How Guilt & Shame Differ & What They Mean for Addiction Recovery

As adults, most of us have self-esteem because we have overcome difficulties. We don’t feel self-esteem because we got out of bed in the morning. Only by allowing someone to work through their difficulties themselves do we give them a chance to grow. If they allow their loved one to take responsibility for their guilt, this empowers their loved one to make changes.

guilt and shame in recovery

However, for those in treatment for substance use disorder, there are significant differences between guilt and shame. Recovery from addiction tends to dredge up a variety of emotions that may have been buried for a long time. The first step to overcoming guilt and shame is understanding that these emotions hinder your recovery. While guilt can motivate you to make amends with those you may have hurt while struggling with addiction, it’s essential to let go of the emotion once you’ve made your apologies. Guild and shame are common emotions people experience throughout life, especially during addiction recovery, but what’s the difference between the two? Below, you’ll learn about the differences between the two emotions and how they affect a person’s life. Experiencing shame long-term leads many to a life of alcohol and drugs.

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Now, the way that I’m going to talk about shame is that shame is only ever toxic, guilt is necessary guilt frees us to recover. Search by your age, location, treatment program and level of care to find the solution that best fits your needs.

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It’s not uncommon for guilt in addiction recovery to trigger relapses as well. If we sit in our own negative emotions and wallow in our guilt, it’s only a matter of time before we self-medicate and fall back into old habits. The road to recovery can be an emotional experience. Recovering substance users can go through a full range of emotions within the first months, or even the first year, after treatment.

Managing Guilt in Addiction Recovery

Left unchecked, it can increase levels of depression. If you or one of your loved ones are struggling with addiction, we can help. We use a personalized approach to addiction recovery and treatment. Our focus is on treating the disease, not the symptoms. Experiencing guilt is a healthy part of recovery.

  • Shame, at its core, canconvince many that they are bad or wrong.
  • Shame can be caused by a wide range of factors — such as trauma or challenging social environments — and often causes feelings of deep inadequacy, lack of worth and the need to hide.
  • You may feel damaged by your addiction and undeserving of happiness and sobriety.
  • If you’re feeling ashamed and alone, don’t let addiction have the final say.
  • But there’s a couple of other responses are interesting.

Shame and guilt may be uncomfortable, but they are not always negative and can serve a purpose. Guilt from using substances in the past and hurting others can prevent a person from using again once they’ve entered treatment. While these emotions are different, they often go hand and hand.

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If I don’t find some way to navigate this, skillfully, it’ll be the end of me, it’ll be the death of me, because I knew I wasn’t gonna be able guilt and shame in recovery to sustain recovery. Typically, it’s some version of me acting out some unpleasant emotion can be related to trauma in the past or whatever.

guilt and shame in recovery

There is a strong link between shame and mental health conditions, including depression. This association can also drive you to self-medicate, furthering the cycle of addiction. Substance use is a significant and widespread health issue that can have many adverse effects for people who suffer from it. Due to their prevalence, it is increasingly important to understand why they develop and what mechanisms can help or hinder recovery.

Positive aspects

The stigma and fear of how others will view them can prevent a person from reaching out to a medical professional for treatment or being truthful about their addiction. He stepped on my foot and looks like like it’s no big deal. And so it ends up leading to a breakdown in relationships because the person that shamed they don’t necessarily look like they’re alarmed because they’re in a freeze response.

Research has shown that those abusing drugs and/or alcohol recognize that “recovery is within their reach” when they receive treatment. When a newly sober person is surrounded by those who have experience in recovery, the door opens to understanding. The newcomer will be reminded to confront past indiscretions with gentle self-care.

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