Ways to Cope with Shame and Guilt

Ways to Cope with Shame and Guilt

Shame – the kind that doesn’t go away – is perhaps the most common obstacle that addicts face in recovery. Learning to cope with toxic, unwavering shame is an integral part of the healing process. Shame is based on a failure of doing. It’s continuation is based on our values, morals, and standards. Guilt can lead to positive change, but it can also hold it back if we refuse to let it go.

As they reach the late stages of recovery, many addicts start feeling more and more guilty. With the return of mental clarity comes the realization of just how far gone they actually were. The reality of what their friends and family suffered because of their addiction can be too much to bare. Here’s the thing, though: Nobody wants their friend or family to feel that way. They only want you to be happy.

Coping with Shame and Guilt

Face the guilt – Face it head on. Sometimes we have to speak our minds aloud just to identify what’s truly going on inside.

Examine the roots – Feelings of guilt usually strike fast and hard. Rather than taking time to think everything through, we fill gaps and assume causalities in our head. Dependent on the issue, you may find that you don’t even have to forgive yourself, because the source of your guilt wasn’t your fault in the first place.

Change — If you’re stuck in a hole, and you want out, the first thing you must do is stop digging. If you don’t like the way you’re treating someone — perhaps a family member who doesn’t seem so supportive — don’t just plan on stopping and apologizing once you’re recovered. Changing the way you treat people now is a part of recovery.

Clarify – Instead of dwelling on the past, establish new values and goals and act on them. Focus on what you can change.

Empathize – By empathizing with others, you’ll learn to do the same for yourself. Take charge in your community. Involve yourself with a group or organization that speaks to you. AA is the obvious choice, but you can pick anything – any religious, political, or social movement that excites and motivates you.

Apologize – It might be uncomfortable, scary, or just painfully awkward, but an apology can go a long way, if not for the other party, than for you and your own sense of closure. If the person doesn’t remember the incident—well, that’s good.

Deconstruct – People are judgmental, even when it comes to themselves. Instead of focusing on the things you said, consider why you said them. Ask yourself what was going on in your life at the time. If you were feeling jealous, betrayed, rejected, or insulted…that’s a whole lot different from simply being a jerk.

Addiction isn’t a free pass to act however you want, but still, it changes you. Don’t beat yourself up over the things you did while abusing drugs, because there’s no sense in doing so: you’re beating up the wrong person. The perpetrator is gone. For insights and advice on getting through an emotional recovery, contact the counselors at Blueprints for Recovery today.


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