If you have substance use disorder, you may struggle with feelings of guilt and shame due to your addiction. Guilt and shame often reflect the same type of emotion. In reality, shame is actually a step further than guilt. You may feel guilty about the things you do while in active addiction. Perhaps you also feel shame in the sense that you believe that you are a bad person because of your addiction.
The guilt and shame you might feel toward your addiction can even cause you to be scared to get treatment because you do not want to be judged or ridiculed. This can lead to you putting off getting the help that you might desperately need. Guilt and shame are misplaced feelings that can be overcome through time, self-forgiveness, and treatment.
A significant part of learning to overcome shame surrounding addiction is to shift your perspective about what addiction really is. Addiction is not a choice; it is a health condition that affects the chemistry of the brain. While you may have made the initial choice to try a substance, eventually, your substance use reached a point where you were no longer in control. You might desperately want to stop engaging in substance use but are physically unable to do so without outside help.
When you begin to accept that what you are struggling with is not your fault and that you are not a bad person because of your addiction, you can begin to let go of any guilt and shame you may be dealing with. It is also important to remember that addiction is a common disorder that affects many people worldwide. It does not discriminate against age, nationality, status, background, or gender. You are not the first person to experience this, and you certainly will not be the last.
Once you have changed the way that you view your addiction, you can then begin the process of letting go of any guilt and shame. Consider following these steps:
Going through treatment for substance use disorder can be overwhelming and is a life-altering event. It may have a lot of different, intense emotions associated with it. This is why it is a good idea to do some self-reflection. You can do this by yourself through journaling or with the help of a therapist who can help guide you through your emotions. This is also an ideal time to address negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
Ask for forgiveness from anyone you may have hurt or offended while engaging in active substance use. These could include people you broke the trust of or let down in any way due to your substance use. Remember that it may take these individuals time to process before they are able to fully forgive you, but this is a step in the right direction toward making amends and healing relationships.
What occurred in the past cannot be changed, and you cannot take back any mistakes you may have made while under the influence. You cannot change who you may have hurt or what experiences you may have missed out on. Instead, you can only focus on the future and do what is right for yourself and those around you. Doing this will allow you to take a load off your shoulders and begin healing.
Sometimes the most challenging part of moving forward after addiction treatment is learning to stop kicking yourself over what happened. There is no point in thinking about what you could have done differently, and continuing to mentally punish yourself for things that happened in the past is counter-productive. Once you have done everything possible to make things right with those around you and made it clear that you are dedicated to your recovery, you can finally begin to start moving on.
Remember that shedding any guilt and shame associated with your addiction can take time, but it is possible. Try to be kind to yourself and do not forget to be patient. Speaking about your struggle at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings can be very beneficial as most people there have been where you are and can understand what you are going through in a way other people may not. They can also offer you advice towards letting go of these feelings and moving on.
It is not uncommon for people who have struggled with substance use disorder to feel guilt or shame associated with their addiction. They may feel guilt over things they did or people they hurt while they were engaging in active substance use. They may also feel shame in the sense that they believe they are a bad person because of these things. It can take time to let go of these emotions, but healing is possible. It can help to remember that addiction is a disorder, not a choice. It can also be helpful to focus only on what you can control, to stop dwelling on the past, and learn to forgive yourself. This can be made easier by working with a therapist. If you are struggling with substance use disorder, our team at The Kimberly Center can help. Call (855) 452-3683 today to learn more.