How Does Shame Fuel Addiction?

For many of us, our addictions are our coping mechanisms for the painful emotions we’re trying desperately to avoid having to feel. They are our escapism, our distraction, our way to numb our feelings. One of the most painful and debilitating emotions that many of us have a very hard time feeling, expressing and releasing is shame. We carry our shame with us for years of our lives, sometimes for our entire lives. We keep it close to us, holding onto it tightly, afraid to speak about it to others. We don’t want anyone to know about it, and we keep it a secret from even the people closest to us. Sometimes we avoid feeling it fully, and other times we inundate ourselves with it, forcing ourselves to relive painful memories of the mistakes and wrongdoings we’re most ashamed of. We allow our shame to define us. We create identities around our guilt and shame, deciding that we’re shameful, immoral people undeserving of forgiveness. Our self-perception and our self-image become tainted by our shame, and we don’t forgive ourselves let alone love and respect ourselves.

When we run from our shame and resist it, we often will turn to our drugs of choice for solace. We self-medicate. We don’t confront our shame head on in order to heal it and forgive ourselves. We bury it and let it sit there inside of us, festering and worsening the longer we avoid looking at it. Similarly, if we’re forcing ourselves to repeatedly relive our shame and making ourselves feel it in extreme ways, causing ourselves more harm and not allowing ourselves to heal and move forward, we might also turn to our addictive substances and behaviors to try and soothe the pain we’re inflicting upon ourselves.

Where does our shame come from? For some of us it comes from the mistakes, wrongdoings and shortcomings we can’t seem to let go of, make peace with, or come to terms with. For others of us, our shame comes from things that were entirely not our fault. We blame ourselves for the traumatic experiences we go through. We blame ourselves for being victims of abuse, or for losing loved ones. As children we might blame ourselves for our parents’ divorce, for accidents we couldn’t possibly have caused or prevented, or for our families’ financial hardships. We internalize our traumatic experiences to be a reflection of our shamefulness and immorality. Even when our feelings of shame are irrational, even when we have nothing to be ashamed of, we beat ourselves up, judge ourselves and look down on ourselves. We refuse to forgive ourselves. These emotional patterns will often fuel our addictions because we’re desperate for relief from our emotional pain, and the high we feel from our drugs of choice gives us that temporary relief we’re seeking.

Riverside Recovery understands all of the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.