Society is quick to place labels on people. We are judged by people for both things that we do and do not have control over, judgment is never politically correct. Along with judgment comes shame, regret, and remorse, particularly when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse. We can choose to wear the label and live in shame, or we can choose to live our lives authentically and rise above the shame.
For generations, drug and alcohol use has been portrayed negatively and mercilessly. Think of movies or shows with characters portrayed as useless or “washed up.” These judgments are so ingrained within our society that they are often immediately associated with alcohol or drug use. People are shamed and condemned by implication instead of taken at face value.
The truth is, in the United States, one in eight adults could be labeled as “washed up,” based on the criteria for alcohol use disorder. That would be a lot of “useless” people. So clearly, the stigma related to alcohol abuse is severely antiquated and irrational. Labels do not serve anyone, both those who judge and those who are judged are sold short. So why do we place so much weight on judgment and stigma?
How We See Ourselves
We cannot control how others see us, but we can control how we see ourselves. It can be frustrating to hear labels and negative words from others. It is difficult if we try to think about what others might be thinking about us. But the only thing that truly matters is what we are thinking about ourselves.
Whatever has happened in our lives in relation to substance use has happened, and we cannot change it, no matter how hard we wish we could. What we can change is who we are and how we behave going forward. We can change what we think about ourselves and what we think about what has happened, and we can change how we view ourselves now based on our past and present. We are the ones who have control over our shame.
What is Shame?
Shame is a label that we give ourselves. The Oxford dictionary defines shame as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” As we become aware that society may view what we have done as wrong or foolish, it causes us pain and humiliation. We might convince ourselves to feel shame.
Sometimes the shame is real. People have said things to us, used labels or even publicly shamed us. But more often than not, it comes from within us. Our fears and inadequacies, coupled with labels and expectations from society, smother us in shame. No matter how reinforced our shame is from the outside, we are the ones in control of whether or not we have shame. We can accept the labels from society, we can choose to wear the label, or we can choose acceptance and peace about who we are.
Living without Labels
There are both positive and negative labels. However, even positive labels can impact us negatively. For example, celebrities and athletes and others in the public eye are often given so many positive labels that it is impossible for them to live up to them. One mistake, one moment of weakness, and it all comes crashing down on them. The unrealistic expectations set us up to fail. On the other side, negative labels often weigh us down, and sometimes we even end up becoming those things.
When we put a value on the labels, then they stick. If we associate the things we see in the entertainment world or social media with our own lives and actions, then we may be labeling ourselves, even subconsciously. However, if we are able to differentiate between society’s voice and our own truths, then it will be easier for us to accept ourselves as is. We can learn to live without labels and be wary of labeling others, too. By doing so, shame has no place for growth and no place in our minds.
Rising Above Shame
We are all human, and as such, will not be perfect anytime soon. Some of our actions and behaviors of the past may have been wrong or hurtful to others. But we do not need to live in shame for our past.
To rise above the shame, we need to learn new ways of thinking and living to ensure we do not repeat our previous mistakes. As we stop using substances and start to heal from addiction, we can become more self-aware and more motivated to live powerfully and successfully. Using tools like therapy, meditation, and more, we can erase the labels and remove the shame from our lives. We can learn new ways of thinking, new ways of looking at ourselves, and empower ourselves to rise above shame. In doing so, we free up our hearts and minds to live more authentically and powerfully and achieve our goals and dreams.
AToN Center is a secluded, judgment-free setting where those who are looking to recover can do so by learning new ways of thinking, finding their own path, and above all to rise above the shame. Leave the labels behind, and free yourself from the unnecessary pain of shame.
Call AToN Center now to begin your journey at (888) 813-5928 to free yourself from shame and forge a new path to well-being.