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Individuals working to recover from substance use disorder (SUD) will likely experience a myriad of troubling emotions. Two of the most common emotions experienced by those in recovery include shame and guilt. If you’ve been struggling with addiction for any amount of time, chances are that these emotions have affected you, too. 

When these emotions are left unchecked, they can hinder your recovery process. Fortunately, with the right tools and support, you can learn how to appropriately navigate these emotions. In turn, you will be able to achieve long-lasting success on your overall healing and recovery journey. 

The Connection Between Shame, Guilt, and Addiction 

For those struggling with SUD, feelings of shame and guilt can be all too familiar. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), stigma continues to negatively affect those who struggle with addiction, as they are being blamed for their disease. NIDA states, “Even though medicine long ago reached a consensus that addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavioral components, the public and even many in healthcare and the justice system continue to view it as a result of moral weakness and flawed character.”

It is vital to understand that stigma develops from misinformation, bias, and lack of understanding. The heavy stigma associated with SUD and addiction causes individuals to delay their treatment entry as well as treatment engagement. In turn, stigma, unfortunately, perpetuates substance use. By challenging the stigma(s) attached to substance use, more people can receive the treatment they require for long-lasting recovery. 

Shame and Guilt Before Treatment

Uncomfortable feelings of shame and guilt often delay treatment entry for those struggling with substance use. If you have yet to begin your recovery, there are ways that you can work to challenge these feelings.

For example, it may be helpful to understand that in 2020 alone, only 13% of people with SUDs actually received any professional treatment. This statistic can help you to understand that many people are actively struggling with substance use at any given time. May this motivate you to honor your well-being and seek the treatment that you deserve for healing. 

Shame and Guilt in Recovery

Feelings of shame and guilt will inevitably surface during recovery. Stigma causes many to hide the fact that they’re in treatment, on medication, or even working with a peer coach or sponsor. When people start to live a “double life” like this, feelings of shame and guilt can become even stronger and may cause a person to lapse back into drug use while in treatment. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s  (SAMHSA’s) TIP 35, feelings of shame and guilt associated with a one-time lapse back into substance use can put someone into a high-risk situation that increases the likelihood of relapse. While lapses are common, they don’t mean you’ve failed in your treatment. When you can release the feelings of shame and guilt associated with a potential lapse, you’ll be able to prevent a full-on relapse and continue moving forward in your recovery journey.

Overcoming Feelings of Shame and Guilt Through Holism

To overcome feelings of shame and guilt, you will need to accept that they are affecting you. Facing these feelings head-on, rather than pushing them down or ignoring them, will allow you to release the grip that they have on your ability to recover. 

Many addiction treatment centers offer holistic treatment methods as part of their recovery programs. Holistic methods, like mindfulness and meditation, can help you process and release problematic feelings, including shame and guilt.

Mindfulness & Meditation

Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to release negative thoughts and emotions by focusing your attention fully on the present moment. According to a 2011 study in Clinical Psychology Review, mindfulness has incredible psychological benefits, including:

  • Increased subjective well-being
  • Reduced psychological symptoms
  • Reduced emotional reactivity
  • Improved behavioral regulation

When you lean into mindfulness to address feelings of shame and guilt, you can expect to experience profound benefits for your recovery.

Additionally, meditation is a form of mindfulness where you focus on the present moment and gently observe any thoughts and feelings that come up without judgment. The same Clinical Psychology Review article mentioned above explains that holistic methods put emphasis on self-acceptance and compassion, which can combat feelings of shame and guilt. Meditation is one holistic method that allows you to release negative feelings instead of being held back by them.

The Power of Self-Forgiveness

Holistic treatments, including mindfulness and meditation, incorporate valuable healing components into the treatment process. Self-forgiveness is one of many. 

Sometimes addiction can cause you to act in ways that aren’t in line with your goals or values. Self-forgiveness can get you back on track and help you learn more about yourself in the process. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), forgiveness has been shown to bring about many mental and physical health benefits, including reduced negative emotions.

When you practice self-forgiveness, you will be able to accept any circumstances of your addiction. Simultaneously, you will release old wounds, negative thoughts, and heavy emotions. This practice will make you much stronger and more confident, allowing you to make the most out of your recovery and find long-lasting sobriety.

How Treatment Can Help You Address Shame and Guilt

When looking for the right addiction treatment program, you should find one that will help you overcome shame and guilt in ways that best support you and your unique needs. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we infuse holistic methods into our outpatient programs, along with talk therapy and clinical care, for a truly comprehensive approach to treatment. We aim to address not just the addiction but the full range of underlying negative thoughts and emotions that accompany it. 

With the right methods and treatment plan, you will be able to find the confidence in yourself to achieve long-lasting sobriety and success.

Stigma is still a very real thing when it comes to addiction. This stigma can, unfortunately, lead many people to experience heavy feelings of shame and guilt as they struggle with substance use disorder. When shame and guilt are not dealt with head-on, it can lead to dangerous consequences, including relapse and worsening health conseqeunces. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we infuse holistic treatment methods into our outpatient programming to give you the most comprehensive care possible. Methods like meditation and mindfulness can help you overcome shame and guilt and then find confidence in yourself and in your sobriety. For a free psychiatric assessment and more information, call us today at (214) 396-0259.