Shame is an almost universal emotion for addicts, given the many possibilities of their lives not turning out as well as they expected and the behaviors that go along with addictions. Many addicts are forced to steal in order to support their habit, but even those that don’t live part of their lives in secrecy, lying to themselves and others about their addiction. They lie to friends, parents, children, spouses. They degrade themselves in order to serve their most immediate function, which is to continue their addiction.
People take exception to the idea that lying to yourself is shameful. It’s pretty easy to forgive yourself, so why should lying to yourself be such a burden? However, lying to oneself can be all the more painful and self-destructive, because an addict will say to themselves, “I’m OK,” to justify the risk of continuing with their addiction. Moments later, an addict may kick themselves, knowing they have just lied to the one person who can change their lives: Themselves.
The almost universal shame, of course, is the addiction itself. Addict – all addicts – tell themselves to quit doing what they are doing. Never have another drink. Never do drugs again. Then their will power gives in and they go out drinking or turning to drugs. They sense the failure. They are horrified by it. And, tragically, the one surefire way to get rid of those feeling of doom, failure, and shame is to use drink or drugs again to feel better.
“I told myself I’d quit … and now I’m high again,” or drunk again. An addict’s inner soul feels corrupted or broken. The next day, the promise to quit and the reaching for the substance of choice repeats itself. Day by day, this noose gets tighter and tighter. The shame of being an addict is not a small burden; it’s a very dark feeling where embarrassment meets stoned cold fear and dread. The addict knows they’ve done it again. They’ve failed again. Overcoming addiction with willpower isn’t working. How far will they go to avoid stepping back into an honest lifestyle?
The shame of coming forward is measured against the much easier emotional choice of just simply getting high again or drunk again. Putting sobriety off just one more day is an addict’s mantra. Putting it off one more day becomes a habit, a lifestyle.
How do you break through this shame/addiction lifestyle?
One thing you can do to break the shame/addiction cycle is to take away its power. There are millions of addicts in the world. Human beings are prone to addictions. We are seduced by them and we are smart enough to manipulate the odds in our favor – at least for a while. So, hey, you’re an addict. That means you’re human. Welcome to the club. Don’t feel ashamed. It happens. Let’s not give that shame any power. Let’s just move forward and see how far we can to with that.
Another way to break the same/addiction cycle is to point out very honestly that emotions are temporary. One day you can hate someone and the next your back in love with them. Emotions are not permanent. Shame isn’t permanent.
As far as addictions go, the very same thing that creates so much shame – going to rehabilitation – turns into the proudest accomplishment of their lives. So, it’s embarrassing going to rehab. Someday you might go to a 12-Step meeting and brag about it. You will proudly tell your children or your parents what you have done. Rehabilitation is only embarrassing before you go. Afterward, you will feel like a new person, someone who knows that shame just got beat.
If you or anyone you know is hooked into a shame and addiction cycle, have them call the U.S. Rehab Network today to discuss rehabilitation options. Help break the cycle. In Scottsdale, Az., call 888-598-0909 for more information.