Renaissance Ranch

Facing and Processing the Shame of Your Past (in a Healthy Way)

Jun 12, 2021

The truth is, most people enter an addiction recovery treatment program because they recognize that there is a problem in their life; a problem big enough to block out the joy and steal any of life’s best leftovers. While admitting there’s a problem is a big, vital step worth celebrating, it typically comes with a heavy load of shame.

It’s an ugly dose of reality, but drug addiction is well-intertwined with mistakes and regrets that tend to impact the ones we love most. When mistakes and regrets aren’t healthily worked through, they can quickly turn into shame. Unfortunately, shame’s a monster that doesn’t plan on packing up and moving out of your heart until you tell it to go. Even worse? You typically feed shame a full-course meal three times a day, turn on the tv, and ask them to stay.

Over and over, you welcome shame as if it’s an eternal punishment you think you deserve to endure. What if ridding yourself of shame is part of the recovery process, though? What if your spirit can’t heal until you show shame the door?

Tap into these key ways to not only face but healthily process, the shame of your past:

1. Accept that the past is the past.

It’s easy to live in the past since the past is factual. We know the details of what happened, why it happened, where it happened, and when it happened. The details are concrete bits of information that we can bank on. But we aren’t meant to bank on the past in terms of dependability for our future.

The past doesn’t get to dictate what hasn’t happened, why it hasn’t happened, where it hasn’t happened, and when it hasn’t happened. The past has to stay in its lane, in a timeline that doesn’t allow it to live on in the present or consume the future.

It’s so easy to relive the worst days of addiction and the painful parts of addiction recovery, which is shame’s playground. However, the beauty of the past is that it can’t occupy the here and now. Meanwhile, the lessons you learned from the past can be snagged and drug over to the present so they can be used to better today and tomorrow.

2. Reclaim who you are in the present.

Not only have you survived addiction, but you’ve taken the bold steps to receive help. You’ve taken the classes, talked to the doctors, and gotten vulnerable with the counselors. Now, you not only understand addiction and its plots, but you understand who you are and all the hope of who you can be.

The thing about shame is that it can only breathe the air that you supply. If you refuse to keep the past alive by hitting the present hard — honoring what you learned in the program, having healthy accountability partners, staying plugged into a healthy church and community — you choke shame out. You get to reclaim who you are, discover a new identity outside of addiction, and no longer let shame live on as part of who you are.

This isn’t an easy thing, reclaiming your identity, because it takes daily, consistent work. It requires you to reshape your mind for the better. Day by day, though, you can remind yourself of who you are now, and it will reinforce the reality that shame has no place in your life.

3. Work toward who you want to be in the future.

While it’s important to be proud of where you’ve come from and who you are today, you have to prioritize consistent growth for who you will be in the future. However, before you can take off towards your future self, you have to have a clear, defined definition of who your future self is.

This list can include career goals, family goals, spiritual goals, character quality goals, and more. Although this part truly has no limits, narrow down the list to the top three priorities you have; the three areas you know you want to grow in. Once you’ve defined those three things, write down physical steps you can take each day to work toward your future self.

This activity doesn’t actively engage shame, but instead shifts your mind to the future — a realm where shame can’t enter. When you let go of the past and fixate on a better, brighter, more hopeful you down the road, shame no longer grips your heart or controls your thoughts. That’s where you win the battle of not only facing, but healthily processing shame, and ultimately taking the victory.

Dealing with Shame During Recovery

For many people, addiction and shame go together. Shame is a natural human emotion that’s common in many scenarios, and it can be a major detriment to addiction recovery – in fact, shame can be the chief contributor to an addiction on the whole.

At Renaissance Ranch, our outpatient addiction treatment involves tactics for understanding and managing shame within the recovery process. Here are some basics on moving past shame.

Shame – A Powerful Emotion

Shame is always inside us, and we do our best to hide it whenever it tries to bubble to the surface. Most people will do almost anything to avoid feeling shame, even for a short period.

Within addiction, shame can be a vicious cycle. It’s often one of the drivers toward addiction and self-medication in the first place, but then can function as a reminder of the negative behaviors one is engaging in. Addiction can feel overwhelming once you’re trapped in this pattern, and it can feel like there’s no way out. Every time you give in to your addiction, the following takes place:

  • Your self-esteem goes down
  • You feel a sense of powerlessness
  • You lose control
  • You become angry at yourself or guilty
  • You begin to dislike or even loathe yourself

These factors can affect relationships, employment, finances and other areas. Shame will be reinforced each time you relapse and fail to stay clean. So how do you move past it?

Embrace Shame

Acknowledging the realities of your situation is the vital first step to addiction treatment, and this is true for shame as well. Stop judging yourself so harshly, and try for positivity instead. Put yourself in the shoes of a friend or family member trying to help – wouldn’t they approach the situation compassionately and with understanding? You should do the same when looking to heal yourself. Understand that it’s okay not to be perfect, and to feel these negative emotions.

You’re Not Your Addiction

Throughout the process, remind yourself that your addiction is not what defines you. All humans have strengths and weaknesses, and just because you’re struggling with a weakness doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause or other parts of your personality don’t matter. Focus on the positives, and accept that you’re not alone in your imperfections.

Shame is an intense attacker that most people face, whether they’ve struggled with addiction recovery or not. Why? Because shame’s narrative is strong, and if we don’t learn to face shame and process it in a healthy, positive way, it not only rules our past but takes control of our present and future, too. At Renaissance Ranch, we believe that from a spiritual perspective, it’s necessary to find forgiveness and healing and be free of shame. It’s part of our process that we would love for you to tap into. Sure, it’s not always easy to be open and honest about the shame we carry, but you can trust our staff, doctors, and counselors to value you, your experiences, and your future. Meanwhile, if you’re having trouble with shame, or any other negative emotion associated with addiction, addiction recovery, or reintegration, our staff at Renaissance Ranch is available. Healing is hard, but you don’t have to walk through it alone. The Renaissance Ranch team is here to assist you through all aspects of the drug addiction recovery process. For help, please contact us today at (801) 308-8898.