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Dealing with addiction guilt and shame

When trying to overcome an addiction, it is important to know that addiction is an illness that needs to be treated like any other illness. Users often report feelings of drug addiction guilt, which can result in an addiction shame cycle, as we explain in this blog. We also look into how drug rehab can work to combat these emotions and how we can help you find the right rehab for you. 

Addiction shame cycle

Shame can often continue into sobriety and nullify the satisfaction that should come with recovery. In fact, it can be a destructive force in an addict’s recovery process full stop. So much so, it can push someone to the limits of their resolve and make a relapse likely.

So why do we experience this counter-productive emotion and how can we overcome it? To answer that, we need to understand exactly what we’re dealing with.

Drug addiction guilt and shame

More often than not, drug addiction guilt and shame are misconstrued to be the same thing. However, there is a subtle difference. Put simply, guilt can be a force for good, whereas shame is the bigger offender and is rarely a healthy emotion. Guilt makes you say “I did something wrong” but shame leads to the more damning notion of “I am wrong.”

Whilst guilt is often associated with accountability, shame is more linked with causing pain and being the underlying reason for psycho-social issues, like substance abuse, depression and infidelity.

Contrastingly, guilt can lead to healing, in sharp contrast to shame, which invariably leads to disconnection from those around you. It is internalised and deeply connected to our sense of self but guilt, on the other hand, is often fleeting.

The addiction shame cycle

Being caught in an addiction shame cycle can sometimes tip the delicate scales of recovery towards reverting back to substance abuse to cope with the feelings of shame. If these underlying emotions have always presented a challenge, then these trusted coping mechanisms – that once numbed the pain – are sure-fire temptations to escape the so-called ‘demons’.

In some cases, drug addiction guilt causes people to sabotage their own recovery journey by thinking that they do not deserve to find happiness. If that feeling of shame exists in relation to the ‘bad’ things that they’ve done in the past, in pursuit of their addiction or as a direct result of their substance abuse, then the spectre of relapse can threaten once more.

Addiction and dealing with guilt

For those dealing with addiction shame, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and counselling programmes, which can be organised through Port of Call, can be hugely beneficial. In order to recover, it is important that the addicted person removes any shame by coming to terms with their addiction problem. Often, talking about the problem can be a great comfort and relief.

Living in the here and now, once we have repaired the wreckage of the past, there is nothing to be ashamed of any longer. Contributing to life, making and keeping promises to ourselves and others, staying clean and sober – these are all things that build self-esteem.

If you would like to talk to someone about your drug addiction guilt and shame, please talk to one of our trained professionals here at Port of Call today on 08000029010. We can help you through the process and can guide you towards the best form of treatment for you. 

About the author: Alex Molyneux

Alex is our admissions team leader. Over the last 5 years he has spoken with more than 10,000 people via our helpline and has organised over 1,000 detox and rehabilitation placements.

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