Shame and Addiction: Understanding the Link and Breaking the Cycle

Shame and Addiction: Understanding the Link and Breaking the Cycle

If you have a loved one who’s an addict, do you wonder what’s keeping them from seeking help?

In 2017, out of 20.7 million people who needed treatment for substance abuse disorder, only 4 million people received treatment. That’s only a dismal 19 percent. And only 1 million, or 5.7 percent, felt the urge to get treated.

The person with an addiction may already be aware that they have a problem. They have family and friends ready to show their support. But why are they so reluctant?

Shame might be holding them back. Shame and addiction are a cursed pair torturing your loved one. They feed off each other like a perverted form of symbiosis.

Keep on reading to learn more about the shame and addiction cycle and how you can break it.

Analyzing Shame

What is shame? People often confuse guilt and shame in addiction, but they’re not the same. Guilt is how you feel about a thing you did, while shame is how you feel about yourself.

Shame has a more profound impact and can hit you right where it hurts, your self-worth. While you may feel guilty about backsliding with your addiction yet again, shame tells you that you’re just not good enough.

You’re weak, and you should be ashamed of that weakness. Someone like you doesn’t deserve help.

That’s what shame does to a person.

It breaks down your core self into a mere fragment of itself. It invades your thoughts and makes you think that you can’t climb out of the hole imprisoning you.

The Dynamics of Shame and Addiction

If what shame does to an average person is that penetrating, what can shame do to someone with an addiction?

An addiction already feels that you’re going down a slippery slope. Shame is like adding grease to it, preventing the addict from keeping a firm grip on the road to recovery.

When your self-esteem is dangerously low, it makes you feel that you’re not worth helping at all. You keep things to yourself and hide the truth of your addiction from others. You think that your addiction is something to be ashamed of, even if you know deep down that you need all the help you can get.

Shame drains any hope that you can get out of your current situation.

Also, keep in mind that shame might be the initial reason the individual turned to drugs or alcohol. As the addiction takes over their lives, toxic shame and addiction feed off each other.

Breaking the Malignant Cycle

The first step is to figure out how shame took root in your psyche. Understand how your shame and addiction are intertwined. Facing one’s demons is never easy, but it’s necessary so you can let go of your shame.

Once you get rid of this unnecessary and harmful feeling, you can move forward. Be kind to yourself so that shame doesn’t creep back into your thoughts.

When you’re on the road to recovery, take your sobriety one day at a time. Please browse through our selection of AA coins as a reminder to keep chugging along.