Shame is a part of addiction - it is impossible to find an addict who doesn’t harbor deep feelings of shame. Shame is a sense of humiliation and distress, which most alcoholics and drug addicts feel as a result of their actions. Their families adopt that shame, and the addict’s environment will turn into that of intense resentment, humiliation, shame and denial.
Where does Shame come from? What does it lead to?
When an addict gets drunk or high, they do things that they regret later. They want to erase what they’ve done, but they don’t necessarily want to make amends or change themselves - that is the difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is feeling bad about something and wanting to rectify it; shame is the feeling that makes you want to disappear - you want the ground to swallow you up. Shame results in the alcoholic or drug addict feeling
- A sense of self loathing
- A sense of seperation
The sense of separation is perhaps the most harmful part of shame in an addict. Feelings of shame result in a dysfunctional thought process. The addict or alcoholic may feel that they are different from other people, that others don’t understand them. They start to lose touch with the outside world, and even with parts of themselves.
Shame is a part of the vicious cycle of addiction. When addicts get drunk or go under the influence of drugs, they become shameful. They then drink or abuse drugs to deal with the sense of shame. Unfortunately, the cycle of shame doesn’t start and end with the addict - it spreads to the addict’s family.
When people live in a household with an alcoholic or drug addict, they are exposed to lies, violence and regret. They start to believe that they deserve these things, and that they don’t deserve love or happiness. They become ashamed of who they are and where they come from. They are too ashamed to get help or to talk about the situation. The addict’s home gets wrapped up in a cloud of denial and distraction, and this makes people co-dependent.
Co-dependants are those family members that enable the addict - they take care of them, protect them and live in fear of them. Co-dependants’ shame manifests in different ways. They become obsessed with pleasing people; they feel like they’re never doing enough to keep others happy. Their communication gets hampered because they are so careful about what they say in front of the alcoholic or drug addict; that’s why co-dependants are sometimes passive-aggressive - they are too scared to be assertive up-front.
There is Hope
Shame is scary; especially for alcoholics and drug addicts. They are so focused on trying to numb their feelings with the help of drugs and alcohol, that they can’t process raw emotions. Their automatic response to shame is to deflect, deny or act superior. This is how alcoholics build the ego they are so famous for.
Healing shame is a long, emotional process - it has to take place in a controlled environment where the alcoholic or drug addict is able to be vulnerable and admit his or her emotions. A great place for this process to take place is Hope Trust. The most powerful thing for people dealing with shame is acceptance, something that Hope Trust provides in plenty. Many of the therapists at Hope Trust are themselves alcoholics or addicts in recovery, and all staff are highly educated on the importance of inclusivity and forgiveness. This enables an addict or alcoholic to let go of shame, believe that they are worthy of love, and gain hope that they are capable of living a productive, happy life.