The Relationship Between Shame and Addiction

Everybody experiences moments of humiliation and embarrassment at some point in their life. These are usually seen as acts that are foolish, unsavory, or wrong. However, it is not the act itself but how the act is perceived that causes this sense of shame.

Shame can make one feel inferior, inadequate, or unlovable. But with addiction, these feelings are not fleeting or measured by circumstance — these feelings are ongoing. Over time, feelings of shame become harder to deal with.

Feeling unloved or unworthy often leads to anxiety, depression, and eventually coping with drugs and/or alcohol. Amid the current pandemic, the risk of being isolated and sitting with our negative thoughts is higher than ever before.

If you are struggling to maintain sobriety and shame has affected your thoughts and behaviors, understand that there is help for you to break the cycle and return to your self-worth.

Understanding Shame

Thoughts can be deceptive — therefore, it might not be easy to identify when you are self-sabotaging your thought patterns. Many confuse shame with guilt. Guilt tells you that you did something bad. Shame runs far deeper than guilt, convincing you that you will never be worthy and are forever flawed — you didn’t just do something bad, you are bad.

These thoughts become validated because you keep cycling through the same thought patterns, creating stuck thoughts. Stuck thoughts are usually negative and very powerful. One way to tell when you are experiencing thoughts that stem from shame is if you catch yourself saying things like, I can’t do this or nobody likes me.

Once you identify that you are having recurring thoughts that reinforce negative thinking, you can begin to transition these thoughts toward positive thinking.

Question Your Thoughts

The cycle of negative thoughts occurs because either an act or another thought triggers the thought pattern. Understand that when these thoughts occur, they will pass. The worst of everything exists in a future that doesn’t exist. When you begin to experience negative thoughts, sit with them for a minute or two, stay in the present, and take a logical approach.

Why do you feel responsible for such a thought, and does it have any relevance in your current situation? When you question negative thoughts, you reduce their importance by breaking them apart with logic. Eventually, you will discover that these thoughts and feelings are fleeting — and when they occur, that is exactly how you can label them.

You might even repeat three times to yourself, fleeting thought or a passing thought when they occur. These mantras can distract the brain long enough to let go of the thought and not sit in the imagined grief that often comes with negative and self-destructive thoughts. Recovery is difficult and at times you will experience hesitance and self-doubt, but understand that you are not alone in this experience.

Recovery in and of itself is a teaching tool to help you grow and learn from within. Instead of finding reasons why you cannot accomplish something, look at the reasons why you can accomplish something. If you are going to spend time in the past, look at how far you have come and how much you have evolved. This helps build the confidence and motivation for you to move forward. Finally, understand that mistakes are a part of life, so accept that they will happen and use these mistakes to learn.

Make Connections

The root of relapse is almost always a result of periods spent isolating yourself from people and places. Certainly, amid the current crisis, your life has undergone significant change. However, do not use this situation as a way to enable negative behavior — instead, see it as a challenge to overcome.

Just because you are limited in the number of places you can go and people you can see face-to-face, you are not limited to social outlets. Take advantage of Telehealth services, find and participate in online meetings, and use alternative ways to socialize, such as video games, Netflix, and remote exercise.

Maintain a network of love and support. Your friends and family should remind you how important and loved you are. They enjoy and value your company. A network of love and support will offer you the outlet to express your fears and doubts and to show your vulnerability.

You might discover that you share the same fears and doubts as a friend or family member. Sometimes you just need the security of knowing that others understand you. If you have not yet reached out to your friends or family, now is the time.

Maintain a Schedule

Having goals and ways to motivate yourself to accomplish them throughout the day will not only promote more confidence but help distract from negative thoughts. Plan your day to accommodate times for work, meals, exercise, hobbies, and play. Explore new interests and create new goals — whatever it takes to keep you moving forward. If something triggers a negative thought, simply acknowledge it and move on.

Shame, addiction, and their relationship for codependency can make recovery hard to navigate. But using is never the answer — choosing sobriety and enduring is. Recognizing how you think, feel, and act and applying it to your reality will help you break the cycle of shame and addiction.

Shame can be devastating to a person’s recovery. If you are struggling with feelings of shame related to your addiction, it’s time to seek help. You don’t have to fight this battle alone. True Recovery offers 24/7 care and is here to help you find alternative treatments that work. We’ll show you how to love yourself again. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.