent you from taking the first step toward healing by seeking addiction treatment.
Where Does Shame Come From?
Stigma about drug and alcohol use is very powerful and is far too prevalent. More and more people are becoming aware that addiction is a disease, a treatable medical condition like other medical conditions. Still, media influences err on the side of shaming those with substance abuse with their depictions of addiction. Women, in particular, receive even more shame from the public than their male counterparts.
On top of the shame from external sources, you may experience deep personal shame surrounding your substance abuse. Shame can stem from the inability to control your drinking or drug use and behaviors related to your substance use. Many of these behaviors may conflict with your core values, beliefs, and morals. Shame is a natural bi-product when your actions do not align with these things.
Why Are Women Criticized More for Addiction?
Gender stereotypes regarding any group can be harmful. Women with addiction are wrongly criticized far more than their male peers for drug and alcohol addiction and seeking treatment for substance abuse. If you have felt such criticism and shame from others, you are not alone.
According to a review published by Frontiers in Global Women's Health in 2021:
". . . [W]omen face more barriers to access and experience disproportionate shame when they do access treatment due to their perceived failure to live up to society's expectations of womanhood. Problematic drinking by women contradicts traditional notions of respectable femininities (passive, quiet, nurturing) and women's gender roles (mother, wife, carer). Thus, a woman seeking help for addiction is more likely to be viewed as a 'deviant . . . moral failure' than her male peer."
Why Does My Shame Prevent Me From Seeking Help?
Whether your shame comes from inward or outward sources, or both, it can be like a massive weight keeping you down. Feelings of low self-worth and negative thinking are common with shame and will often make you believe that you cannot heal from addiction or are not worth the effort. These thought patterns are merely that — thoughts — and are as irrational as you feeling shame for something you have no control over.
Irrational thoughts are not productive. Learning to accept the past without judgment is an important life skill. Learning to accept yourself despite anything you may have said or done is crucial to your self-worth. Allowing these negative thoughts to prevent you from seeking the help you need keeps you from finding peace with yourself.
How Can I Move Beyond the Shame?
If shame comes from outward and inward sources, and shameful thoughts are negative and irrational, then how do you change? How can you move beyond shame when it feels like it is paralyzing?
The answer is simple. Do something. Do one little thing today that gets you closer to treatment, such as contacting a treatment facility. They can help you determine your insurance benefits and what costs there may or may not be for you. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call.
You do not have to commit to treatment today, but it will prove beneficial to continue doing small things each day until you have. By taking that tiny step forward, you may realize that you are more prepared and willing than you thought to take that leap of faith and begin your treatment process. The sooner you make that leap, the sooner you will heal, and the sooner you can remove the shame from your life.
Can I Ever Be Without Shame About Addiction Again?
Yes. You can absolutely be without shame. In treatment, you gain insight into self-acceptance. You learn about not judging yourself and not accepting judgments others may have of you. You gain the necessary tools to stand mentally strong as you heal from substance abuse.
One of the most common therapeutic techniques used in addiction treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of therapy focuses on noticing and changing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to align with your core beliefs. In particular, you work to change negative thinking such as shame. When you take that first step in addiction treatment, you take the first step to removing shame from your life.
Shame is powerful and can come from both inward and outward sources. For women, in particular, there is more of it from society surrounding addiction and treatment than there is for men. You can rise above the shame, though, and move beyond it to heal. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women understands the power that shame can hold over you in active addiction. Our therapists work hard to help you remove the guilt from your life surrounding your past drug and alcohol use. At our Costa Mesa, California, treatment facility, we use CBT and other types of evidence-based therapeutic modalities to help you move beyond your shame. Our curriculum is based on helping you receive the gifts of Prosperity, Wealth, Joy, and Abundance as you heal from guilt and shame. Contact us today at (714) 581-3974 to move beyond shame. Make this phone call your first step in your recovery.