Shame is a toxic emotion; it has only negative effects on us. Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Sometimes, that “foolish” behavior is ours, and other times, it belongs to someone else. Either way, we feel a loss of respect or honor as a result.
As recovering addicts and alcoholics, we feel a strong sense of shame for our past behavior. Shame, in fact, is one of the hallmarks of addiction. That is, we feel intense shame after every act of using or drinking or binging or betting. With great remorse, we ask ourselves, how did this happen again? The simple truth is, it happened because we are addicts, and we are powerless over our addictions and compulsive behavior.
Shame can induce in us overwhelming inadequacy, guilt, depression, anxiety and panic. Shame is a breeding ground for low self-esteem. How, then, do we free ourselves of shame?
When we enter treatment, it’s time to leave shame behind. Part of learning to live a sober life means learning how to forgive – and that includes forgiving ourselves. It also means making amends for our past behavior, as we learn in Step 9 of our 12-step program. The “Promises” of Step 9 – which are really about letting go of shame – state, “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”
While we don’t “regret the past,” neither do we choose to live there any longer. When we make our amends, we “clean up our side of the street.” We don’t have to walk on the other side of the street, where we hear the message that we’re failures, we’re bad people, or we’re a disappointment to others. Instead, we stay on the clean side and treat ourselves and others with kindness and respect.
Others may try to constantly remind us of our mistakes and shortcomings, but we don’t need to accept their shaming criticisms. It’s like last month’s electric bill; when we’ve already paid that bill, we don’t pay it again. We’ve satisfied our responsibility. We can simply say, “I’m sober today.”
Live in the moment, continue to work the program, and the Promises will come true.
As the saying goes in recovery: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present!”
The Lakehouse Treatment Center understands the worlds of active addiction and active recovery. Years of comprehensive experience have helped us build a unique program focused on changing lives and rebuilding families. From detox to sober living, The Lakehouse program focuses on learning how to live and have fun again- a treatment experience like no other. Call us anytime: 877.762.3707