Shame: The Enemy of Progress

Recovery can be a deeply private experience and it’s not uncommon for people to be embarrassed to talk about it or share their stories with others. You may feel stigma surrounding addiction or you may be awash in feelings of personal failure. No matter who you are or where you’ve been, one of the most effective tools for overcoming the shame you bear for your past is to put it out in the open and own it as part of who you are.

Own Your Past

Your journey through addiction and recovery is part of who you are. Every single person makes mistakes and goes through trials and tribulations; that’s how we learn and grow. It can be tempting to section yourself off from your old life, saying that this is you, and that wasn’t you before. While understandable, this approach removes you from self-acceptance. Addiction doesn’t form in a vacuum; the old you was suffering and deserves your compassion.

Though it may seem forced at first, make a conscious effort to own your past. Look at old photos and videos of yourself as you used to be. That’s you. You don’t have to slice your timeline and cut that person off from your present identity. It is your past that makes you who you are today. Without making the mistakes you made, you’d never have achieved this mental fortitude through positive transformation. Accept yourself as you were so that you can completely accept yourself as you are.

Be Proud of How Far You’ve Come

Each day of your recovery is a reason to celebrate. Recovery isn’t about hitting certain milestones; it’s about marking your desire to improve yourself every morning that you wake up. Whether you’ve been sober for ten years or ten minutes, it is your commitment to transformation that’s significant. No matter how much of your path lies ahead of you, make sure to take the time to appreciate how much of your path lies behind you. You are on the road to recovery exactly as you are, and that’s more than you were before. 

Even if all you did today was stay in the same place you were yesterday, that’s another day you went without succumbing to the desires of your past. Shame may hold you down by making you think that you aren’t worthy of recovery, or that you can’t make progress, or that you’ll never get to where you’re going. Crush these thoughts with haste. You are already making progress. Count your victories, celebrate your successes, and be proud of yourself for every day that you make it through sobriety. You are worthy of change and you will succeed as long as you stay focused.

The Power of Opening Up to Others

Shame can be a huge roadblock that prevents you from telling other people about your history and keeping you from accessing a source of significant positive influence. When you share your story of addiction, recovery, and personal growth, you do yourself a tremendous benefit. Every time you open up the part of yourself that’s vulnerable and self-conscious and are received with warmth and understanding, you’ll come to see yourself that much more favorably as well. Even if your self-confidence is already high, feeling welcomed into the world by other people who you trust can work wonders for your emotional stability.

While it may be uncomfortable at first, working to overcome shame and share your story can make a lasting difference in your self-perception throughout recovery. Start small by opening up to someone you trust, even someone who’s already aware of what you’ve been through, so that you can have a positive experience retelling your story in your own words. Once you’ve been positively received, or at least received less negatively than you might have expected, you may choose to visit the place you received treatment to visit with current patients and share your story there. This is a common practice for people in recovery that is often strongly encouraged by treatment centers.

In addition to helping yourself, sharing your story can also have an immeasurably positive influence on the people who hear it. Whether or not your listeners are struggling with substance use as well, hearing your tale of transformation and dedication can inspire them to make changes in any areas of their lives that need attention. Seeing your strong values and triumph over challenges can also help them to appreciate and admire you more as a person and seek to attain the same for themselves. Opening up to others is one of your most powerful tools for beating shame and regaining control over the narrative of your personal growth.

Accepting yourself and gaining the acceptance of people you trust can help you treat your recovery like a solvable problem instead of an internal wrong tied to your self-worth. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or substance use, mental stability, or other forms of personal challenges, there is effective help available to you. Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, offers a one-of-a-kind approach to addiction, recovery, and growth. We provide individualized support to help you meet every aspect of your wellbeing with intention and confidence. We combine evidence-based treatments with dedicated staff and a thriving support network of peers and sponsor relationships to help get you back on your feet and transition into long-term health and happiness. Don’t wait to get help in achieving emotional clarity. Give yourself a clean slate and move forward into the life you’ve always wanted for yourself. Call (800) 643-2108 to learn more.