As a woman with addiction, how do you see yourself? How do you think the world sees you? For most women, shame would be a word that would be used in answering both of those questions. Shame is one of the most powerful stigmas attached to addiction, particularly for women. How do you move from that place of shame to a place of empowerment?
The Additional Burden of Shame That Women Carry
Society continues to shame those who abuse drugs and alcohol, but there is an imbalance in the way that shame is placed by gender. While men bear a certain stigma of shame for addiction, women are judged far more harshly. The expectation that women are expected to be maternal, nurturing, and virtuous creates an additional burden of shame when their behaviors conflict with society’s beliefs about how they should behave.
There are two standards for the different genders, and women are laden with the burden of additional shame. This creates more problems for women in families and in the workplace when they fail to live up to the unequal puritan standards of behavior that are so different from their male counterparts. Not surprising then, when men and women in treatment were asked about their experiences in treatment, the men had no problems. Yet, the women expressed how stigma affected their treatment and recovery.
Climbing Out From Beneath the Rock of Shame
Knowing that society has created this additional weight for women, they also carry the weight of their own shame. Together, this weight can feel like being pinned under a giant rock. Removing the shame surrounding your addiction can feel almost as difficult as climbing out from beneath a giant rock. However, when you work on it daily, a little bit at a time, you may find it is not as difficult as you think.
Discovering ways to stop listening to and internalizing society’s judgments of you will help you to be able to remove the external sources of this burden. Learning to change the ways you view yourself and transform your self-talk will also lift more of the weight of shame from your life.
Learning About Yourself in Treatment
Women have a tendency to judge themselves to compare themselves to others, and these judgments and comparisons, create more shame. You can learn to leave these judgments behind during your treatment process and focus on learning more about yourself. As you increase your self-awareness and find yourself again, you also increase your self-worth.
Truly learning about who you are and discovering your self-worth in treatment is a valuable tool in moving away from the place of shame. Realizing that you are human and, in being human, are allowed to make mistakes as part of the learning process can help to change your perspective from one of shame to one of forgiveness and acceptance.
The Healing Powers of Self-forgiveness
Being able to forgive yourself for all that you have done, including carrying the shame and judgments of yourself, can be as liberating as healing. As you free yourself from judgments, comparisons with others, shame, and guilt, you remove all of that weight from your mind and from your spirit.
Self-forgiveness allows you to explore self-love and the freedom and joy that comes from being able to look in the mirror and love the woman looking back at you. Being able to forgive yourself for those things and all of the behaviors and harm you may have caused yourself and others during addiction offers a deep and cleansing healing. Self-forgiveness is usually more difficult than forgiving others and can take time, but it is time well invested.
Finding Empowerment in Self-Acceptance
As you are taking steps to move away from shame, learning to accept yourself for who you are and everything you have done will empower you to step boldly into your future. You do not need to look back or carry the weight of your past; simply accept yourself and know who you are today, okay. You are fine exactly as you are.
Self-acceptance is one of the steps necessary in realizing that you are enough. Not only do you not need to be ashamed of your past or your present. Not only can you forgive yourself and love yourself for who you are, but you can know that you are enough, today, exactly in this place. There is power in knowing that you do not need to fit society’s expectations or even your previous expectations. Accepting yourself without shame empowers you to do anything you want in life.
Women bear an additional burden of shame based on society’s unequal expectations. You can move from a place of shame to empowerment by learning about yourself, exercising self-forgiveness, and finding self-acceptance. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is the perfect place for women with addiction to heal because we offer trauma-informed care and focus on removing shame from your life. Our program is designed specifically for women with substance abuse and potential co-occurring disorders. Our primary focus is on education, as we know that education brings self-awareness, which is key in rebuilding your self-esteem. We can help you learn self-forgiveness and self-acceptance as you move from shame to empowerment. Call our Costa Mesa, California facility now at (714) 581-3974 to learn more about our program for women. Find your perfect healing at The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women.