Shame: The Feeling That Holds Us Back in Recovery

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Addiction is often the result of using drugs or alcohol to suppress emotions. As a result, acknowledging and working through those repressed feelings is a huge part of recovery. But one of the emotions that often remains unaddressed in the recovery process is shame.

Ashamed of Shame

The overwhelming belief that we are “wrong” or “bad” is not only detrimental to our overall well-being, it can also stop us from asking for the help we need to get sober.

A big reason for these present feelings of shame is that we’ve been stuck in our past or lamenting our future. Instead, the goal should be to acknowledge where you are in the present.

It’s normal to feel inadequate or fearful in the early steps of your recovery and you must give yourself permission to verbalize what you’re thinking and feeling.

Facing what’s holding you back in an open and honest manner will allow many of these feelings of shame to be released.

The Power of Forgiveness

Another powerful act that helps you move out of your past is forgiveness. You’ve undoubtedly made mistakes that have harmed both yourself and others. Rather than realizing these mistakes for what they are – simple human errors – they manifest into thoughts of being a bad person.

As difficult as it may seem in the moment, try to recognize that your previous errors are really just opportunities for growth. If the people in your life truly care about you, they will accept your apology and applaud your commitment to change.

As difficult as it may seem in the moment, try to recognize that your previous errors are really just opportunities for growth.

Looking Out for Your Star Player

Before you can rebuild other relationships, it’s important to rebuild the one you have with yourself. Allow yourself to love and be loved. Instead of punishing yourself with shame, replace the negative thoughts with ones of compassion and empathy…and direct them inward.

Make no mistake; forgiveness for yourself doesn’t mean you’re ducking responsibilities or avoiding negative feelings on the days you feel less positive. It simply means you have a sense of awareness and you know these feelings will eventually pass.

Removing feelings of shame and creating a sense of self-acceptance can be unsettling at first, so it’s important to have a positive support network around you. Sharing your thoughts with others may help you realize that you’re not alone in having these feelings and also motivate you on your path of sobriety.

Don’t let shame prevent you from moving forward. Recognize that you can overcome a difficult past and take the steps to help create the pattern of thinking that will aid in this.

Learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction.

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