How Guilt And Shame Can Derail Addiction Recovery

Breaking the cycle of guilt and shame that is often present in addiction recovery is no small task. Here are a few things you can do to bring yourself out of these feelings. While guilt and shame are very similar emotions, there are many differences between the two, and recognizing them is important. Guilt is when you feel bad about something that you’ve done, or committed to doing and then didn’t. For example, maybe you feel guilty about saying unkind things to someone while you were intoxicated, or making a promise to do something and then not following through. Long-term healing from shame and addiction requires finding the strength to forgive yourself if you’ve made a mistake or acted in a way that doesn’t reflect who you want to be. Whether you used drugs or alcohol to cope or turned to other damaging outlets, forgiving yourself for how you reacted is another essential element required to break the cycle.

  • If it’s a bear or a coyote where I grew up there with coyotes, it would work because a coyote doesn’t want to eat a pasta because they don’t want to get poisoned.
  • It is natural for a human to castigate blame on this foreign entity.
  • Due to their prevalence, it is increasingly important to understand why they develop and what mechanisms can help or hinder recovery.
  • In recovery, it can impede growth and cause regression when addressing emotional progress, especially for co-occurring disorders.

This is why it is important for recovering patients to deal with their emotional baggage before they leave their rehab facilities. Forgive yourself – Remember that yes, you have made mistakes, but who has not made them? Regardless of the consequences of your addiction, you have to forgive yourself at some point.

Understanding Guilt And Shame In Addiction Recovery

Shame and guilt are parts of addiction and recovery that are quite common but can be repaired with time and work. If one dwells in these feelings though, the creation of self-doubt can lead to furthering relapse or causing it to reoccur. It is important to try to become more self-aware of your feelings and work on them. Many addicts in early stages of recovery feel overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame. One of the best ways to deal with the guilt of addiction is to work a 12-step program.

  • These bad choices can lead to guilt and shame both during and after recovery.
  • For instance, you might have said hurtful things to those you love, or you could have engaged in drug-seeking behaviors where you were willing to exchange alcohol and drugs for sex.
  • Allowing your guilt and shame to control your life can play a huge role in your decision to use again in order to numb and hide those negative feelings.
  • We are willing to seek a closer relationship with God.

These two diagnoses often go hand in hand, and both are surrounded by a cloud of negative stigma that often prevents individuals from seeking out the help they need. Shame can be caused by committing a crime and it could also be caused by being the victim.


It doesn’t always depend on doing something improper, though. 7 Summit Pathways can help you recognize the difference between shame and guilt in Recovery and help you move forward to live a life you love. The relationship between forgiveness, spirituality, traumatic guilt and posttraumatic stress disorder among people with addiction. Subjects completed an assessment and then were reassessed at 3, 6, 12, and 15 months. Participants completed measures on demographics, health status, substance use, negative self-conscious emotion, positive emotion, and depressive symptoms. This therapy gives clients the tools to cope with life’s problems.

Forgiving ourselves or others and releasing that choking experience of guilt is crucial to overcoming a relapse or pushing through on your journey of recovery. It’s important to forgive others too, as when you do so, you let go and accept. It may not make things right or just, but it means you are willing to let mistakes that happen, happen and you don’t want to feel responsible for the things you can’t control. And substance abuse aren’t a good mix, though they commonly occur especially in early recovery. When someone feels shame, they may look for a way out to escape the feeling and go to something that masks the feelings to get away from the world for a while.

guilt and shame in recovery

It is fine to acknowledge past mistakes and feel badly about them, but to move forward in recovery, you need to forgive yourself for those things. Nothing productive will come from dwelling on past errors that can’t be undone.

What Are The Roles Of Guilt And Shame In Drug Addiction

For example, if someone was abused as a child, they may transfer such abuse by bullying others. Such a recourse may be a temporary solution, but basically, it is just accruing more pain.

guilt and shame in recovery

If shame is the most stressful human emotion and shame leads me to freeze that how does that show up? Most of us aren’t aware of it, because it’s like I said, is the unthought No, but there are signs of it. Learn more about our levels of care and our treatment team here!

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With Guilt we can confess our errors and be vulnerable with others, which can build deeper connections, better communication and a sense of relief. Once you stop doing those things or taking actions that cause you to feel remorseful or sorry, the feelings can go away or not have a chance to show themselves. Naturally, you’ll also need to learn to overcome shame as you progress through recovery. No amount of self-punishment will ever feel like enough, and you will get caught up in the cycle of reliving bad memories and engaging in negative self-talk. Guilt and shame are similar emotions, but it’s important to recognize the differences between them.

guilt and shame in recovery

If you feel guilty over something you did, it does not mean you are experiencing shame. One of the first things to understand before delving into the topic of shame and addiction is that there is a significant difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is typically related to something we did and is a natural emotion that lets us know when we’ve done something wrong according to ourselves. It makes us feel inadequate, useless, and without reason. Shame and addiction areco-occurring disordersthat often appear together. The feelings of being ashamed are natural emotions that nearly every person experiences at some time.

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During addiction, you may feel guilt for saying something rude to someone while you were under the influence or made a wrong decision that impacted your life or the lives of others. Guilt is that feeling of responsibility or remorse you have after you do something wrong. However, people battling shame will find that hiding an addiction becomes another reason to feel shame. Medical professionals now agree that addiction is a disease. But many still accept the traditional explanation that drug use is a result of moral weakness. Such a perspective would convince a user that their addiction is their fault. Untreated, people deal with shame in a number of different unhealthy ways.

  • Focus on the things that you can change and let go of the things that you can’t change.
  • This is not an easy task because you are exposing yourself to rejection.
  • Call us toll-free and speak to one of our compassionate treatment staff.
  • Guilt can be a useful response to help interpersonal relationships exist.

While guilt is about what you did, shame is about who you are as a person. Shame motivates you to hide and to withdraw, while guilt motivates you to make things right. When you feel guilty, you demonstrate that you have a conscience and want to make things right. Shame is harmful because it can result in withdrawal, isolation, and addiction. If you are struggling with guilt or shame, remember that guilt is helpful, and shame is harmful. If you need help managing these emotions while in rehab, find a therapist or counselor or attend a group therapy session. Often, people use both interchangeably and consider these emotions one and the same.

What Is Guilt

Tara Treatment Center, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501 organization. According to Brené Brown, a leading researcher on courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy at the University of Houston, shame is the most primitive emotion we feel. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is still hope! Contact us here at Rise in Malibu for information on how to get help.

Why People Feel Shame In Recovery

To understand how shame fuels drug and alcohol addiction, it’s critical to assess and distinguish the feelings of guilt vs. shame. Guilt, on the one hand, is a natural feeling that coincides with choices or mistakes. Guilt often stems from moral conscience and can help us distinguish right from wrong.

They are already struggling with letting go of guilt and shame. The last thing they need is for you to continue to blame them as it will only make their recovery more difficult. Many times people make shaming comments with the intention it will inspire someone to change. Guilt can be a useful response to help interpersonal relationships exist. Be careful how negative feedback is conveyed- simply state the harm caused, or desired behavior rather than shame the other person. When we feel guilt it can inspire us to act differently, because we feel badly about something.

Is ok when it is warranted for the right reasons but when it consumes you and your emotions, it can get in the way of your healing & recovery process. Ultimately, shame-based thinking is self-destructive. It eats away at your self-worth and causes depression — and as you probably know already, feeling depressed and bad about yourself is a common trigger for using. Though you might feel like you “deserve” to feel shame for your actions, punishing yourself does not help the people you may have hurt, nor does it help yourself for that matter. «What happens is, alcohol is a depressant,» John says. The Blackberry Center is a 64-bed behavioral hospital in St. Cloud, Florida.

Signs Associated With Shame

Ever since the user was a child, they had been told ‘not to do drugs’ by authority figures. Everytime that they consume their drugs or alcohol, a voice in the back of their head is telling them that they are bad. People suffering from mental disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia or trauma, will consume drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of the disorder. After a while however, the user discovers that drug addiction makes the mental disorder much worse.

Both of these emotions are similar, in that they deal with remorse and inadequacies – the same feelings that often compel users to start taking drugs. Shame, on the other hand, convinces us that we ourselves are bad. Nothing could be further from the truth, because we do have the power to change. He stepped on my foot and looks like like it’s no big deal. And so it ends up leading guilt and shame in recovery to a breakdown in relationships because the person that shamed they don’t necessarily look like they’re alarmed because they’re in a freeze response. I think about this sometimes and I would say this to parents, is that when your son or daughter is trapped in an addictive cycle, you can bet your bottom dollar. The only person you are truly in control of is yourself.