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Dealing With Guilt and Shame in Recovery

Woman crying Guilt and shame are two common emotions that come up in addiction recovery. They stem from past behaviors and can linger around long after an addict has sought help. Dealing with feelings of guilt and shame are an integral part of the recovery process. In this series, we’ll discuss the differences in these emotions, how they can hurt recovery, and ways to cope with them. For the best drug and alcohol rehab in Raleigh NC, call Legacy Freedom today.

Although they are often used interchangeably, guilt and shame are actually two separate emotions that have different meanings. Let’s see how Merriam-Webster defines them:

Guilt: a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong.

Shame: a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong.

While they sound similar, feelings of guilt relate to how our actions have hurt someone else, but shame is how we feel about ourselves. They can go hand-in-hand in many situations. For example, if an addict steals money in order to buy drugs, he may feel guilty for committing the act, and then feel shame because his addiction has caused him to behave that way.

Anyone can feel guilt and shame; it’s not just people with substance abuse problems. 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 in recovery is that they may have done things completely out of character, dangerous or illegal when they were struggling with their addiction problem. They may have repeatedly made mistakes that they regret.  It can be a vicious cycle because a person can feel so much shame that he or she goes back to negative behaviors in order to cope.

Dealing with these feelings is important for a full and successful recovery. There are many ways to deal with guilt and shame. The first is to own up to it. Talking about feelings of guilt with a therapist or in group therapy can help you deal with them and learn to forgive yourself. It’s also a chance to get another perspective on past behaviors. Maybe you are judging yourself too harshly.

When feelings of guilt stem from past negative behaviors, forgiveness is key in letting go of it. Either forgive yourself for the things you did or ask for forgiveness from the people you have hurt. You may not be able to make amends with everyone, so your only option may be to forgive yourself. Ask yourself why you committed the action, think about who was affected by it, then think about what you could do if you were in that situation again.  By breaking down the behavior you can learn how to deal with that situation differently in the future.

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at how guilt and shame can hurt the recovery.

Holistic and Alternative Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Raleigh NC

Are you struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol and need help changing your life? Call Legacy Freedom today to get on the road to recovery. We offer outpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Raleigh NC to help you break your addiction. We only use alternative therapies that are tailored to fit your needs. Our holistic approach helps you deal with all aspects of your addiction, including learning how to cope with feelings of guilt and shame. You don’t have to feel ashamed anymore. Call us today to speak with an admissions counselor.