Healing Addiction Lies In Empowerment, Not Shame

Healing Addiction Lies In Empowerment, Not Shame | Transcend Recovery Community

Shame and guilt are central to addiction, and the power it has over those who struggle against it. In fact, it’s common knowledge that a lot of American drug treatment is shame-based, and we live in a society where drug use and addiction is heavily stigmatized, seen as a crime and a moral perversion rather than a medical and psychological issue.

Those struggling with addiction are persecuted and incarcerated repeatedly, and not enough attention is paid towards quality treatment designed to keep people off the drugs, and help them achieve a much better life.

It’s not wise for those struggling with addiction today to wait on society to change for them. Instead, they must change despite the consensus – and that involves understanding addiction, shame, guilt, and the dangers of certain types of negativity in recovery. Recovery isn’t about shaming yourself into a position of humility, or somehow realizing that you’re powerless in the face of addiction, and must give yourself up to those around you and their merciful help – recovery is about empowerment.

It’s about empowering yourself, empowering others, and about constantly striving to figure out a better you, a more conscious you, a person who remains mindful of the present, doesn’t dwell on the past, and looks onward towards new challenges instead of getting stuck on old wounds and failures.

The Hunger of Shame

Shame is hungry – it’s part of a cannibalizing cycle that thrives on dwelling on something. Think of shame as a creeping rot, unseen yet pervasive. To get rid of it, you must do a wholesale sweep of your flooring, tear out the rot and inspect each plank for signs of growth and potential growth. It begins with an action, then the regret and the shame creeps in, and then you begin to feel worthless and powerless, unable to improve with no better you in sight – you swoop lower and fall deeper, and the same propels you down a spiral until you hit that rock bottom, the place no one ever wants to be.

Shame can be a motivator for some – being ashamed can be just what you need to set yourself straight, realize that you’re in the wrong, and do better. We feel shame for the same reasons we feel almost any other form of physical pain or severe emotional pain – as a mechanism in our mind and body to help us avoid the behavior that got us in this mess in the first place. When we’re having a lot of fun with our friends and we decide to do something reckless for the hell of it, only to have it backfire with someone getting hurt, then that creeping shame and guilt is meant to ensure that we never do it again.

Some people, however, compulsively deny such emotions. They deny their shame, and turn to blame instead. Others can’t use shame to improve, and instead channel it into self-loathing and an increased hatred towards their own life and choices.

But in addiction, a psychological and neurological disease that creates compulsive behavior and acts like a chronic illness, you may end up thinking things or doing things without wanting to, landing yourself in an ever increasingly vicious circle.

That’s the hunger of shame, and guilt, and they both increase your emotional dependence on an addiction as the only way to feel pleasure and positivity, and forget about all the pain you feel and the pain you’re causing.

How Negativity Feeds Addiction

Addiction is, in many cases, a coping mechanism. Yet unlike many coping mechanisms that work positively to deal with your problems and blow off some steam from accumulated life stress, addiction is a maladaptive coping mechanism. Maladaptive coping mechanisms are basically short-term effective, long-term destructive. Think of stress eating as an example. Stress eating, and more serious eating disorders be a sign of depression or just a severe stress issue, where the pleasures of food become a valve of pleasure through which to hide from problems in life.

Adaptive, or good coping mechanisms on the other hand, develop skills and help you improve your mental state or physical health to such a degree that it helps you solve the problem that’s causing you all the stress to begin with. Think of something like picking up and learning a new instrument, reading books, or going to the gym more often. The reward in these activities is the pleasure of discovering and learning new things, which stimulates the brain and gives you a sense of accomplishment and progress, the benefits of creative expression found in visual and musical arts, and the benefits of exercise, which go from releasing happiness hormones and neurotransmitters to improving your body image over the course of months.

All these things help you deal with life’s problems and struggles in constructive ways – they make you stronger, more secure in your abilities, and less anxious of the future. On the other hand, running away from struggle through addiction causes it to pile up, creating an overwhelming sense of insurmountable challenge, resulting in significant losses, from broken relationships and friendships to losing your job and your home.

Every blow dealt to someone struggling deep in addiction pushes them further down the hole, and makes recovery harder – yet it also makes recovery more necessary, as slowly building up the confidence and mental strength to tackle all your responsibilities and deny addiction is the only way to really overcome it. That’s where it becomes important to reject shame, and embrace:

Acceptance, Gratitude, and Recovery

Positivity is the way forward. That doesn’t entail faking your happiness and pretending that everything is great when it isn’t, or glossing over problems to maintain a façade of joy – it means being constructive, finding solutions instead of excuses, choosing adaptive coping mechanisms over maladaptive coping mechanisms.

It’s not an overnight change. Learning to accept yourself, and stop feeling angry or ashamed, and instead feel grateful for everyone and everything that’s helping you get back on track, is a big challenge. Many people struggle with recovery not just because they have the urge to use again, but because they can’t learn to live with themselves just yet. That’s why sober living communities are a wonderful way to fortify a journey of recovery with a community of other struggling strangers, united in their insecurities and made stronger through joint empowerment.

Women: Don’t Let Shame Prevent You from Seeking Treatment

Women: Don't Let Shame Prevent You from Seeking Treatment | Transcend Recovery Community

Addiction is often an escape – from shame, rejection, pain, and intense emotions. When a women is in the throes of her addiction, she will often hide it not letting anyone know what’s going on with her, which only further exacerbates shame.

Plus, women today have a lot of expectations placed upon them. They are expected to raise their children, tend to their spouses, take care of household chores, and maintain a career. Not being able to meet all of these expectations can also bring on experiences of shame. the feeling of shame is often at the root of addiction for many addicts.

If an addiction does develop, a cycle of harm can develop. Furthermore, if a woman already has a strained relationship with their body, meaning that they don’t like it or that they feel it should be different, then the harm of addiction tends to only make that relationship worse. An addiction wreaks havoc on the body. Destruction to the brain and body can be severe with addictions to drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine.

Although developing an addiction to amphetamine isn’t true for all women, females who have been sexually or physically abused are more prone to developing an addiction. They might be unconsciously attempting to manage the intense feelings, such as powerlessness, that frequently accompany unresolved trauma. A woman might try to find escape in drinking or drug use from feelings of shame, anger, resentment, hurt, or unworthiness.

Along these lines, women often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate or help regulate intense or uncomfortable emotions that stem from a distorted and unhealthy sense of self – which frequently results from trauma. Furthermore, many women are attempting to achieve a certain body image that the media perpetually emphasizes as being ideal. As a result, in an attempt to lose weight, women sometimes use diet aids that contain amphetamine and over time develop an addiction to amphetamines.

Once a woman begin contemplating treatment and recovery, she has many barriers in her way. A few of these barriers are described below:

  • Women are more likely than men to encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or following through with treatment.
  • Women are more likely to experience economic barriers to sober living treatment.
  • Women are more likely to have difficulty attending regular sober living treatment sessions because of family responsibilities.
  • Women are more likely to report feeling shame or embarrassment regarding their participation in sober living treatment.
  • When women also have anxiety and depressive disorders, which are more prevalent in women than men, it often prevents them from seeking addiction treatment.

Furthermore, a woman who is participating in drug treatment might continue to be resistant to recovery, even while she is in treatment. The dynamics of co-dependency, enabling, and powerlessness are common among those who are prone to addiction, including a woman’s family. For this reason, the demands of a woman’s family may continue to weigh on her while she is in treatment. Also, healing from an addiction is really also healing from dysfunctional relationships which might require a kind of surrender that a woman might not be willing to do when under the influence of a man.

Lastly, because shame plays such a heavy role in many women’s lives, addiction can keep them in the prison of hiding such feelings. If a woman seeks treatment, the escape is no longer viable and so those feelings that were the cause for escape often rise to the surface. It’s only when a woman is ready will she move through addiction treatment successfully. Yet, with a certain power of will, a woman can decide not to let shame get in the way of healing, happiness, and health.


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Dangers of the Inner Critic

Dangers of the Inner Critic | Transcend Recovery Community

Some men, women, and even teens have a strong inner critic. They can be very self-judging, which leads to challenging feelings. And in turn, those feelings of low self-worth, shame, and self-rejection are difficult to bear and can lead to making choices to help remove oneself from those feelings, such as choosing to use drugs or drink.

For some, these difficult feelings are so strong and the sense of relaxation in the mind that drinking and drug use can offer can be the impetus for an entire addiction. Feeling better about oneself while drinking can be the power behind a lifetime of addiction.

Yet, addiction can be incredibly harmful to oneself and to others, as well as create great destruction in one’s life. Someone who is drinking on a regular basis might lose his or her job, end up divorced, and lose their children.

The inner critic is a part of their mind that tends to be critical and even negative. Sadly, many people who suffer from anxiety and depression experience a strong inner critic, a part of themselves that might make worse the psychological symptoms they experience. This is particularly true with depression. Often, depression is a way of being cut off from who you are, which is frequently a result of having had a destructive life. For instance, the difficult experiences of an abusive childhood, a life of addiction, growing up among strong criticism, living with intense guilt, and/or experiencing abandonment early in life can be situations that destroy the spark of life within. These situations and others can create thought patterns and beliefs like “I’m at fault”, “I’m not loveable”, “I’m not worth being loved”, or “My life isn’t worth anything”.

These kinds of thoughts, and worse, when these thoughts turn into beliefs, life can be very challenging, making drinking and drug use a viable option, regardless of the circumstances. The inner critic is sometimes referred to as having an oppressive ego structure. Yet, whatever you call it, there is a part of the self that is frequently judgmental, critical, and negative,

Interestingly, marijuana seems to be a drug of choice for those who tend to experience a strong inner critic. It seems to soften this part of the self, making it easier to be who one is. However, the transformation is actually illusory and instead might create a dependence on marijuana for feeling at ease with oneself. Of course, this kind of dependence is true for any drug that one uses on a regular basis.

Fortunately, instead of drug use and the possibility of addiction and self-harm, there are proven ways to ease the inner critic and make living a bit softer. The following are ways to quiet the inner critic, or at least challenge some of his or her beliefs.

  1. Examine Your Thoughts – The way one responds in their mind to the circumstances in life can have an influence on mood and feelings and thoughts. The thinking that goes on inside is the cognition domain and refers to all that happens inwardly, such as thoughts, images, memories, dreams, beliefs, attitudes, and where attention goes. All of these can contribute to negative thinking. And these can eventually lead to making choices that are destructive. Whether it’s with a therapist or by yourself, watch the thoughts you’re having and whether or not they are harmful.
  2. Evaluate Your Judgments – When you experience a judgment of yourself or others, take a close look at it. Is it true? Does your judgment have substance? Or is it simply a part of the negative thinking patterns that tend to follow the inner critic? If you can refute it, then it might be easier to let it go and not give it any more power.
  3. Challenge Yourself with Kindness – When you’ve seen that you’re judging yourself or when you notice that the inner critic is alive in your mind, do something kind for yourself. Perhaps go spend time near the ocean or prepare yourself a nurturing meal. Challenge that inner critic with kindness rather than believing in it and doing something later that you might regret.

Don’t let the inner critic ruin your life by propelling the start and growth of an addiction. Turn the volume down on that inner critic by no longer believing in it.


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or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
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