How to Overcome Shame in Early Recovery

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Many uncomfortable emotions may come up when you begin your journey in recovery. You may feel confused, embarrassed, vulnerable, or angry about being in treatment. One of the most common emotions people experience is “shame.” You may not have faced your addictions before. You may not have realized the impact of your behavior on others. When beginning your recovery, you may now be forced to confront all the pain or hurt you may have caused to others. You may have to face the pain that you have caused to yourself. Shame is a feeling of humiliation about yourself or your behaviors. Shame can even be experienced by your loved ones, as they may feel exposed after covering up for or disguising how bad your addiction really was. You may feel justified in feeling this negative emotion due to the harm you may have caused. Negative emotions can serve you by informing you about what not to do or what makes you feel bad about yourself.

The Positive Side of Negative Emotions

Negative emotions can be helpful to you. You may feel so badly about something or about your behavior that you experience painful shame. Think about the first time you have ever touched a hot stove. What did the pain teach you? Simple: “Do not touch a hot stove!” Shame can teach you what behaviors to avoid or what mistakes you may need to rectify. Feeling shame is natural when you have been exposed for actions that have hurt others or are embarrassing to admit. You may have a vision of yourself as infallible and attempt to uphold this image to others for fear of admitting flaws, weaknesses, or vulnerabilities. You might feel shame in admitting that you are not perfect. Remember that no one is perfect! Experiencing negative emotions like shame can push you in the right direction toward recovery.

Emotions push you towards something or pull you away from other things. Love pushes you towards others. Boredom steers you away from activities. Passion drives you to continue pursuing a goal. Fear gets you out of dangerous situations. Negative emotions help you grow by learning what not to do or what to avoid. Negative emotions also allow you the time to process events or thoughts for personal growth. Envy makes you think about what may be lacking in your life. Grief helps you process significant losses in life. Avoiding shame can impede your recovery, while living in shame inhibits your growth. You need to find a balance to overcome shame and use the negative emotional experience to propel further growth and change.

Shame: The “Hot Stove” of Recovery

When you allow yourself to fully experience your shame and open up about your vulnerabilities, you can use the emotion to steer clear of the behaviors that caused shame. When you avoid recovery due to shame, you are really avoiding the experience of a negative emotion that can serve you! The trick is to work through the shame and properly process it and let it go! Write out what you are most ashamed of due to your addictions. By getting these things out, you can help yourself let them go and find solutions. You may have lost your job and feel ashamed because of this. Now that you have experienced this painful loss, you realize what is important to you–and what you are in recovery to maintain! You would not want to experience these negative feelings of shame again. Now you are learning skills to hang on to the things you have lost. By processing your shame, you can get a true sense of what is valuable and important to you. Shame teaches us what we do not want to lose, whether the loss is tangible, like a job or a house, or intangible, like losing the respect of loved ones or your self respect.

Plan Your Recovery

You know what is important to you now. How are you going to keep these things to avoid shameful feelings? Use the thought of losing things again to motivate you to continue with your recovery. Shame is the result of loss. Shame is the humiliation at facing loss at your own expense. The opposite of loss is gaining and hanging on to these things. What things do you want to hang onto? The thought of re-experiencing shame can help you in recovery by seeking to avoid this feeling. It is possible to push yourself towards positive feelings and behaviors. When you avoid shameful behaviors, you open yourself up to accepting more positive things in your life. Let go of your shame by experiencing it and learning from it!

Shameful feelings may prevent people from getting help in early recovery. You or your loved ones may feel ashamed to admit that there is a problem. You may be avoiding shame in early recovery. You may be holding back from admitting what you have lost or what pain you may have caused others. Your negative emotions, like shame, doubt, fear, and grief, can propel you to make positive changes in your life. Shame helps us realize what is important to us. What have you lost in recovery that is painful to admit? These things can help to motivate you in your recovery journey. You are not alone in this journey! Overcoming shame can be difficult, however, hearing from others’ experiences can help you open up. Being in a supportive environment can help you process these feelings! Everlast Recovery Centers can help you in your recovery. Call us today at 866-DETOX-25.

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