Overcoming the Shame of Addiction

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Overcoming the Shame of Addiction

Overcoming the Shame of Addiction

Overcoming the shame of addiction is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. By growing your understanding of shame and exploring its role in your addiction, you can conquer its impact on your life and begin to work towards healing.

What is Shame?

Shame is a visceral human emotion, and no one is immune to its effects. Shame is an intense scrutiny of self. At its most basic level, shame tells us all of the ways we aren’t good enough.

“You’re a failure.”

“You are unlovable”

“You don’t deserve to be happy.”

“There’s something wrong with you. You’re defective.”

“You’ll never measure up.”

When faced with these internal messages, we feel an urgency to hide, withdraw, or remove ourselves from the triggering person or situation. Those struggling with addiction react to this desire to hide by seeking the familiar respite of alcohol and drugs, numbing themselves from the fear and pain of rejection. Unfortunately, this temporary solution only exacerbates the problem.  Giving in to the addiction sends you swirling down into a whole new shame spiral. This time, the shame messages are even more intense.

“You’ve failed again.”

“You don’t deserve another chance.”

“You’ll never be able to quit.”

The act of trying to quit drinking or using drugs and slipping back into old habits heaps shame on top of shame. It perpetuates a cycle of self-loathing and self-medicating. Shame then adds to its messaging. It tells you to keep your struggle a secret.

“Don’t ask for help.”

“Don’t tell the truth about your problem.”

“They will think you’re weak or broken.”

The stigma surrounding addiction fuels the desire to shield your battle from your loved ones. It convinces you that if people knew how messy you are or how much you are struggling, they would no longer love you or want to be connected to you. The power of shame and the grip of addiction then work in tandem to keep you held hostage, while simultaneously building a nearly impenetrable wall between you and the people you love.

There is a way out, however. Overcome the shame of addiction by addressing it head-on using these 3 steps.

1. Acknowledge the Message Of Your Shame

Shame is lying to you. To conquer your struggles, decipher and acknowledge the message that you hear from your shame. For example, identify that your shame is calling you a failure, which makes you want to run away and drink to stop feeling such painful feelings. Remind yourself that there’s nothing wrong with these feelings, and calling them out reduces the power they have over you. Shame’s Achilles’ heel is that it can not survive being brought into the light. When you highlight your shame in your own mind, you take back control of your life.

2. Practice Self Compassion

To overcome the shame of addiction, you must learn to be kind to yourself. When you experience the fear of failure or the urge to drink, speak kindly to yourself about yourself.

“You are a good person with normal feelings, and you are working hard to overcome hard things. You can do this. Just for today. Maybe just for this minute.”

Make a daily practice of being gentle with yourself. You don’t have to conquer your addiction for the rest of your life. Just conquer it for the next 60 seconds. Then do it again. Genuine compassion starts with self-love.

3. Seek Solace in a Safe Person

Brené Brown, a well-known author and shame researcher, states that empathy is the antidote for shame.[1] Reach out to someone you trust who will walk you through difficult moments and help you regain your footing. By lowering your walls with a safe, non-judgmental person, you can experience the type of meaningful connection that is so vital to our overall well-being. Just as unchecked shame builds on itself, so does vulnerability. The more you allow yourself to lean into vulnerable moments, the easier it will be to do it the next time. These moments will build new courage in you to face the challenges.

Break the Shame of Addiction

The shame of addiction is a powerful force, and overcoming it is challenging. But when you acknowledge your feelings with courage and commitment, you can overcome the shame of addiction and begin a new life of purpose and connection.

If you’re ready to start your addiction recovery, reach out to the compassionate staff at Silver Sands Recovery. You can end the shame of addiction and achieve lasting recovery. 



[1] Brown, B. (2008). I thought it was just me (but it isn’t): Telling the truth about perfectionism, inadequacy, and power. New York: Gotham Books.



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