For many years I was an alcohol and drug addict. It all started when I was just a little kid, only nine years old. I was a very curious but shy kid. My parents have always been very social, cheerful people, so there was always a party going on at my house. I had been wondering about how alcohol worked. The adults in my family always seemed a lot happier after they had drank a couple of glasses. I remember I asked my mom for a sip once, but she gave me a stern lecture. This lecture only made me more curious, so one night, at a family party, I snuck a bottle from the kitchen while the adults were busy. I took the first sip, it tasted terrible and burned my throat but nothing happened, so I kept drinking until I got drunk. I loved how it made me feel, like I was less shy, less awkward. From that moment on I drank every chance I got, managing not to get caught.
As a teenager I started experimenting with drugs. First it was marijuana, but then I got hooked on more hardcore drugs. At 23 I got sentenced to 2 years in prison for substance-related charges. I hit rock bottom. I was suffering from anxiety and depression, blame and shame were the only two emotions I was able to feel at the time.
There’s a harsh stigma around drug and alcohol addiction. Most people don’t realize it’s a disease, they associate it with poor morals and a lack of willpower. The consequences of addiction, such as broken relationships and lost opportunities are seen as their fair punishment. I took responsibility for what I did. I know it was wrong and I paid my sentence. But I had to deal with a lot of judgement, which only made me more depressed, thus making me crave drugs even more.
While I was in prison another inmate told me the story of how he lost everything and everyone he cared about due to his addiction. I decided I wouldn’t let it happen to me. As soon as I was let out of prison I checked into a rehab center. It was a tough process, but it helped me heal both physically and psychologically. I was finally able to let go of the feelings of blame and shame that overwhelmed me for so long. This is why I want to share something with you: 4 Ways I Healed From the Blame and Shame of Addiction.
Making the decision to get clean, getting through drug and alcohol detox and withdrawal, and getting out into the world after completing my treatment were things that required me channeling every last drop of courage I had in my body. Addiction brings shame, as we talked about before, and with shame comes fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t make it. I was afraid of not being able to endure the pain. I was afraid of what people would think. Nevertheless I gathered up courage from where I thought there was none left, and it saved me.
Connect With Those Around You
One of the things that helped the most during recovery was making connections with people who understood what I was going through. We were able to support each other and learn from each other, listen without judgement and give advice from our own experiences. But it wasn’t only talking to other addicts that helped me, it was also reconnecting with my family and friends. I had pushed them away during the worst moments of my addiction. Asking for forgiveness and knowing they were still there for me helped me heal, it helped me feel less ashamed and less guilty.
Be Compassionate With Yourself
Connecting with others helped me feel compassion for them, which was then extended to myself. I learned from other’s mistakes. This helped me get perspective on my own mistakes. I stopped blaming myself so harshly for what I had done in the past. I finally learned to forgive myself, which is one of my biggest accomplishments so far. Compassion is an essential step in recovery. Being able to listen, understand and sincerely care for others teaches you to do the exact same thing with yourself.
In order to feel empathy, you need to feel compassion. After I was able to feel compassion for others and for myself, I could empathize with them. It had been a long time since I literally put yourself in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. Experiencing this was what helped me rebuild the bridges I had burned. I understood what the people close to me felt when I did the things I did when I was addict. I was able to sincerely apologize. They were moved, and they forgave me. By forgiving myself and knowing the people I loved the most forgave me too, I stopped being ashamed and I stopped blaming myself.
This didn’t happen overnight, it was a long process, sometimes a painful one, but definitely worth it. I have been sober for 9 years now. I was able to rebuild my life and now I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I am happy. By understanding and incorporating these 4 ways to heal from blame and shame, I’m sure it will be easier for you to do so too.
If you have ever experienced blame and shame in the past or have any tips on how to deal with it, please leave a comment below.