When you’re struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, shame can make it feel as if an invisible weight is pressing against your entire body. Deep down, you know you need help. It’s just that you can’t see how to ask for it.
It might surprise you to learn that many of the classic signs of addiction are linked to deep-seated feelings of shame. For example:
- Secrecy and isolation. A person with a substance use disorder may become increasingly secretive about their addictive behaviors, attempting to hide their drug or alcohol abuse from others. They may avoid family and friends, purposefully distancing themselves to prevent judgment or the potential exposure of their addiction.
- Denial and defensiveness. A person may adamantly refuse to acknowledge or admit their addiction to others, even when confronted with compelling evidence. They may become defensive, deflecting blame onto their loved ones or minimizing the severity of their actions.
- Self-destructive behaviors. Shame can amplify the self-destructive tendencies that are associated with a substance use disorder, such as drunk driving, unsafe sex, or picking fights with others. A person may also engage in further drug or alcohol abuse to temporarily numb their feelings of shame. This can lead to a worsening of their addiction and a perpetuation of the cycle of shame and self-blame.
- Resisting offers of help. Someone who is ashamed of their addiction may resist or avoid professional treatment, support groups, or therapy because they believe they are unworthy of assistance. The shame they feel may convince them that they are beyond help or that seeking treatment would expose them to further scrutiny.
- Low self-esteem and self-worth. Over time, feelings of shame can erode self-esteem and self-worth—leading a person with a substance use disorder to view themselves in a negative light. They may believe they are inherently flawed, unworthy of love, or doomed to live a life marked by the misery that addiction brings.
Causes of Shame
Some of the underlying causes of shame in people with substance use disorders include:
- Stigma and societal judgment. Society’s perception of addiction as a moral failing or lack of willpower contributes to the deep-seated shame experienced by individuals struggling with substance abuse.
- Self-blame and guilt. Many individuals with substance use disorders blame themselves for their drug or alcohol addiction, feel guilty about their addiction’s impact on their lives, and regret the hurt they’ve caused their friends and family.
- Fear of rejection and isolation. Individuals with substance use disorders may worry that if they reveal their struggles, they will be pushed away by their loved ones, lose their jobs, or face social consequences.
- Previous unsuccessful attempts. People who have experienced a relapse after seeking treatment in the past may feel a deep sense of disappointment in themselves and fear reaching out for help again.
- Trauma. Many individuals with substance use disorders have experienced trauma or adverse life events and blame themselves for not being “tough” enough to cope with their pain without turning to addictive substances.
Moving Forward by Seeking Residential Addiction Treatment
Overcoming shame requires a shift in perspective. Instead of viewing asking for help as a weakness, a person with a substance use disorder needs to see that they’re suffering from an illness and that getting treatment is no different than seeking help for diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other chronic medical condition.
- Embracing vulnerability. Opening up about one’s challenges fosters a supportive network and creates a sense of accountability, empowering individuals to pursue the treatment they deserve.
- Approaching problems with empathy instead of judgment. Many of our staff members are in recovery themselves, which gives them a unique ability to empathize with the struggles our clients are going through as they work on building the foundation for lasting sobriety. There’s no judgment here—only the support you need to build a brighter future.
- Providing professional support. Our residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs provide comprehensive care and support to individuals seeking to overcome addiction. We offer a structured environment, detoxification services, individual and group therapy, counseling, and aftercare planning using evidence-based treatment modalities tailored to their specific needs.
- Focusing on education. By increasing awareness of the complex nature of addiction, we can create a compassionate and supportive environment for those seeking help. We educate our clients as well as their loved ones via our family therapy services.
Choosing to seek addiction treatment and start on a path to recovery signifies a transformative commitment to self-improvement, healing, and a brighter future. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you or your loved one break free from shame to embark on a journey of healing and recovery.