An important part of moving forward in recovery is letting go of feelings of guilt and shame. While this may not be easy to do, it is essential for finding peace and living in the present. Worrying about past wrongs and feeling guilt or shame will only add to your stress and make it harder to commit to sobriety. Consider the strategies below to help you let go of guilt and shame and focus on a lasting recovery.
During addiction, guilt and shame are masked by substance use. When a person enters recovery, those old feelings come to the forefront and can be challenging to deal with. Part of the recovery process involves facing the reality of how you behaved when you were suffering from addiction and finding a way to forgive yourself.
While guilt and shame are both negative emotions, there are certain differences between the two:
- Guilt is a feeling caused by doing something wrong or making a bad choice that you regret.
- Shame is a feeling of humiliation or embarrassment caused by feeling that you are wrong or bad in some way.
Guilt can be a useful emotion in that it keeps us accountable and signals when we need to take responsibility for our actions or make amends. Shame, however, does not have a useful function; it only serves to make us feel unworthy of healing and love.
Ways to Overcome Guilt and Shame in Recovery
Feelings of guilt and shame in addiction recovery can be challenging obstacles to overcome, especially for those in early recovery. Letting these feelings take hold can easily lead someone to relapse as a way to escape the pain. However, there are some specific steps you can take to work through these feelings and move forward:
- Apologize to people you may have hurt and ask them to forgive you. When possible, correct the harm you have caused.
- Focus on positive affirmations and self-talk to remind yourself that you are worthy of forgiveness.
- Reach out for support from people who care about you and who can understand what you’re going through.
- Speak to a professional, if needed, for guidance on coping strategies for dealing with shame.
- Attend 12-step meetings to hear firsthand about what ways others may deal with negative emotions in their own recoveries from drugs or alcohol.
Most importantly, it is important to remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and that learning from these mistakes and moving forward is key to a lasting recovery. Once you work through the amends process, continuing to be honest with yourself and others will build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Recovery is an ongoing process that takes work and commitment. Letting go of negative feelings is only one part of that process, and doing so requires not only that you forgive yourself and make amends with others, but also that you are willing to forgive those who may have wronged you. Learning to forgive others will help you move on and heal.
When you allow shame to have power over you, you are trying to punish yourself for your past. Recovery is not about punishing yourself or others. It’s about looking at yourself honestly and with compassion so that you can have the courage to rebuild your life. It’s about nurturing a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
We Are Here to Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center is here to help. We can help you find the right treatment options to put you on the path to a lasting recovery. We offer a holistic approach utilizing a variety of services, including residential treatment, medically monitored detox, family program, and extended care and transitional living services. To find out more about what programs and services are available in our Pennsylvania recovery center, please contact us today.