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How to Cope With the Guilt and Shame of Addiction

Are you addicted to a chemical substance? Do you try to hide your addiction from others, or do you live in fear of someone finding out? Do you continually loathe yourself? If so, you are not alone. Substance abuse causes extreme feelings of guilt and shame. Millions of Americans are suffering from the shame of addiction in silence. Here are a few statistics according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

  • Twenty-four million Americans are trapped in substance abuse addiction.
  • Less than one out of five people who need treatment get it.
  • Substance abusers are more than five times more likely to consider suicide than people who don’t struggle with addiction.

Addiction to legal and illegal substances is quickly becoming an epidemic around the world.

How do I Cope with the Shame of Addiction?

The feelings of guilt and shame can be overwhelming, but you have them for a reason. These negative emotions are your body’s way of telling you that something is seriously wrong. It is like the pain you feel when you touch a hot burner. Your body is telling you that you need to break free of your destructive behavior.

Feelings of guilt are extremely unpleasant and can cause serious problems if they are not dealt with in a healthy way. Some people try to drown their shame with heavier and heavier doses of the substance to which they are addicted. Doing this only increases their shame and causes them to be even more dependent on their substance.

They tell themselves:

Shame of Addiction

  • I don’t matter…

  • I’m weak and pathetic…

  • It’s too late to change…

This negative self-talk keeps them trapped in the endless cycle of addiction and shame.

Instead, they need to say:

    • “I’m unhappy with my life right now…”
    • “I want to change…”
    • “My life can change if I take care of this problem…”
When your shame of addiction motivates you to change your life, it is a good thing. When it keeps you trapped in a destructive lifestyle, it is deadly.

Getting Help for Addiction

With substance abuse, going  “cold turkey” is never a good idea. However, many people are so caught up in the shame of addiction that they don’t want to admit it to anyone. They may try to quit on their own so that no one else knows about their problem. Trying to stop on your own is one of the most dangerous things an addict can do. Withdrawal symptoms can be horrifying, and no one should go through them alone. One of the safest ways to break an addiction is to enroll in an inpatient rehab program. This type of treatment offers many unique benefits.

  • You can focus on yourself with no outside distractions, allowing you to reflect on your life and deal with your issues.
  • You will learn skills for dealing with your addiction, which will decrease your likelihood of having a relapse when you are discharged.
  • You will receive proper supervision and care. Withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations, shakiness, and pain can be overwhelming. At inpatient rehab, you will be observed by skilled professionals who will monitor your symptoms and help you deal with them in a safe way.
  • You will be away from any negative influences or stressful personal environment that might make it harder for you to quit.
  • You will have no access to the substance that you are addicted to.
An inpatient program also allows you the time you need to heal.  Most facilities offer 30 to 90 day programs, and can extend that time if needed.

Starting a New Life Without the Shame of Addiction

Getting help for your addiction is the first step to beginning a life without substance abuse. You will be able to look in the mirror without despising yourself. You can stop living in constant fear that someone will find out about your addiction. You will be able to enjoy life in a way that you never thought possible.

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