Shame Complex of Addiction
A huge obstacle that many face in rehab and recovery is shame. During active addiction, most people do things that they aren’t proud of. Forgiving yourself is an essential part of recovery and sustaining sobriety.
You may have hurt your family and friends, commit terrible crimes, been arrested and done time, let your hygiene and health slip away, and the list goes on. Feeling ashamed of these things is normal, but it can be a heavy burden to bear.
The problem is that shame can lead us to deny the truth or try to illogically justify our substance abuse. Addiction causes a cycle of shame: you feel ashamed for using and drinking when you know you shouldn’t, then you use and drink to feel better. You feel ashamed of things you did when you were under the influence, then you drink again to make yourself feel better which leads to you do something else that you aren’t proud of.
Acceptance in Addiction
Even in sobriety, this shame complex is hard to let go of. You may feel ashamed of your past or even of how your addiction has left you. Maybe you have to rebuild a career from scratch, and with a criminal record, or maybe you lost custody of your kids or contracted serious diseases.
Shame is a trigger to drink or use for many people in recovery and easily leads to relapse when acceptance isn’t reached.
Instead of responding to feelings of regret by trying to forget them or feel nothing, make an effort to accept. Bad things happen. Sometimes we do bad things, sometimes other people do them, sometimes they happen at random. The past has brought you to this moment, and now you get to choose how you go on.
As the philosopher and psychology scholar William James said, “acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”
Addicted Brain—Not Your Fault
You might feel like you are to blame for your addiction and that you deserve to feel so ashamed. You might feel like you don’t deserve recovery, health, or happiness. The truth is that you’re your addiction isn’t your fault. It is a disease. Addiction happens in the brain, and it is extremely hard to overcome alone once it has taken hold.
When you become addicted to a substance, structures in the brain actually change. In this way, your mind is sort of hijacked, so that drinking or using drugs overrides all other important things. It’s okay to forgive yourself and to see your addiction as what it is, a disease that you can’t control.
You need help and support from professionals to get sober and learn how to sustain sobriety in recovery.
Move Forward to Recovery
The past is past. To move forward, you have to accept what has happened and forgive yourself. Right now is a new moment, and the events in your past aren’t happening anymore. You don’t have to keep repeating your actions. End the shame cycle and consider that no one is perfect.
Under the right circumstances, anyone could develop addiction. It is unfortunate. It isn’t fair. With the right assistance, though, you can begin living a life you are proud of. Call (877)670-8451 to talk to someone who has been through addiction, recovered, and now wants to help others get better. They will come from a place of understanding and help you figure out how to move forward.