If you or someone you love is suffering from substance abuse, it is not uncommon for one or both of you to try and cover up, make excuses, and deny the issue in an effort to hide the problem from bosses, coworkers, friends, and extended family members due to fear, embarrassment, or shame.
It is so essential for you to know that you don’t have to be alone in your suffering! The effects of substance abuse can be devastating, not only for the addict but their loved ones as well.
Feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and shame can often prevent you from seeking outside help. And the result can be an advancement in the addict’s disease and an increase in suffering for them and their loved ones.
There are understanding people who, without judgment, want to help, and possess the knowledge and experience needed to help addicts’ and their loved ones’ recover from this often-devastating disease.
One of the biggest impediments for an addict to seek help and stick around long enough to experience recovery is shame.
What is shame? The dictionary defines shame as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.”
To me, shame is a useless, unproductive, and yet genuine emotion that says, “I am wrong or defective.” In the case of addiction, shame is feeling like you ARE the disease.
It feels like you are defective, there is no hope or no way out of the addictive behavior. And this is just not true!
There is a vast difference between shame and guilt. Healthy guilt is when there is a sense of consciousness that you have done something wrong and need to correct it by apologizing and making appropriate amends.
Guilt is a feeling that can propel a person to eventually own up to bad behavior and do the right thing. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” That’s healthy- we’re all human, we all make mistakes sometimes, and we all have the opportunity to make amends for those mistakes and change our behavior to avoid them in the future.
Shame, which says, “I am wrong” as in “there is something inherently wrong with me” just because you made a poor choice or a mistake, is entirely unproductive and can drag you down in a shame spiral that can propel the addictive behavior into overdrive.
There is no benefit to feeling shame or wallowing in it; shame is a self-destructive emotion. It is impossible to make amends and move forward when you suffer from the erroneous belief that you are broken and can’t be fixed.
If you’re caught in a shame spiral about your (or your loved ones) addiction, it can become difficult to be comfortable asking for help.
If you lack hope and don’t see any way out, you might feel like it’s a waste of time and possibly money. I am here to encourage you that there is hope and it is worth reaching out!
The trickiest, most insidious thing about a shame spiral is that being caught in one is like a catch-22 – the shame tells you there’s no hope, it’s not worth reaching out for help, or no one can help you. It might work for others, but recovery is not possible for you or your loved one.
The catch-22 is that the way out of shame is to discover that all the things you have done that you believe are unredeemable, there are others with addiction problems that have done them too.
Once you can open yourself up to at least listening to other addicts’ deepest, darkest secrets, your shame loses some of its grip. Or if you aren’t the addict, but a loved one of someone who suffers from substance abuse, the same applies to you.
Once you can open yourself up to at least listening to other loved ones of addicts most scathing stories, your shame will begin to dissipate.
Why does sharing shameful acts and war stories in a safe environment act as a miraculous shame buster?
Shame is a lot like mold – it grows in the dark. But once mold is exposed to sunlight it dies off. And once light is shown on shame by sharing with a trusted community the worst things you think you’ve done, it begins to dissipate slowly.
Shame needs isolation (darkness) to grow. Isolation stops when you seek help in the form of professional help or a support group for addiction recovery.
Arresting isolation is the ultimate shame buster. And once that “Berlin Wall” called shame starts to be torn down, more and more light can shine on the truth of what a wonderful human being you are, and the tenacious grip that shame once held on you will loosen and loosen over time.
Imagine! How relieved would you feel if you found out that other people have the same problems and struggles that you do? That you’re not the only one? That you’re not alone?
And best yet, that there is hope because there are others that have gone before you with the same problems and have experienced addiction recovery?
This is precisely what you can experience when you reach out for help! And here’s the thing – if you’ve made it this far into the article, good for you! That means you’ve already taken the first baby step to being open to seeking and receiving help.
It’s important to recognize yourself for even the seemingly smallest of efforts because dealing with addiction is not easy.
Addiction is an incredibly isolating disease caused by an inability to deal with whatever circumstances and challenges life is throwing your way. It is a way to attempt to escape and check out from life when life becomes intolerable.
It also tends to afflict some of the nicest, most sensitive people who have the misfortune of lacking the skills for maintaining a healthy stress tolerance response.
If you are an addict or a loved one of an addict, it is so vital to understand addicts are good people who have a chronic disease! And often this understanding can be attained through being a part of a recovery group, such as AA, NA, Al-Anon, and substance abuse recovery center group therapy.
There is something so intrinsically powerful in gathering with others that are going through the same or similar struggles with addiction as your own – even if the trigger for the addiction in each person might be different.
You’ll likely find in hearing the stories of others in your support groups a theme that resonates throughout, even though the details may change from story to story.
When people share openly and honestly no matter how ugly their truth may be, it gives everyone else in the group permission to be open and vulnerable as well.
From this, a sense of belonging and community can develop, and eventually friendships and emotional intimacy or vulnerability. What is amazing about the group recovery experience is the laughter.
Yes, you read that right- laughter. When you reach a certain level of recovery, the shame has diminished to such a point that you become able to laugh at your follies and diseased thinking as you catch it happening.
Laughter is an essential part of healing, and you can get to a point where you will laugh again!
Recovery is a personal journey that requires the support of a group, but not necessarily a group that dictates how it needs to happen. That being said, many addicts find it helpful to follow the recovery group guidelines and suggestions for working the recovery program and implement them right away.
Some groups may be a bit more aggressive with enforcing rules or guidelines, like some in-patient recovery groups. This is for people whose disease has advanced to such a stage that it has become a life-or-death issue.
It can be crucial to surrender to the program immediately if this applies to you for your well-being, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging it may seem.
Try and keep in mind that the rules, guidelines, and suggestions are in place to help you survive addiction and thrive in life again!
For others, such as “high functioning addicts” or loved ones of addicts, you may have a bit more room to work your recovery program at your own pace. For instance, you may not feel comfortable sharing in a group setting at first – this is entirely normal.
It is ok just to listen until you become more comfortable with sharing. Some people can share right out of the gate, some it may take a few meetings, a few months, or even years. It’s all ok.
You will find recovery in your own time if you consistently attend meetings and stay open to entertaining the suggestions of the recovery group, whether or not you choose to implement them right away.
If you’re not ready now, just keep showing up, and you will become ready when the time is right for you.
It is often said by recovery group members that they share not necessarily because they want to, but because they want to recover, and they know sharing will help them do that. Why? It goes back to our earlier discussion of shame busting.
Recovery group members have said that their burdens feel 50% lighter just because they shared them with the group – even though nothing changed or was resolved immediately by doing so.
That’s pretty powerful testimony to the significant relief you can receive just from attending a support group or 12 step meeting! 12 steppers also say relief is in the meetings and recovery is in working the steps, an ideology that can apply to any group recovery program to be sure.
One of the best things about recovery groups is that you will receive a lot of encouragement and support from members in and outside of meetings if you want it.
It’s important to know that the choice is always yours regarding how much or how little support you choose to seek or receive. It is often recommended that you retain a sponsor or accountability partner to help you navigate the pitfalls and hurdles that come on the recovery journey.
It can also be paramount to your recovery success to reach out to a sponsor, accountability partner, or other group members in times of challenging, high-stress, and crisis situations that could trigger a relapse.
Reaching out to someone can be the difference between relapsing and not, and if you’re seriously deep into an addiction, the difference between life and death.
Others who suffer from addiction and began walking the recovery road before you can best understand what you are going through when you first seek recovery.
Talking through a situation and reasoning things out with a fellow traveler is an effective way to right-size a seemingly overwhelming situation to make it more manageable.
When you can do this, it can prevent you from using or picking up that first drink. A large problem broken down into actionable baby steps suddenly becomes easier to handle.
You may even feel a sense of confidence or empowerment, or at the very least hope, that you can navigate the problem without the assistance of drugs or alcohol.
The big take away here is that you can recover from addiction, no matter how hopeless things may seem now, and it is so much easier, and the burden so much lighter, when you have the support of addiction professionals and other addicts who genuinely understand without judgment to help you through!
If you need help with your recovery you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
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