Managing shame and guilt in addiction: A pathway to recovery

As individuals progress through our 12-step recovery program and begin to overcome their feelings of guilt and shame, they can start to celebrate their successes and embrace a new life in recovery. At Renaissance Ranch Ogden, we recognize the importance of celebrating milestones and achievements, as this helps to build self-esteem and reinforce the positive changes that individuals are making in their lives. Feelings of guilt and shame can act as impediments to addiction recovery. This is because individuals grappling with addiction are often plagued by guilt for their past actions committed under the influence. Moreover, many individuals struggling with substance abuse are deeply ashamed of their inability to control it.

Is addiction rooted in shame?

A person may suffer from some childhood trauma and seek substances to ease the pain of guilt. Eventually, the addiction will begin to hurt their loved ones. As a result, the person may start to feel shame. Generally, guilt causes addiction and addiction causes shame.

Although many people use the terms “guilt” and “shame” interchangeably, they are not quite the same emotion. According to Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, guilt and shame in recovery crime, wrong, etc….” Guilt relates to others. Shame, on the other hand, relates to the self and how we feel about ourselves. Shame is the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with us, that we are damaged or flawed.

Moving From Shame to Love and Acceptance

The good news is that when you take the courageous step of directly addressing your feelings of guilt and shame, this can strengthen your resolve and bolster your recovery. Ending your substance abuse doesn’t magically make life easier. However, it significantly improves your ability to deal with the inevitable challenges you will encounter. Other people may be dealing with guilt and shame in addiction recovery because of what they did or did not do while abusing drugs. Taking an honest assessment of the damage they caused and the pain they inflicted during their addiction can be a difficult but essential step toward a better future.

And I and I practice with them, this forgiveness practice. I personally believe that regret and we may talk later about guilt, I believe that regret and guilt are right and necessary for healing. And, by regret, what I mean is, is deep sorrow, deep sorrow for the wrongs we’ve done. The program of AA and NA talks about making amends, it means really taking to heart what we’ve done in wanting to make it right. When you’re struggling with substance abuse and addiction, you will do things you wouldn’t dream of doing sober, just to survive the day.

Breaking Free from the Chains of Guilt and Shame

The shame-addiction pairing can find an addict in a precarious cycle, as their addiction may lead to increased shame and a growing need to hide their reality from others and even from themselves. Here are some suggestions for dealing with guilt and shame before and after addiction treatment. Because any “other” is also essentially incomplete, any constructive human relationship is characterized by complementarity — the sense that each fulfills the other. This awareness of complementarity opens to the mutual sense of mutual fulfillment. The sense of complementarity consists in the realization that the existence of both is affirmed by each other, that the differences of each enrich rather than threaten the other.

the 12 step of guilt and shame in addiction recovery

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. Facing the guilt involved with past addiction-driven behavior is painful, but it’s a lot less painful when a group of supportive and understanding fellows is right there with you. As a result of this conflict between the person’s conscience and their actions, they develop guilt and shame about their addiction and its consequences for themselves and others. However, if a person hopes to be successful in their recovery, it’s important that they learn what to do with these difficult feelings. After beginning the journey to recovery, it can be very common to start feeling guilty and ashamed of the things you did while in active addiction.

The Origins of Guilt and Shame in Addiction

If anything, accepting the past can help individuals not make the same mistakes in the future. Shame is a different level than guilt, a deeper emotion that may be harder to overcome. Shame takes that a step further and tells the person they are bad, or not valuable, because of their bad actions.

  • According to Joseph Burgo, Ph.D., writing in Psychology Today, guilt is “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc….” Guilt relates to others.
  • What can I do to support my child who’s in recovery?
  • When you allow shame to have power over you, you are trying to punish yourself for your past.

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