Overcoming Shame in Addiction Recovery


Holding onto shame can sabotage your recovery. Maybe you felt overwhelming shame and guilt throughout your active addiction as you consistently hurt the people you loved the most. Now that you’re sober, you may feel another surge of guilt and shame as you reflect on the people you hurt, the bad decisions you made, and all the amends you have yet to make.

As you progress through your sober living programme, these heavy feelings of shame can weigh you down and keep you from achieving your full potential in recovery if you let them. Although you can’t travel back in time and change the past, it is possible to overcome that shame and guilt, start fresh, and build a life that you’re proud of living.


Shame in Addiction Recovery


Why do we feel shame?

Guilt and shame are reflections of our values in life and our perceptions of what is right and wrong. During active addiction, people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol tend to make decisions that they know are wrong or that hurt other people, but the compulsion to continue using hurt others to continue using drugs is just too strong to resist.


After making these types of decisions repeatedly, the addict may feel guilty, knowing full well that what he or she is doing is wrong, yet being unable to control it. As the guilt builds, the addict begins to internalize shame. This is an overwhelming feeling of not being good enough because of the mistakes he or she has made.


These feelings of guilt and shame ultimately compound and make it nearly impossible to face the true problem of addiction, ask for help, and admit that what was done in the past was wrong. Even after a person completes a detox programme and has overcome their physical addiction, the psychological and behavioral challenges remain.


Why is shame so difficult to overcome?

As the cycle of shame continues to plague a person throughout rehab, sober living, and even into aftercare or IOP, it’s easy to see why this struggle would be difficult to overcome. Admitting the wrongdoings, apologizing, and making an effort to make things right in the here and now is not an easy thing to do, but it’s the best way to start overcoming the shame that is associated with a past of addiction.


Learning to accept the consequences of those behaviors is something that may take time, but it’s an important part of the recovery process and it promotes individual and personal growth for people in rehab and sober living programmes.


What are the benefits of letting go of shame?

Letting go of shame in addiction recovery will not only make you feel better emotionally, but it will also free you from the heavy weight that tries to pull you back into those old and damaging behaviors of lying and self-loathing.


Letting go of shame is a process that takes time, so you may still feel like you’re working on it long after rehab ends. Even while enrolled in a transitional living programmes, actively working to let go of your shame will help you establish healthy relationships and repair the damage done to old ones.


How to Free Yourself from Guilt and Shame in Sobriety

There is no foolproof plan that will instantly remove feelings of guilt as you transition into a life of sobriety, but there are a few specific things you can do to gradually move past them and be the best possible version of you.

  • Be open and honest with your sober peers and mentors – Whether it’s in an AA meeting or during a one-on-one conversation with a sober living roommate, being open and honest about your feelings of guilt and shame is a great way to process these emotions, admit wrongdoings, and move forward with your life. Chances are, lots of your peers are struggling with similar issues or have in the past. As they share their own experiences with similar struggles and provide encouragement and guidance for how to get through it, you’ll realize you’re not alone and you have support to get through this.

  • Continue making your amends – Part of the 12-step process is making amends with people you hurt in the past. Although you probably started this process back in rehab, many people continue to make their amends while enrolled in IOP and sober living. It’s a challenging process that takes time, continued effort, and emotional maturity, but it’s one of the best things you can do to banish feelings of guilt and shame.

  • Focus on the here and now – It’s easy to get swept up in the past and focus on all the things you did wrong while you were actively addicted. But the truth is, those days are over now, and you’re in recovery. You’ve made a conscious choice to change your behavior and you’re working every day to be a better person. Focusing on those positive things will help you remain present and maintain a peaceful mindset that fosters personal growth and ongoing emotional sobriety.

  • Forgive yourself – One of the most important things you can do to overcome shame in addiction recovery is to simply forgive yourself. Although it’s easier said than done, making peace with your former self and making a conscious decision to move forward is an important step in the recovery process. As you gradually transition into sober life and continue working your recovery programme and sober living programme, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to come to terms with who you used to be and be comfortable with who you are today.ugh you can’t travel back in time and change the past, it is possible to overcome that shame and guilt, start fresh, and build a life that you’re proud of living.



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