Addiction is acquainted with various negative feelings that cloud our perception: anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and most of all shame. Oftentimes we will go out of our way to hide these feelings when suppressing said feelings actually intensifies them. Furthermore, because we obsess over these dark thoughts, it almost seems as if we become addicted to these feelings as well.
Shame is among the most common response amongst addicts and one they may begin to cling to and obsess over. In addition, selfish family and friends may further perpetuate and encourage this cycle of guilt. Perhaps they see guilt as a source of encouragement to get help without realizing it can also further encourage addiction.
What can be done to break the seemingly endless cycle of shaming and addiction? Though the answers may seem basic in concept, executing them opens for far more opportunities to recover.
The Connection of Shame and Addiction
Science has proven that there is a connection to be made with mental illnesses and addiction. People who typically isolate themselves or struggle with depression and anxiety are more prone to drug and alcohol addiction. Furthermore, people struggling with these mental illnesses also tend to burden a great amount of shame. To top it all off, addiction often develops even more shame for these victims.
Self-esteem often takes the biggest hit from the shame that acquaints addiction, creating an endless cycle of self-loathing and worthlessness. Addicts struggling with feelings of shame typically do not seek help because they feel unworthy or completely helpless. Moreover, this helplessness becomes further sustained by others who heckle their addiction.
Friends and family who guilt and shame may not have ill intentions but can contribute far more damage than good. People who feel unworthy or see themselves as a burden, like addicts, will typically not seek therapy or professional intervention. Instead, addicts trapped in addiction need love, reassurance, and support as opposed to guilt and shaming.
The Impact of Shame
Shame can not only draw out addiction but also have a negative impact on an addict’s overall life. People who grow up in environments of shame and guilt can develop codependency issues, as well as inferiority complexes or inadequacy. For addicts, the constant belittling and neglect can further cement a sense of inferiority. Ultimately, this causes addicts to consistently view themselves in a negative light.
Studies show that this type of abuse and neglect can actually harm the neurological development of the brain. This applies especially to adolescents who abuse drugs and furthermore, reinforce these insecurities and doubts in a grown adult. Most importantly, shame and guilt can establish dangerous feelings of self-hatred in a person, leading to depression or anxiety disorders.
Dealing with shame can seem like a psychological trap with no escape, but there are methods to cope with it. The first and most vital step is to recognize the shame: to accept that your outlook on yourself may be jaded by the guilt you are struggling with. We begin to manage shame by identifying it and accepting ourselves not as we see, but how we truly are.
Accepting your own self starts by defining yourself positively and seeing yourself as a person worthy of help and recovery. Moving forward, you can begin to find positive aspects of your personality and self-value in extensive therapy. Therapy can also help you discover the origins and links to past guilt and how to handle them moving forward.
Finally, reconnecting and developing a support system of family and friends is critical to the cycle of recovery. You may be reluctant to rejoin with people who contributed to guilt but abandoning these relationships only damages them further. You can not only form a loving social network but also repair past broken affairs and reestablish peace of mind. Accepting and confronting the struggles of guilt are arduous and bold feats; but in doing so, you can not only become free of addiction but emerge as a stronger person.
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, contact Discovery Place’s Treatment & Rehab alternative in Tennessee. You might be interested in Discovery Place’s own treatment center alternatives, such as our 30 Day Residential Addiction Alternative Recovery Program or our Long Term Alternative Recovery Program in Burns, Tennessee. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-725-0922.