How to Deal with Guilt and Shame in Recovery
Along with depression, guilt and shame are two common emotions that arise in detox and addiction recovery. They stem from past behaviors and can linger around long after you have sought help, especially if you find yourself reflecting on your past life. Dealing with feelings of guilt and shame are an integral part of the recovery process, and can help you recovery more fully and peacefully.
What’s the difference between guilt & shame?
Although they are often used interchangeably, guilt and shame are actually two separate emotions with different meanings. Guilt is what you feel when you did something wrong, or you believe you did something wrong. Shame is the feeling that you are wrong or inadequate – this may or may not be related to a specific event and often arises from an individual’s upbringing and the ways in which other people have related to them. People feel shame for their behavior because they don’t believe they are capable of being better; in addition, they may feel guilt because they know what they did was wrong.
Guilt is often more easily recovered from – you can learn that what you did was wrong, forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness from others and begin to put the past behind you. Shame, however, is not so easily handled. Feelings of shame take time to set aside, as you learn a whole new understanding of yourself, build self-esteem and learn that while what you did may have been wrong, you are not wrong.
Guilt & shame are common emotions
Anyone can feel guilt and shame, not just people struggling with substance abuse. They’re common human emotions that result from negative behaviors or thoughts. We all feel remorse for doing something we’re not proud of, and we may see that action as a reason to be ashamed of ourselves. One difference with people going through detox or in recovery is that they may have done things completely out of character, dangerous or illegal when they were struggling with an addiction. They may have repeatedly made mistakes they regret.
Feelings of shame can be a vicious cycle because a person can feel so much shame that they revert to negative behaviors simply in order to cope and escape.
Dealing with these feelings is important for a full and successful recovery. There are many healthy ways to deal with guilt and shame. The first step is admitting what you’re feeling and admitting that it might be too big for you to handle, or that you’re overwhelmed by your own emotions. Talking about your experience of guilt with a therapist or in group therapy can help you better handle it and learn to forgive yourself. It’s also a chance to get another perspective on past behaviors. Maybe you are judging yourself too harshly.
Finding peace through forgiveness
When feelings of guilt stem from past negative behaviors, forgiveness is key in letting go of it. It’s important to strive to forgive yourself for the things you did and/or ask for forgiveness from the people you may have hurt.
To help in letting go of guilt, start by asking yourself why you committed the action; who was affected by it and what you could do differently if you were to ever be in that situation again? By breaking down the behavior, you’ll not only respond better the next time, but you can forgive yourself for past times knowing you didn’t have the knowledge and tools you have today.
And, of course, you must give yourself credit for seeking help in the first place. The detox process is challenging and daunting to those who learn about it, but by committing to getting sober, you are taking a stand for yourself, your loved ones and your future. There’s nothing shameful about that.
Nonjudgmental treatment for those in need
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call Freedom Detox today to get on the road to recovery. We offer outpatient drug and alcohol rehab to help you break addiction, with alternative therapies tailored to fit your needs. Our holistic approach helps you deal with all aspects of addiction, including how to cope with feelings of guilt and shame.
Contact us online or by phone at (704) 741-2928 if you’re ready to begin the detox process. Our certified team is happy to walk you through the steps and create a plan that works for you and your needs.