One of the feelings we try to hide from in our addiction is shame. If our shame comes to the surface, we can double down our substance use to try to escape it.
When we are looking to get help with our addiction, shame often prevents us from taking the proper steps toward our recovery as well. Shame enables us to continue the behaviors we associate with that shame.
Imagine how empowered we could be, then, when we take the shame out of the equation.
Why Shame Exists
Shame is when we consciously know that our behavior is not within acceptable limits, and we experience pain or humiliation associated with that behavior. So, for example, if we were going out with a friend and we actually had only one or two drinks, we had a great time, made it home when we agreed we would, we would likely have no shame around those behaviors.
Shame comes when we tell our family or partner that we are going out for a couple of drinks and will be back by 10:00 pm, but instead, a friend drags us to our front door around 4:30 am because we are too drunk to stand or walk on our own. When we have broken promises, consumed more drugs or alcohol than we should have, and potentially even broken a law or otherwise embarrassed ourselves, we will feel the shame the next morning.
Sadly, when we feel that shame, our reaction is often to use our substance again to try to escape those feelings.
When we are tired of feeling our shame, we may seek potential ways to get help for our substance use. But there again, we are often too ashamed.
Ashamed of our habits, ashamed of our behaviors, and worried about shaming ourselves more by going to treatment. So now the shame is standing in our way of getting help for ourselves.
When We Allow Shame in Our Lives
We are the ones who allow shame to affect us. When we take upon ourselves the expectations and judgments of society, others, or even ourselves, and then fail to meet those expectations, we feel shame.
Likewise, we feel it when we behave the opposite of what we, society, or others have decided is morally “right.” Often, these expectations have some sort of merit, in an effort to provide us with safety or social legitimacy.
However, the resulting shame rarely helps anyone.
Shame does not usually help correct behaviors. It causes us to revert inward, to only think about ourselves and experience negative emotions about what we have done. We want to run away from our behaviors and hide from ourselves and anyone who has noticed them.
We don’t help anyone by conceding all of our thoughts and emotions to the humiliation we feel based on what we perceive to have done “wrong.” Even if our shame is based on actual criteria that our behaviors were not appropriate, we do not need to live our lives ashamed.
Living Without Shame
Shame is simply a belief, one that we can choose to accept or not. An obvious antidote to shame is to change our behaviors.
That is not something we can accomplish when we are wallowing in our own humiliation, however. We need to acknowledge that the shame is not helping us and allow ourselves to move on.
Only then can we look at our behaviors and determine if we need to apologize to anyone or change anything.
When we pull our head out of hiding and look in the mirror, we have the opportunity to take a good look and see what we are actually made of. Peeling away the shame allows us to see who we are, acknowledge what we have done, and then actively choose to live without shame.
If needed, we can take responsibility for our actions and then move forward.
When our shame is based around our substance use, stepping out of our shame and into recovery is very empowering. Not only are we casting off our self-judgment or even the judgment of others, but we are moving forward into self-respect and accountability.
We can look at ourselves in the mirror and find acceptance. Not permission, not judgment, simply acceptance.
Finding recovery means defying stigma, ignoring the shame others may have tried to place on us, and believing in ourselves again. We are able to stop the behaviors that have possibly brought us shame in the past, as well as stripping away any judgment that we have placed on ourselves or that others have placed on us.
Recovery is freedom from the vicious cycles of shame, remorse, and regret. Finding treatment helps us step on to the path of acceptance, healing, and success.
We can heal ourselves from our substance use, and at the same time, heal our minds from so many mental pitfalls. As we strive to find healing, we can learn to love ourselves again. We can find ourselves again when we take the shame out of the equation.
Say goodbye to the shame that is not serving you. Learn to stand tall again at AToN Center. Call (888) 535-1516 today to smash the stigma, lose the remorse, and take hold of your life again. At AToN, we can help you change the way you see yourself, and help you hold your head high again.