Those of us living with addiction can find ourselves isolating ourselves from our loved ones, from our friends and family members, from our communities and from the world around us. We isolate for many reasons, one of which can be our deep sense of shame. Why are we so unforgiving of ourselves, especially when we understand that addiction is an illness, rather than something to be ashamed of? Why do we isolate ourselves out of shame rather than opening ourselves and sharing our stories so that we can heal and move forward?
Our shame causes us to retreat inward, within ourselves, very often because we are afraid that people will discover our painful, shameful secrets. We go to great lengths to hide entire parts of ourselves from other people, and from the world at large, because we think these aspects of our lives and our beings are less worthy, less deserving, less acceptable. We don’t want people to know the truth about who we really are. We ourselves haven’t come to terms with our truth. We are uncomfortable with our pasts. We cringe when we think about what we’ve experienced. We want to pretend as though they didn’t happen. We shun our pasts and hope that they never come to light. We live in constant fear that we’ll be exposed and publicly shamed. We reject entire components of our stories. We reject our histories and feel deep shame for the things we find it hardest to talk about. Our secrets become burdensome weights we carry around with us for years to come, weighing on us and contributing to our depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
We often isolate out of shame because our culture so blatantly stigmatizes both addiction and the addicts themselves. We are demonized and societally shunned. We are perceived as criminals, as lazy, as weak people who simply weren’t strong enough to withstand the pressures and challenges that all of us face. We may come from families that were particularly judgmental about addiction. Chances are we experienced addiction in the early formative years of our lives, contributing to the addictive patterns we develop as adults. As children, we may have witnessed addiction in our families, and we may have used isolating as our coping mechanism to protect ourselves from all the trauma we were surrounded by. We felt safer retreating inwards, where we could be removed from the scary, turbulent things we witnessed from the addicts in our lives. We may have internalized the things we saw as being our fault, and we isolate ourselves because of this inner shame we’re carrying.
Healing from our addictions means having a safe, supportive space to share our stories and heal our shame, both individually and collectively. Call (800) 871-5440 today to receive the support you need and deserve.