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  • Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    A place for community rundowns, special events and announcements from Counselling Online forums facilitation team.
    Lady Bug
    Community Builder
    Posts: 155
    Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:49 am

    Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Mon Oct 19, 2020 10:10 pm

    When you’re struggling with substance abuse and addiction, you will do things you wouldn’t dream of doing sober, just to get through the day. After beginning the journey to recover, it can be very common to start feeling guilt and shame around the things you did whilst on substances, or the fact that you are struggling with substances. Maybe you feel so ashamed about your substance use that no one, not even your family or closest connections know you have a problem? Maybe you work in the health and medical industry, and feel so ashamed that you struggle to ask for help in fear of being judged. It can be easy to dwell on these emotions and to feel overwhelmed by them, but sitting in them for too long is going to halt your recovery journey, and possibly set you up for relapses.

    While guilt and shame are very similar emotions, there are many differences between the two. 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. Shame, however, goes a step further than guilt. While guilt is acknowledging and feeling bad that you did something you shouldn’t have, shame is internalising guilt and believing that you, yourself are bad because of the bad things you’ve done.

    So how do we break this cycle of guilt and shame in addiction recovery? Well first of all, let’s normalise these feelings. What you are feeling right now is completely normal. And yes they are really hard emotions to sit with. But there are a few things you can do to bring yourself out of these feelings.
    • Recognise that guilt and shame are counter-productive. When you are on your road to recovery, it can be easy to be overly critical of yourself and the things you did while you weren’t sober. Dwelling on these emotions is self-destructive, so try and distance yourself from them by acknowledging that the substances changed your behaviour- you are not a bad person. You can change your behaviour moving forward and be the person you want to be.
    • Ask For Forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes. Choosing to change your life and fight against your addiction is an extremely courageous decision, and part of recovery is making amends and asking those you have wronged for forgiveness. While they may not be in a place to be able to forgive you immediately, you will have done your best to make amends and put your actions behind you.
    • Let Go of What You Cannot Control. The only person you are truly in control of is yourself. There are so many things that are outside of your control that you can’t change; your past being one of them. Holding onto the things you did under the influence, the guilt of hurting people, or the shame of having an addiction won’t help your recovery.
    • Forgive Yourself. Learning to forgive yourself is a long process. Dwelling on the things that you’ve done in the past is not going to help you. Letting go of the things in your past is a big step towards being free from addiction.
    If you feel ready, maybe reach out to someone close to you to let them know of your struggles and what you are doing to recover. You never know they may be more understanding than you think.

    It'd be great to hear how you are letting things go and living in a more positive way. Let us know by posting a reply below.

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    HelpfulBee
    Community Builder
    Posts: 191
    Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:59 pm

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Sat Nov 07, 2020 2:19 pm

    Guilt and shame are some of the hardest parts of substance use for the user - It can make it even harder to ask for help, when it's already so hard.
    Thanks for this post [mention]Lady Bug[/mention], it was really informative! :)
    2 x
    Peace Dove
    Community Builder
    Posts: 247
    Joined: Mon May 03, 2021 9:22 am

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Tue Jul 27, 2021 5:53 pm

    Thank you @Lady Bug for bringing up and explaining this very important and always current topic. The better we know and understand our feelings, the better we can manage them and work through them. Let’s try to explore this topic further.

    The dynamic between guilt and shame and addiction

    Guilt and shame can be equally counterproductive or productive for people in addiction recovery depending on how they’re managed. Self-empathy can help you shift these feelings into a more positive self-image. Conversely, shame can potentially be a trigger for a lapse or relapse if the alcohol or other drugs are used as a coping strategy to temporarily relieve the shame. One of the best strategies to help you stay in the present and manage better the negative thoughts caused by these feelings are mindfulness exercises, as well as practicing self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

    Self-compassion and self-forgiveness

    According to Professor Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion consists of three main elements: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. These are some of the exercises Neff suggests to help practice self-compassion:

    - Treat yourself as you would treat a friend: write down what you would say to your closest friend if they approached you with the same issue and write down what you tell yourself. Notice if there is a difference in the content or tone and if so, ask yourself why?
    - Write a letter to yourself from a point of acceptance and compassion
    - Keep a daily journal where you can process your daily difficulties from a lens of self-compassion
    - Reframe your inner dialogue to more encouraging and supportive affirmations
    -Acknowledge your self-critical voice and reframe it in a more friendly way

    There’s plenty of self-compassion resources and exercises you can find online. The world is your oyster! And please remember to be patient with yourself. Even self-compassion requires some practice. :)

    “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.” — Maya Angelou

    I wonder if you have some words of advice on this matter @PnorkelPW and @ScorpionPW. I’m also going to tag some of you that have mentioned experiencing this too in case you find the resources useful or want to join the conversation. @EtherealAngel111 @WildeReformed @Exfitspo @Annie2405 @Nikkigrl78 @Minnie mouse @Elizabeth99 @Keita @cerena @Frangipanijazz @Jackattack19881 @Haleth @14days @Alaok @apples123 @Angelgirl @BeXta @Avoca @Deep blue

    Resources:
    -Neff, K. D. (2011), Self-compassion: the proven power of being kind to yourself, New York, NY: William Morrow.
    -Sawer, F., Davis, P. & Gleeson, K. (2020) Is shame a barrier to sobriety? A narrative analysis of those in recovery, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 27:1, 79-85, DOI: 10.1080/09687637.2019.1572071
    -Snoek, A., McGeer, V., Brandenburg, D., and Kennett, J., (2021), Managing shame and guilt in addiction: A pathway to recovery, Addictive Behaviors, Vol. 120, No. 106954, ISSN 0306-4603, doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2021.106954. Epub 2021 Apr 17.
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    ScorpionPW
    Peer Worker
    Posts: 220
    Joined: Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:06 am

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Wed Jul 28, 2021 9:32 pm

    This is such a great topic @Lady Bug and @Peace Dove, thanks for sharing.

    It was definitely true that in my addiction I treated people in ways and did things that I felt very ashamed about. When my addiction was active I was incapable of putting anything else first other than doing whatever it took to get on that day. It was soul destroying and I honestly felt like an empty shell when I got clean.

    It took a long time and a lot of internal work to not see myself as the problem. Something that helped with this was hearing that I am not responsible for my addiction but I am responsible for my recovery. Ever since learning that I have been dedicated to using the freedom of choice I get in recovery to treat the ones that I love with integrity, honesty and respect.

    After going through the initial process of unpacking the baggage from my addiction and making amends where I needed to it has been such an incredible relief to not walk around with all of that hanging over me. Now it is just about a daily process of reflecting on my behaviour and promptly owning up to things when I need to...clearing the wreckage of my present so to speak.

    I can honestly say that now days I have well and truly forgiven myself. I actually love the person I have become and know that I am kind, empathetic, loving and honest. I know that I have a lot to offer and therefore I am selective of who I let into my close emotional world.

    It is nice to reflect on this and see how far I have come. I'm looking forward to seeing other peoples experiences with this :)
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    CaptainKirk
    Moderator
    Posts: 45
    Joined: Wed Aug 19, 2020 1:08 am

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Wed Jul 28, 2021 10:41 pm

    Beautifully put @ScorpionPW!
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    PnorkelPW
    Peer Worker
    Posts: 192
    Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2021 3:14 pm

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Thu Jul 29, 2021 9:33 pm

    Love the topic @Lady Bug ...............thanks for the tag @Peace Dove ................loved the share @ScorpionPW especially "clearing the wreckage of my present"..............that is such an essential part of maintaining recovery for me.

    When I've acted out of alignment with my values, allowed my emotions to dictate my response, discovered my response to a situation was not how I would like to respond the next time I'm presented with a similar situation or any other of the number of reasons that guilt or shame might present themselves in my life I have to "own" it. Reaching a point where I was able to accept myself and my past took time and a hell of a lot of processing. I forgave myself. Like you @ScorpionPW I realised that I wasn't to blame for my addictions.............and I am responsible for the choices I make from this point forwards.

    This realisation helped me immensely in my interactions with other people too..........helped me not get drawn into arguments about the things I'd done.............helped me shut up.........helped me not making problems any worse.............I had finally accepted my past. I remember one particular conversation with my ex-wife when I was a couple months out of rehab. She was still angry with me - and rightly so - about some of my past actions. I'd spent a lot of time in rehab processing these things, she hadn't had the opportunity to do so with me. Instead of trying to defend my actions and justify them like I would have when I was living in addiction, I acknowledged my actions.........I "owned" them. I remember saying that I'd give anything in the world not to have done those things but there is no way I can take them back. The only thing I could do from that point forwards was to try to live my life in a way which I wouldn't treat people like I had in the past. To live responsibly, put others first...........to no longer be ruled by guilt and shame. Instead of getting into an argument I took responsibility for my past actions and acknowledged that I had done them. I sat and listened to what she had to say...........and that was bloody hard..........but it was the truth.

    Prior to that particular conversation I'd never owned anything really.........I would sometimes but only when all other options, excuses, justifications, reasons and whatever other deflections I could muster had been exhausted..........then I'd fess up but that wasn't taking true ownership. The more I did that, the more the guilt and shame built up. Because my actions when I was in active addiction were so far removed from my value set I never accepted accountability and this again led to build ups of guilt and shame. The build up of guilt and shame just fed my addictions, fed my resentment of self and eventually all I had was negative emotion...............that's where the depression and anxiety built.

    I discovered what true "ownership" of behaviour is along my recovery journey. I've discovered that I do have the courage to talk to someone after an event, the next day, next week, next time I see them. Discovered I can say "Hey........yesterday I dismissed your opinion, didn't give you my full attention because I was putting my own needs first, lashed out because I let my emotions build up".............or any other number of reasons I need to make an amends. This goes a hell of a long way to being able to move on. To not worry every time I see that person. I don't always get forgiveness but at least I know I've done what I can............and I can move on, learn from that experience and try to do better next time. That's the secret to combatting guilt and shame for me.

    What's your experience with guilt and shame?
    2 x
    WildeReformed
    Junior Member
    Posts: 24
    Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2021 2:46 pm

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Fri Jul 30, 2021 5:43 pm

    @Lady Bug I think this is a really important topic that I'd like to explore. @Peace Dove Thank you for tagging me. @ScorpionPW and @PnorkelPW Thank you for sharing.

    I don't really have anything helpful to contribute because I still live with a lot of guilt and shame, but maybe just sharing my thoughts could help someone else not feel alone. I often struggle to forgive and have self-compassion and it's something that has really bubbled to the surface recently. I'm trying to be mindful of my inner dialogue as it's often unkind. I hold myself to an excruciatingly high standard and often feel that any deviation from it is the real sign, the real me- unlovable, unforgivable and inherently bad.

    I often get stuck in a mental circle of reliving scenarios from my past. It's like a loop, stuck on repeat, thinking about things that I am ashamed of. I know it's not helpful but sometimes I can't get past it. Sometimes I think that if I just apologise to all the people I've wronged then the thoughts will go away... but to be honest, I'm not sure they will. . I think sometimes the underlying reasoning is not that I need forgiveness from others, but that I need forgiveness from myself, and that replaying the moments of shame or guilt is a way that I punish myself for these poor choices.

    I think it's the toughest part of recovery, trying to integrate the person who you were with the person who you are becoming. I know the person who I want to be is kind, caring, and self-compassionate.
    2 x
    apples123
    Junior Member
    Posts: 27
    Joined: Tue May 07, 2019 12:40 pm

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Sat Aug 14, 2021 10:32 pm

    Hi..
    Guilt and Shame...

    I feel these things strongly.
    Every time I look at my kids, looking back and how I hurt them and others by my addiction- no physical harm but emotional and mental... and ill always feel this. My son is 6 and us struggling to read at school. COVID or is mums addiction to blame? Was I there for him enough? Did I read to him enough? Truth be told I'd have these feelings without my addiction- I thinks it's parent guilt. But still I feel this.

    I now want to celebrate my recovery but I can't. As not many people know. My family know but we don't talk about it much
    I'd lose my job if work found out too.. Im not sure if it's guilt or shame but I want to scream from the roof tops like I've recovered from cancer or an accident but I feel like I can't..

    So ill scream and celebrate it on here..

    Today marks 2 years clean.
    I AM a recovering ice addict who has been clean for 731 days.

    Anniversaries like this bring lots of guilt and shame. Guilt that I met a guy, thought he was spesh, but within weeks was addicted to ice. First he put it in my drink. Then he told me it was speed. I was fine with speed, did off and on at uni but didn't notice any difference until I wanted more and more and then he said it was ice... My heart sank but I was hooked.

    Anniversaries suck... they are a reminder on how far I've come. But also a reminder on what/who I hurt in the years before hand.

    Every day is a struggle but some days aren't as bad.

    No cravings but wow do I miss it...
    I miss the nice charming him....
    I miss feeling good when high....

    I feel guilty for missing a person/drug that almost took my life.

    Today I am 2 years free..
    Free from the claws of him and ice.

    🙏 💜
    3 x
    Calvino01
    Community Builder
    Posts: 213
    Joined: Tue Jan 29, 2019 4:05 pm

    Re: Let’s Talk: Dealing with Guilt and Shame

    Mon Aug 16, 2021 12:06 am

    Well done on reaching 2 years sober @apples123 !

    It is definitely worth celebrating and I'm sure you're an inspiration for many people! :D
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