Shame Versus GuiltMost people tend to use these terms as one and the same, but there’s actually a meaningful distinction between them. Guilt refers to someone feeling a negative emotion because they think they’ve done something wrong – it’s a temporary thing. Shame, on the other hand, is when someone believes they themselves are wrong or bad as a person. People with shame don’t believe they’ve necessarily done a single thing wrong – rather that there is something larger wrong with them. Shame can lead to depression, paranoia, loneliness, and issues with recovery.
Shame and Self-EsteemThese two areas are very closely related. Those with low self-esteem have issues valuing themselves or feeling as if they deserve respect. Those who feel shame, often during childhood, may have low self-esteem as adults, and this can often be a precursor to addiction. Once an addiction develops, those feelings of shame and self-esteem can often be increased, as there is a stigma when talking about addiction.
When Shame is OkayIn small amounts and for short periods, shame can be beneficial. It can help us behave better, try harder, or do fewer negative things. However, when shame seems to never go away, it can lead to self-medication or taking a substance in order to forget the shame.
Don't Let Shame Impact Addiction RecoveryWhen it comes to addiction recovery, though, too much shame is a big risk. It can affect every step in the recovery process. Shame can keep you from reaching out for help in the first place. Shame can also affect you in other areas during the process. Here are some ways how:
- Those with shame may believe they aren’t worthy of a good life, and therefore, won’t work hard at recovery
- Shame can prevent people from enjoying success or achieving emotional sobriety
- It leads to uncomfortable feelings, which can result in a relapse
- Shame can prevent the formation of a support network that’s vital for recovery
- Both family and friends may suffer from self-destructive patterns caused by shame