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.
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.