Relapse is a big part of my recovery journey that has filled me with feelings of guilt and shame, two very powerful negative emotions. My guilt reflects feelings of accountability and regret for the relapses that negatively affected me and my family. The shame brings deeply painful feelings of self-unworthiness, arising from the belief that I am fundamentally flawed in many ways. I am a very harsh critic of myself and I often believe that I do not deserve to be healthy or happy or even sober.
What is more, these feelings create a negative mindset that erodes my resolve and motivation for change, and casts the question of recovery as overwhelming, and hopeless. I often feel as this is the proof that I do not have what it takes to leave my addiction behind.
But such feelings sabotage my recovery even more. These negative feelings are so disturbing that they often drive me to seek relief and escape into drinking again. In addition, these feelings of guilt and shame are so isolating and discouraging that they stop me from getting the support that I really need, and asking for help.
The other day I woke up angry, and thought to myself, “Enough of this fucken shit! It is time to give up the shame, the guilt and self-pity, and raise from the victim into the victor! I am a relapse survivor!“
I could have died, like unfortunately so many of us do, but I am still here, and I am not giving up! I am going to use everything that I have learned in the past years to propel myself forward into sobriety and recovery. I am going to rebuild my life and find happiness. I am going to focus on what is positive and changing my future, because I cannot change the past.
I will also forgive myself for my mistakes and find a way to learn from the experiences and grow as a person. Falling into the trap of rumination, self-hatred, or even pity is very damaging and makes it difficult for me to maintain my self-esteem and motivation. Instead, I need self-compassion and caring in order to keep moving forward. I believe that I have the strength to get sober no matter how many setbacks I have faced; I have the strength to keep going.
You do too! Do not give up. No matter how many times you fall, keep getting up and fighting!
So many of us beat ourselves up brutally. Yet criticizing, degrading, condemning, and bullying ourselves doesn’t lead to the desired changes we might seek out. The only way a real shift happens is through gentle self-compassion. We tend to think that we have to push ourselves through power, punishment, and self-hatred to make changes in our lives. But these strategies don’t work. Only profound self-compassion and tenderness can allow us to make the courageous choices that alter our lives.
Here are some ways that I work on overcoming my shame and guilt (From: 10 Things You Can Do to Overcome Shame):
CREATE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
Frequent check-ins with yourself can help overcome shame. Every time you have a negative thought, pause, take a breath, and combat it with a positive affirmation. The best way to change those chronic negative thoughts is through changing your thinking habits. Create a list of 5 or 10 positive affirmations that you can use when you notice a harmful or damaging thought coming into your mind.
Here are my 10 positive affirmations:
- I am enough.
- I trust myself.
- I am open to possibilities.
- I am in an attitude of gratitude.
- I inhale the future, exhale the past.
- I am the change.
- I am getting stronger.
- I can and I will.
- I change my thoughts, I change my outlook.
- Everything I need is within me.
Please check out the daily affirmations on the Sober Courage Facebook page!
It can be overwhelming to be alone with my thoughts, especially when those thoughts are largely negative and shame-inducing. Meditation teaches me to observe my thoughts without judgment. You’re not trying to fight them, combat them, or turn them off; you’re simply noticing them and moving on. A good place to start is with the apps Headspace or Calm.
HAVE COMPASSION AND SELF-COMPASSION
Many people have a difficult time with self-compassion. If you have feelings of overwhelming shame, you may have a difficult time loving yourself. One way to become more comfortable with self-compassion is by practicing being compassionate toward others.
When you are living in the NOW, shame that is haunting you from your past has no place. If you find yourself being pulled into the past, you can use a grounding technique to bring yourself back to the present moment to deal with the feelings you’re having.
CULTIVATE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional intelligence allows you to be a more empathetic and sympathetic person. It may be harder for you to feel empathy for another if you’re hiding from your own emotions. With greater self-awareness you’ll be able to recognize your shame for what it is and not give in to the negativity of it.
If you have been struggling with the shame and guilt of relapse, it’s essential to remember that these feelings are not uncommon. While it may take time, reminding yourself that your emotions are acceptable is essential. Accept these feelings, then start taking small steps towards feeling better about how you think and feel about yourself.
You are a relapse survivor!
I love this quote, from the movie. It seems very fitting for this post.
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”―