Sitting alone in your room, you may sometimes feel a wave of guilt and shame wash over you. Memories of past addiction flood your mind and make you cringe about the person you once were.

Keeping Memories of Guilt and Shame in Context

You may be dealing with the consequences of your actions in these memories. For example, you may have hurt those closest to you or damaged your health. However, keep in mind that these memories paint an outdated picture.

It is common to feel remorse as you look back on your substance use and the effects it had. You need to remember that these past mistakes do not define who you are now. Recovery is a journey of growth. Your team at Dream Recovery is here to facilitate that growth and help you overcome feelings of guilt and shame in the meantime.

Detangling Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are two emotions that are often confused. These emotions are often related, but they are not the same. They have distinct causes and effects.

Recognizing the distinction between shame and guilt can help you detangle these emotions. This will enable you to better manage your emotions.

What Is Shame?

Shame is an intense feeling of embarrassment and unworthiness. It arises when we believe we have failed to live up to expectations set for us by others or ourselves. This feeling often begins as social rejection or disapproval, leading to feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt.

As you can see, shame is connected to our sense of identity and self-worth. When we experience shame, it can lead us to believe we are defective as individuals. These thought processes often lead to a cycle of negative self-talk and criticism which reinforces these feelings of inferiority. Getting stuck in these thought patterns can quickly undermine your self-esteem.

What Is Guilt?

Guilt is a feeling of regret or remorse. It arises when we feel we have done something wrong or harmful. This emotion often follows specific actions or behaviors and may be accompanied by feelings of responsibility and an urge to make amends.

In contrast to shame, guilt can be healthy. It helps us recognize when we have transgressed against our moral code. Whenever we experience guilt, it can motivate us to address our wrongdoings and prevent similar incidents from happening again. Although it is unhelpful to stay mired in guilt, we can use guilt to help us grow.

Dealing With Guilt and Shame

Shame can bring on feelings of hopelessness and despair. It can worsen a fixed mindset, which is the belief that our flaws are irreversible. This emotion fuels a cycle of self-criticism and doubt that can erode our self-worth. Understandably, this can contribute to depression and anxiety.

Excessive guilt may lead to feelings of worthlessness and self-blame, which in turn can contribute to anxiety or depression. However, when handled constructively, guilt can become a factor of motivation. You can move forward with the self-awareness you gain from guilt while rejecting the unhelpful narrative of shame.

How Can You Address Guilt and Shame?

You may be unsure how to do this. If you’re dealing with feelings of guilt and shame, you can take the following steps. This can help you address these feelings healthily and productively.

#1. Recognize Your Emotions

When addressing guilt and shame, it is important to recognize your feelings. It is normal to experience regret for your past actions, particularly if they caused harm to yourself or others. Don’t try to push these emotions under the rug or pretend they don’t exist. Instead, take time to acknowledge how you are feeling and gain insight into why these thoughts arise.

Practicing mindfulness is a great way to get in tune with your emotions. By accepting your current thoughts at each moment, you can establish a sense of comfort with your emotional life. Focus on the present and what you can control now to improve your situation.

#2. Identify Your Triggers

It is essential to identify what triggers you when guilt or shame arises. This could range from a specific person, location, or a memory or thought pattern. Once identified, you can work to avoid triggers or prepare yourself to practice coping mechanisms when you encounter them.

Identifying triggers is part of treatment at Dream Recovery. Allow yourself to pinpoint the triggers that lead to these emotions to appropriately address them.

#3. Acknowledge Your Flaws

Addressing shame begins by acknowledging that everyone has flaws, including yourself. Perfection is unattainable for anyone to achieve. Accepting your flaws can be intimidating. However, doing so is essential to overcome the cycle of negative self-talk that keeps you stuck in the past.

When you remember one of your mistakes, acknowledge it. Use your self-awareness to think about what you will do differently in the future. However, don’t dwell on your mistakes in an unproductive or self-sabotaging way.

Instead, remind yourself how much you have grown. Think about your positive qualities and accomplishments. Visualize yourself making further progress toward your goals.

Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional may also be helpful in this process. They can help challenge negative self-talk and enhance your self-worth.

#4. Take Responsibility

Addressing guilt requires taking responsibility for your actions and making amends where possible. This could involve apologizing, offering restitution, or simply acknowledging your past behaviors.

While taking responsibility for your past actions may bring up feelings of shame or guilt, it is important to avoid dwelling on these feelings. Instead, focus on what you can do to make amends and move forward.

#5. Forgive Yourself

Finally, it’s essential to forgive yourself for any past errors. It can be tempting to feel guilt or shame about these actions. However, remember that everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

Through forgiveness, you can let go of the past and move forward with an inner sense of peace and self-acceptance.

If you find that you are struggling with feelings of shame and guilt related to your past substance use, it is important to address these emotions in a healthy and constructive way. You may not fully understand what these emotions are, which makes addressing them more difficult. Don’t let the weight of shame and guilt hold you back from achieving success in your recovery. By taking steps to address your shame and guilt, you can learn to manage these emotions in a way that promotes healing and personal growth. To learn more about the difference between shame and guilt and the techniques that you can apply to overcome these feelings, reach out to Dream Recovery at (657) 216-7218.

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