Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. ~ Brene Brown
Have you ever felt shame?
How has it affected your life?
Unfortunately, shame is a part of drug or alcohol abuse. You realize quickly that even though you may have support, you are up against the stigma of a disease that is often not talked about.
The user feels shame about his dependence on drugs or alcohol. The family feels shame about a problem that is now out of their control.
When my life was going into a downward cycle, I felt the sting of shame and I’m sure most other parents in similar situations feel the same. way. I questioned my skills as a parent.
Many feel anxious and stressed because they sense that they have failed as a parent, the most important job a person could ever have.
Facing and accepting feelings of guilt and shame allow you to move on. Guilt is a little easier, while shame may have deeper roots and need more work. Recognizing our feeling of shame are the first steps towards healing.
Shame is different from guilt. It is not rooted in action. According to Psychology Today, when a person feels shame they feel they are somehow wrong, defective, inadequate, not good enough, or not strong enough.
Guilt is the belief that one has done something wrong or bad. Shame is the belief that one is wrong or bad.
Abusing drugs or alcohol is a way to numb yourself from feelings that you don’t want to face. It’s a short-term quick fix which misleads a person into feeling more comfortable.
Guilt involves a violation of an external rule or standard that can be redressed by restitution or an apology. Shame, however, slices uninvited through the ego boundary to inflict a deep wound on the self that is experienced as an “inner torment” or a sickness of the soul. Shame patrols the boundary between our public and private lives.” ~ Garrett O’Connor, M.D.- Betty Ford Institute
Many families cover up the substance use that they don’t want family and friends to know about. Enabling can come into play in the hopes that the problem will quickly go away. Parents and family members hide the addiction from the outside world to protect themselves from feeling shame.
Children of alcoholics may grow up feeling less than or flawed. They often struggle with negative feelings about themselves for years. When our child is the one struggling, we may question our total worth as a parent, thus we are flawed.
“When most people use the word shame, they usually mean to describe an experience that comes up because of outside influences — our parents’ disapproval or the opinion of society-at-large, for example. If I do poorly on a test or my business fails, I might not want anyone else to know because I’m afraid they’ll think less of me. Shame also arises when we violate our own internal values, but we’ve usually absorbed them from our families and the world around us.” ~ Joseph Burgo, Ph.D.
When I did finally reach out to family and friends about our family substance use problem, the reactions were interesting. Offers to help, some advice, but mainly support and concern came my way.
The support and concern were appreciated. I have also felt the underlying message of, “Watch who you tell this to.” I rarely share my family’s situation with a casual acquaintance. My hope is that the stigma of addiction will lessen as time goes on.
Substance use can affect a diverse range of families. It does not discriminate. Happily married parents as well as divorced parents can have a child with an addiction issue. Some children with alcoholic parents are never affected with the disease and others follow in their parents’ footsteps.
Great parents can raise kids that struggle and troubled parents can turn out well-adjusted kids.
We often regret decisions we made in the past, believing that if we had made a different choice, our loved one would not have their struggles.
You can breathe a little easier when you learn as much as you can about addiction. You make better decisions when you educate yourself and realize that one size does not fit all and that you are not to blame.
As a parent, you have an opportunity to be supportive and gently guide your child toward recovery. You can be a source of strength during this stressful time.
Shame is the most disturbing experience individuals ever have about themselves; no other emotion feels more deeply disturbing because in the moment of shame the self feels wounded from within. ~ Gershen Kaufman
Here are seven ways to release the shame that is holding you back.
- Focus on the Present. Start by accepting where you are now in life. Take a look at the areas of your life that are not working. Rather than avoid your feelings of pain, focus your thoughts and notice what you are feeling.
- Forgive yourself, as everyone make mistakes. You may feel like you have made mistakes that have harmed yourself or others. Forgive yourself. You can make amends for any harm you have done and you can make changes for the future.
Remind yourself that your mistakes do not make you a bad person. Everyone makes mistakes. It is an opportunity for learning and growth.
- Open Up and Trust. Sharing your secrets of addiction may be a short-term solution, but you make progress toward healing when you break out of your isolation. Taking a risk and trusting others will bring you closer to finding the peace and serenity that you want.
Surround yourself with people who are supportive and don’t take it personally if someone’s reaction is not what you had hoped for. Realize that you are not alone and that sharing is the key to healing shame.
- Think of Your Mistakes as a Lesson Learned. As I look back on when I felt shame, I can realize that even my most embarrassing moments have taught me a lesson in life and led me in a more positive direction.
Learn from each past mistake and let it guide you in the future. Remember that those who made many mistakes were those that learned the most.
- Love yourself. Be bold and let go of being uncomfortable with yourself. Allow yourself to open up to all the possibilities in life. Allow love of yourself and love of others to enter your being.
Trust that your inner wisdom will guide you as you move forward in life. You will go to a better place when you love yourself.
- Get an Objective Opinion. Take steps to get over your feelings of shame. If you feel that getting the support of someone who can help you get unstuck and move forward is what you need, hire a coach.
If you feel that you have deep seeded emotional issues around shame, hire a therapist. Either way, take the time to let go of your feelings of shame so that you can enjoy your life in a better way.
- Replace feelings of shame with compassion. When your feelings of shame surface, replace them with compassion, empathy and acceptance for yourself. Acknowledge the negative feelings, but remind yourself that you can get through this.
This new perspective will help you to heal. The positive shift in your thinking will move you forward so that you feel better as a person, and as a parent.
It’s easier to move forward and become “unstuck” when you are ready to face what has been holding you back. Shame dissolves when it is brought out into the light. Do not allow the negative cycle to continue in secrecy.
Release your shame in a way that feels safe, so that you can move forward.
The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
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