How to Let Go of Shame and Guilt in Recovery

Nov 9, 2022

If you have ever experienced feeling shame or guilt, you know how difficult it can be. Feeling guilty or ashamed can cause you to become more reserved, withdrawn, or isolated. If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol or have in the past, you probably experienced one or both of these emotions. 

Feeling Guilt 

Shame and guilt are similar emotions, but they are not the same. You feel guilty when you recognize you have done something wrong. This refers to an act or several actions you regret and feel remorseful for. Some behavioral signs and symptoms of guilt can include:

  • Oversensitivity
  • Low self-esteem
  • People pleasing
  • Extreme reactions

Guilt can also cause some physical side effects. These can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Digestive upset
  • Nausea

Feeling Shame

Shame also surrounds wrongdoing, but it is more of a generalization made about who you are as a person due to your actions. For example, someone who makes a mistake and feels guilty accepts that they did something wrong but knows they are still a good person. Someone who feels shame as a result of their actions believes their bad decisions define them. They may feel as though they are worthless as a result. 

A few behavioral symptoms of shame can include:

  • Oversensitivity
  • Extreme worry
  • Feeling rejected
  • Isolation

Shame can also cause some physical reactions. Someone who feels shame may experience the following:

  • Nausea
  • Poor posture
  • Difficulty making eye contact
  • Chest heaviness

As you can see, shame and guilt can affect how you think, feel, and behave significantly. This being the case, it is essential to recognize and address these feelings as you enter treatment. In order to receive and benefit from everything your program has to offer, you must face your mistakes, make amends, and move forward. 

Acknowledging Your Feelings

The first step in coping with shame and guilt is acknowledging these feelings. It can be tempting to allow your emotions to deter you from seeking treatment. 

For instance, you may fear rejection if you make a choice to seek treatment. Perhaps you fear getting help will bring your problem to light, and those you care about will not support you. This is a reasonable fear but one you must overcome. 

As mentioned, shame and guilt are bound to accompany addiction. Whether you have been keeping your problem under wraps while trying to maintain your responsibilities or have hit rock bottom, you likely experience these emotions. 

By recognizing they exist and working to overcome them, you can begin to take action toward recovery. You will likely stay in the same spot without addressing these feelings. 

Talk Therapy

After coming to terms with your emotions and recognizing that shame and guilt are holding you back, it is time to put some strategies in place. Talking to a therapist or participating in therapy groups can help you identify where the problems lie and what you need to do to solve them. 

Individual therapy can serve as a safe space for divulging information and sharing thoughts and feelings that you may feel uncomfortable sharing in a group setting. Your therapist can help you uncover what might be causing your feelings of shame and guilt and help you find ways to resolve them. 

Group therapy can also be very beneficial when it comes to overcoming shame and guilt. In therapy groups, you are among people who can relate to what you are going through. You might hear very relatable stories. Groups offer the opportunity to connect and learn from others who can identify with your experiences. 

Make Amends

Often, shame and guilt stem from how we have made other people feel due to our actions. Sometimes this assessment is accurate; other times, it is not. Typically, this involves the people who mean the most. 

As you begin treatment and start to recognize where your feelings stem from, you will have the opportunity to mend these relationships. This often allows all parties to heal and take steps toward moving forward. 

Forgive Yourself

The next step toward coping with and letting go of your shame and guilt is to forgive yourself. It can be easy to hold on to the anger and pain that your addiction has caused. However, this is not productive and does not support your recovery. Try your best to learn from the missteps that have led you to feel this way. 

Forgiving yourself is not always easy, especially if you have lived with shame and guilt for a long time. However, you can get there by working with your therapist and surrounding yourself with like-minded and supportive people. 

Shame and guilt often serve as a barrier to seeking treatment. Getting help can allow you to finally let go of the feelings that have burdened you for so long. 

Feelings of shame and guilt are often experienced as a result of substance abuse. You might feel ashamed or guilty knowing you disappointed your loved ones, or you may be disappointed in yourself. These feelings can be hindering and can cause you to put off seeking treatment. Allowing shame and guilt to serve as a barrier to getting help will only make matters worse. At Renaissance Ranch, we offer a safe space that is free of judgment to help men overcome these feelings. Our staff help clients recognize the courage in seeking help for addiction. To learn more about our treatment program for men, call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.