guilt and shame from addiction

Because alcohol is such an easily attainable substance, alcoholic tendencies are oftentimes overlooked for a long period of time before they are recognized. Alcoholism is a disease that is very tough to overcome without professional help. Because it hypnotizes all afflicted individuals into believing their behavior is normal it is nearly impossible to treat alone. There is an answer to the prayers of addiction: treatment at a center such as Coastal Detox.

The thing that prevents so many addicts from starting to receive treatment is that they tend to focus on the bad parts of themselves. This can impact their thinking patterns. A lot of addicts often believe there is no hope for their disease, and that they can’t change their habits. Once treatment has been accepted, our staff helps to attempt to change the mindset of our patients so they are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We understand that dealing with the guilt that comes with addiction is one of the greatest freedoms we can help our patients to achieve.

Our potential patients have taken the first step to truly overcoming their substance abuse upon admitting to their addictive tendencies. They can begin turning their lives around with the ultimate decision of leaving the substance-abusing chaos behind. They will get ready to embrace the changes that come their way. 

How Guilt and Shame Further Impact Addiction

Feeling shameful or guilty of something you do on a regular basis is something that a lot of faces. This can come in many forms and be caused by many different events that take place. For example, if you humiliate yourself in a public place by falling, you often feel some sort of shame towards that accidental action.

This is why addiction can cause shame and guilt. The actions that are happening that are out of a person’s control can make a person feel bouts of shame. What a lot of people that have never faced addiction don’t understand is that once use becomes abuse, it is out of the addicted person’s control.

The affected individual did not intentionally become addicted to the alcohol that now controls their life. Once the addiction occurs, they will sometimes feel there is something they could do on their own to rid themself of the addiction. In most cases, alcoholism can only be overcome by professional treatment programs, so there is nothing they can do alone.

Another way shame can overtake someone’s mindset and cause them to become even more addicted to alcohol is when their actions start to affect their lifestyle and relationships. The alcohol causes them to act differently than they normally would like stealing to obtain more of the substance and lying about their consumption. They feel shame because of these actions that were out of their control. This can cause them to dive deeper into an addiction to avoid feeling the guilt they feel because of the things they have said and done to others.

Why You’re Experiencing These Emotions

Substance abuse, especially that of alcoholism, can cause guilt and shame about the disease because of the past actions and thoughts that may have occurred because of your addiction. It is a completely normal process to go through once detox has been completed, and you begin living a sober lifestyle again. 

Many times, addicts will do and say things they never normally would never say, and coming to terms with these past events for the first time can bring out lots of emotions. A lot of the time, you will not even realize these feelings are there until becoming completely sober for the first time. Our staff is here to help you realize that the things you did while actively addicted to alcohol is not what truly defines who you are.

Revelations of Guilt

In recovery, some patients are too apologetic when they feel they have not lived up to expectations. Then there are those patients that lack moral consciousness to begin with. Regardless of that standpoint, it is essential to step out of either of those types of mindsets and start to see things differently. The point of recovery is to become a new person; leaving those dealings with guilt behind.

Recovery is about giving back to yourself and those closest to you after your addiction has taken away so much for so long. However, in order to give love and respect to others, you must relearn how to love and respect yourself. One way to improve on this skill is to slowly but surely raise your self-esteem. Your self-esteem has probably taken a hit from abusing the alcohol for so long, so this is necessary. 

Some tips for improving your self-esteem can be as simple as:

  • Recognizing Our Inner Strengths
  • Accepting All Those Strengths AND Weaknesses
  • Promoting Esteemable Acts
  • Engaging in Spiritual Practices
  • Discussing That Guilt/Shame With Others

Once you start implementing these practices, the guilt you’re feeling about your addiction will slowly start to fade. It’s imperative to take time for yourself to heal, so you can begin forgiving past actions and feelings that may have occurred over time. 

Guilt vs. Shame

Most of the time, guilt and shame fall into the same category of emotion type, but one shapes the way someone thinks about themselves more than the other does. Guilt is a lesser emotion that causes someone to feel bad about what they’ve done in the past. Most of the time, in treatment, guilt is felt when the recovering addict remembers something he or she said or did while under the influence of alcohol.

Shame is a little worse because it is almost as if guilt were on steroids. The guilt someone might feel about their past can turn to shame when they start believing that these actions define who they are as a person. They believe they will always negatively influence themselves and those around them and that there is no hoping of changing.

One of the goals of our therapists, when a patient expresses feeling levels of shame, is to reroute that energy into helping them believe that there is a potential to permanently change their behavior if they believe they can. Most of the time our therapists help our recovery addicts achieve this through a method called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

What is CBT and How Does it Help?

One type of therapy that our therapists specialize in here at Coastal Detox is CBT. CBT is a type of psychological therapy that we use to get to the root cause of our patients’ addictions. It helps us to teach our patients how to focus on other aspects of their life besides their substance abuse and encourages them to develop healthier habits and new ways of thinking. 

Some skills that CBT helps our patients with include:

  • Using healthier ways to cope with difficult situations
  • Being accepting of situations and actions of others that are uncontrollable
  • Looking at things from someone else’s perspective
  • Practicing relaxation techniques 
  • Recognizing triggers of guilt and shame and learning ways to lessen their influence 
  • Facing past actions and fears instead of avoiding them

Completely removing guilt and shame out of a patient’s life takes a lot of time and practice. By learning these techniques listed above, we believe that each one will help a patient incorporate a new way of understanding that they didn’t have before. This will, in turn, allow them to recover more quickly and fully than they would have without this type of therapy.

young woman dealing with guilt

Breaking the Cycle: 5 Tips for Overcoming Guilt and Shame

Having chosen recovery as the side of the road you prefer, now it’s about maintaining that mindset. Dealing with guilt is an uncomfortable experience that you were once able to numb away with your alcohol usage, but sobriety has returned the emotions that make that nearly impossible. By facing them head-on, you will have the best chance at a full recovery after graduating from either our residential or outpatient program here at Coastal Detox.

Recovery will help you to perceive the world in a more optimistic manner, and this newfound positivity will provide you with hope. You can stop creating that guilt by recognizing you are able to better yourself and your quality of life. You will realize after working with our licensed professionals that your addiction does not define you. It is merely just hindering the way you think about yourself and others.

Some of the things you can remember that will help break the cycle of guilt in treatment include:

  • Recognizing Feelings of Guilt: The first step to breaking the cycle is to acknowledge that these feelings of guilt are present. Once they have been addressed, it will be easier to work through them.
  • Asking Others for Forgiveness: If your actions while under the influence affected others around you, the best thing to do is to admit your mistakes and ask for their forgiveness. Chances are that if they truly care about your wellbeing, they will be accepting of your apologies and want to move forward with your relationship.
  • Accepting What You Can’t Control or Change: Once you realize there are many factors of life that are out of your control, including changing the past, you will be able to heal quicker from the events that happened during your addiction. This will allow you to rid yourself of the guilt that you may feel.
  • Bettering Yourself Through the Process: Remember to strive to change in a positive way during the treatment process. Develop new ways of thinking and be open to the mental changes that will come because of this.
  • Developing Healthy Habits: A great way to get your mind off the guilt you may be feeling is to fill your time in rehab with healthy activities. This could be anything from learning a new skill to becoming more active. 

Turning Guilt Into Positive Actions

When it comes to self-esteem and learning to forgive yourself of the past, it is vital to remember that an apology is only words. You can work on dealing with the guilt by paying it forward. Doing something for someone else will ultimately allow you to make up for the things that were lost during your addiction. There’s a general balance in life that must be met, and addicted individuals take more than they give. In order to achieve balance, many addicts must turn all that selfishness into selflessness.

Our therapists here at Coastal Detox encourage our patients to come to terms with their past mistakes and own up to them. Some mistakes are more costly than others, but learning from the past while moving forward is the best way to learn from them. 

In our family therapy sessions, we allow patients to sit down with their loved ones to discuss what is needed from them to move forward from the past. This allows for a safe environment to grow relationships back to what they were or even to a higher level than before. Each side is able to get out their frustrations and worries and voice what they expect from the future. By doing this, our patients end up with a much healthier environment and support system to go back to once they have left our facilities.

Overcoming Guilt and Shame in Addiction Recovery

We want to emphasize here at Coastal Detox that we understand that everyone is at risk of reaching their breaking point if pushed far enough. It’s part of human nature. If you believe you’re struggling with addiction and the guilt that comes along with it, it’s time to reach out for help. 

No matter your past, everyone deserves an equal chance at a normal, healthy life without the grip of addiction consuming them. If you or your loved one is in need of detoxification or help due to substance dependency, please contact us. Our team of specialists is standing by to help figure out what options are best for beginning the road to a full and long-lasting recovery from substance abuse addiction.