Like many of us, I brought a lot of guilt and shame into recovery with me. I couldn't seem to help but think about all of the things I did while under the influence of alcohol, not to mention the situations I got myself mixed up in. These thoughts practically destroyed my self-esteem and negatively affected my ability to move forward in my recovery.
I learned, however, that no matter how painful, regret can actually play an important role in the healing process. Left to fester, regret can make it very difficult to learn and move forward, but in its healthiest form, it drove me to ask some important questions of myself such as, "What can I do now to try to make amends for what I've done wrong in the past, and how can I make better decisions in the future?"
Guilt and Shame
The two components of regret, guilt and shame, seem the same, but they are actually very different. Guilt is a productive feeling, because it shows us what we have done wrong. We can then learn from our mistake and move on. Shame, however, is usually the result of a negative perception of ourselves instead of whatever it was we did wrong. Instead of seeing what we did as a mistake, we see ourselves as a mistake.
When shame takes over, it can actually prevent us from developing guilt and genuine concern. We end up feeling so damaged that we can no longer have empathy for ourselves or someone else.
What Can We Do About It?
Since shame is the most deeply disturbing feeling we can have about ourselves, it is important to learn how to release it so it no longer holds you back. Here are some ways to do that:
- Focus on Right Now - You can start by looking where you are in the present and accepting it. Everyone has to start from somewhere; accept your starting point and take a look at the things in your life that just aren't working right. When painful feelings bubble up to the surface, allow yourself to feel them and take notice of what you are feeling. Shame is like a vampire, it melts away in the light. Your negative cycle will break if stop trying to keep it hidden. Once you do that, find someone you can trust and release your shame to them, and you will find it easier to move on.
- Forgive Yourself - Remember that everyone makes mistakes; it's not exclusive to addiction. Then forgive yourself just like you would anyone else. Making amends to those you may have wronged can also help you feel better about yourself.
- Mistakes are a Lesson Learned - Even our most embarrassing moments can be learned from and provide a pathway to the positive. Ironically, those who make the most mistakes also learn the most. Consider them a learning experience.
- Love Yourself - By allowing self-love into your soul, all sorts of possibilities will show themselves, including the ability to love others. Trust your inner wisdom, and you will move forward. Loving yourself can take you to a better place in life.
- Get some Insight - Getting an objective opinion will also help you to get over any feelings of shame. Someone who can help you get unstuck from the shame rut is your sponsor, your therapist, or a trusted friend or family member.
When feelings of shame surface, remember to apply the exercises above. Most importantly, take the time to replace those feelings with self-acceptance, empathy, and compassion. You deserve it!
The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (844) 494-4939.