Toxic shame is an unhealthy emotion that plagues most people who struggle with addiction. In some cases, shame comes before addiction as a result of family trauma or other painful experiences. In other cases, addiction comes first and leads to regrettable actions and the addict begins to feel toxic shame.
It is natural and healthy to feel guilty when we do something wrong. But toxic shame involves more than merely judging an action we have done as bad. When we suffer from toxic shame, we begin to define our very selves, not just our actions, as bad. This negative thinking traps us, limiting us to failure and dysfunction. But the trap is only in our minds. Our past actions do not define us. So let’s look at seven tips we can use to break free from the prison of shame and get on the road to recovery.
Learn To Think Of Addiction Differently
Do you think of addiction as a choice you have made, a choice that means you are a “bad person?” Scientists do not agree with that assessment. According to no less an authority than the Director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, an addicts brain does not work the same way a normal person’s brain works. When an addict experiences a craving, the brain reports it is a truly urgent need, not a mere wicked desire. Understand that you have a disease. Take responsibility and choose to fight your disease, but don’t feel ashamed.
Learn To Forgive Yourself
If you are like most addicts, you have made plenty of choices you regret. What you have done in the past is in the past. You can work to make amends for it. But do not beat yourself up over it. Do not label yourself based on your past actions. Just because you did it yesterday does not mean you have to do it today. It is what you did, not who you are. Forgiving yourself for your past mistakes doesn’t mean you have to repeat them. It means acknowledging you are not a prisoner to those mistakes. When you forgive yourself, your emotional burden is lighter, and you are free to do better.
There may be people you have wronged. You may feel like you are a bad person because of the suffering you have caused someone else. Doing what you can to fix problems you have caused, even just communicating and acknowledging them, can be a major relief. Making amends helps relieve guilt and the shame that it can grow into. Do you feel ashamed that you have hurt people? Let them know you are sorry and see what you can do to help them. Take action to be a better person and feel better about yourself.
If you are struggling with shame, you probably have negative self-talk. Listen to yourself. Do you tell yourself things like I….
…am a loser.
…don’t deserve to succeed because _____.
…don’t deserve to be loved.
…can’t be happy.
…deserve to be alone, or
I’m not worth the effort to fix.
When you hear that voice, answer it. You are not a loser, and you deserve to be happy, and you are worth the effort. You can get better, and you know it. That’s why you are here!
Perfection is a problem for many addicts. Somewhere along the line, we get convinced that we must achieve some certain level to be worthy of anything, including basic self-care. It is not so. There is no shame in imperfection. Your best is good enough, imperfect though it may be. Your second best is ok sometimes too. You can’t always be your best. But if you don’t beat yourself up over imperfect, you can always keep trying. And you will get better, little by little. Stay the course, patiently.
Cultivate Connection and Compassion
Shame is isolating. Feeling alone and different magnifies shame. Conversely, cultivating connection and compassion can overwhelm shame with feelings of belonging and healthy attachment with other people. Twelve step programs other approaches to recovery include group therapy. This can be a great place to begin connecting with people that can help you work through your feelings about shame and support your healing process.
Find A Safe Place To Face Your Shame
You may only have shame from your addiction. Or your shame might have deeper roots in family trauma or other painful experiences. Either way, you can’t fix your shame without exploring it, and that is painful. No-one thinks it’s fun, but everyone who successfully recovers from addiction digs in and does the work. It is much easier and more effective with the guidance of an experienced and compassionate expert. If you can afford therapy or rehab, it’s worth it.
Consider Codependency May Be An Issue
Shame plays a complex role in codependent relationships. In a codependent relationship, a caretaker goes too far in trying to protect an addict, sacrificing their own interests and shielding the addict from consequences in a way that enables them. The caretaker may unwittingly want the addict to remain dependent and may extract a payment in the form of shame and helplessness in exchange for their harmful support. You can learn more about codependency here.
Get Support. Overcome Shame And Succeed In Recovery
Are you tired of living with shame? You know it will be hard to fix, but we are here to tell you: you can do it and we can show you how. Take the first step on the road to better life. Learn more about our Rehab Program in Bali for coping with shame and recovering from addiction and make a plan.
If you or someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol or any other form of addiction, call one of our experts today on (toll-free Australia) 1800 288 348 +61 398045757 or email us at [email protected] and we will call you.