Facing Shame in Your Recovery

Facing Shame in Your Recovery

Shame during addiction can be a powerful emotion that may have delayed you from seeking the help that you needed. However, you overcame shame and got into treatment. You should be proud of the efforts you made in treatment and approach recovery with a strong commitment to succeed.

If you are struggling with an addiction to a drug like Rohypnol, it is important to understand the role of shame in recovery, discover how shame can be transformed into a motivator, and learn to let go of shame when it is interfering with your recovery.

Understanding Shame

Shame is defined as a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong. It is the ability to feel guilt, regret, or embarrassment, and is often used synonymously with dishonor or disgrace.

It is important to understand that shame is a feeling. In her post, What We Get Wrong About Shame, Jane Bolton, an adjunct professor at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, explains that people often misunderstand that experiencing shame does not mean you are actually doing anything wrong, but rather that you have feelings and thoughts that you are somehow wrong, defective, inadequate, not good enough, or not strong enough

The author also identifies several factors that could trigger shame, including the following:

  • Basic expectations or hopes frustrated or blocked
  • Disappointment or perceived failure in relationships or work
  • Any event that weakens interpersonal bonds, or indicates rejection or lack of interest

The author suggests that people learn what is needed to work through and release shame and that recognition of the way shame affects one’s life is the first step. Individuals in recovery need to understand the power of these triggers to lead to cravings and relapse, and to address shame head on, rather than letting it build up.

Can Shame be Motivating?

People in any stage of recovery need to remove as many obstacles to their sobriety as possible. If you are struggling with how to behave in response to shame, you may find the Psychology Today post, The Surprising Upside of Guilt and Shame, of value.

A study, conducted by Brian Lickel and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst investigated whether guilt and shame were associated with the longer-term benefit of motivating a person to change. The findings suggested that people who recalled a time that they felt shameful were more motivated to change than when they recalled a time they felt guilt.

While shame is usually considered an emotion that can do significant damage to a person’s self-esteem, it can also contribute to a strong motivation to change.

Your treatment program probably gave you the opportunity to create a relapse prevention plan. If you seriously struggle with shame and find that it is not a motivating feeling for you, you may want to include how to handle shame in your relapse prevention plan.

Letting Go of Shame

If shame is not a motivator for you, it is important for you to forgive yourself and let go of it. In the post, Learning to Forgive Yourself and Let Go of Guilt and Shame, Ann Deeds, a counselor, suggests that you have to break the cycle of shame by doing things including the following:

  • Take responsibility for what you might have done to cause you shame. Admit it and prepare yourself to accept the consequences. This cycle of admitting and accepting consequences demonstrates accountability, which is important during your recovery.
  • Try to correct your wrongdoing and if that is not completely possible, ask for forgiveness. Simply by asking for forgiveness you reduce the hold of shame.
  • As important as it is to seek forgiveness from others, it is equally important to forgive yourself. Forgiving yourself can enable you to complete the healing process.

Even when people take responsibility for their actions and are fully accountable by being prepared to accept the consequences, they may struggle with forgiveness. Just by approaching the people you have wronged and asking for forgiveness you can help yourself let go of shame, even if you do not get the outcome you expected.

For most people the hardest part of letting go of shame is forgiving themselves. The author suggests that there are a variety of strategies that can help you forgive yourself, including the following:

  • Talk with a therapist, close friend, or family member. Talk until you attach less emotion to shame and overcome the negative feelings of shame.
  • Similar to talk therapy, journaling about something can help you let go of the emotions associated with it.
  • There are several symbolic acts of forgiveness you can perform such as writing your wrongdoings on a piece of paper, asking for forgiveness, and then attaching the paper to a helium balloon that you release.
  • Regardless of your spiritual preferences, prayer and meditation can be very effective in achieving forgiveness.
  • On a daily basis, positive self-talk can help reduce shame and open the door for forgiveness.

You may want to start off with the suggestion that feels most comfortable to you. Give it sufficient time to measure its effectiveness. If the first idea doesn’t work for you, continue to try other ideas that do work.

Get Help in Recovery

We know you’ve worked hard in your treatment program and we also know that recovery is a lifelong process that requires a real commitment. We understand that you need to remove as many obstacles to your sobriety as you can and we want to help you do that. If you are struggling with an addiction to Rohypnol or other substance, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about your recovery options.