We have all heard those words ‘shame on you’. Shame is something all have felt at one time or another. It goes to the very core beliefs about us. In recovery shame is a feeling all too familiar and often becomes a trigger for use.
Shame emanates from what we expect of ourselves and what others expect of us. We learn shame based upon feedback from others and then come to believe it to be true. Addicts after many attempts at quitting come to believe their failures are because of who they are as a person.
It is some basic element of self making them weak or unable to maintain sobriety. Rarely is the alcohol or drugs and the feedback surrounding each failure taken into account. Most likely the beliefs about our intrinsic worth is in question.
I am not suggesting addicts look for someone to blame for use or failure to maintain sobriety. On the contrary, it is essential for recovery for personal responsibility and accountability to be accepted for decisions.
It is clear, however, many do not understand nor are they willing to make the effort to understand addiction. The debate rages on about whether addiction is a disease or a mental illness. Some even hold to the belief it is a moral issue. Nonetheless, society does not look favorably on the addicts. There often is more condemnation than understanding.
The addict encounters many episodes of self reflection followed by hope and new beginnings only to fall back into the throws of the alcohol or drugs. The best efforts seem to wind up in repeated episodes of failure. Many come to a conclusion they simply cannot escape from use and the shame.
Through counseling and support most people find ways to put away shame by understanding themselves and developing a basic level of self esteem or self valuing. It is a process not an event. It is not about who we are but our intrinsic value as a human being.
I like to use an example of going to a carnival and looking at fun mirrors that make you extra tall or extra short and fat. If these were the only images you had of yourself it would be easy to look into a regular mirror and not recognize yourself.
Written by Wendell Montney