active addict bogged down by shame

5 Things to Remember When Shame Gets You Down

By Tori Utley is an entrepreneur working jointly in technology innovation and addiction recovery, holding her license as an alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) in Minnesota.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

active addict bogged down by shame

Let's face it – if you've overcome addiction, there's probably a lot on your mind about the things you regret. And for many people in recovery, overcoming shame can be a big hurdle.

But it's one worth jumping over.

Ashamed of your past? If so, you're not alone. For many people in recovery, shame can be a difficult hurdle to get past.

A healthy dose of shame is normal. There are probably things that happened in addiction that you're glad you regret, simply because a healthy dose of regret will help remind you not to do it again. But perpetual shame, the kind that keeps us up at night, is the kind to learn to let go of – for good.

Believe it or not, healthy pride can help you overcome unhealthy shame. So, start by writing out or thinking through the things you're proud of.

Think about…

1. The last time you made someone smile.

Did you share a funny joke with a cashier at the gas station? Make a witty comeback to a barista at a coffee shop? Or maybe you gave a kind compliment to a family member. Think back to a time like this, no matter how small, and remember that you bring happiness and joy to people. Channeling your energy to the ways you bring joy to others can serve as a powerful reminder that you're valued, loved and contribute to positivity in the world.

2. An accomplishment you're most proud of.

This can be high school or college graduation, a promotion you received at work, or even completing treatment. Be careful not to get critical or negative if your accomplishments are different from others. Remember, we all have different lives, skills, and gifts, and thinking about the things we have done can and should make us proud, no matter what.

3. The biggest area of progress you've noticed in recovery.

Recovery is a long road, and there will be days that make you feel like you haven’t made progress at all. Instead of thinking about the entire journey at this moment, think about a small victory you recently accomplished. That could be setting a healthy boundary with a friend or family member, or going to your first recovery meeting. Little wins add up to big ones, so it's important to celebrate small victories along the way.

4. The nicest compliment your counselor ever gave you.

Our counselors or therapists play an important role in early recovery. For many of us, they're the voice of reason we need to stay the course and keep pursuing recovery. What was the nicest thing your counselor ever said to you? Maybe they celebrated a recovery milestone, a small win, or even a comment you made in a group. Focus on these affirming words to help you stay motivated.

5. That one time you wanted to use but didn't.

Just like I said before, small wins are important in recovery. So, think about the last time you wanted to use or take a drink but stayed sober instead. That's a huge accomplishment. It's single moments strung together that keep you sober for the long-haul, so if you were successful today, you can chalk it up to progress – and then can shoot for that tomorrow.

There are hundreds more things to think of and be proud of, but these are just a few. Try to make daily affirmations a normal part of your recovery practice. Take 5 minutes at the end of every day to think through what made you proud and reflect.

If you're working with other people who need help working through shame, here's an activity you can try with clients, friends, peers, or alone in your personal journaling time.

No matter how you work on building a healthy affirmation practice, it remains an important part of recovery that will help you overcome shame and learn to love yourself regardless of your past.

Remind yourself that you're farther along than you think and that your past doesn't hold any weight when compared with your future in recovery. You've got this!

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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