It's a Shame Crisis
We keep hearing over and over about the opioid crisis and how many people are dying by overdose. What we fail to recognize is that addiction is the symptom of the problem. People are using drugs and alcohol to mask, stuff and numb their pain. What if we started addressing the pain layer by layer, starting with shame?
Why Begin with Shame?
Shame is what keeps the cycle of addiction going. I call it “the Vortex of Shame” because that is often the starting point of the addiction cycle or the triggering emotion. In the beginning, shame can be a reflection of the belief you are not good enough or feeling unworthy. As addiction progresses, the addict becomes ashamed of so much more;
Because of the shame and overwhelming end of worthlessness, addicts and alcoholics often use alone. They don’t want anyone to know and they don’t want to be seen.
How Shame Affects the Family
I have heard it time and time again, “I don’t want people to judge my son or daughter.” “I can’t talk to my friends or family because they don’t understand.” Or “what will people think?” The truth is not everyone will understand what you are going through with your addicted or alcoholic child. On the other side of that, you might be surprised where get support and understanding, because addiction touches more people than we know.
Overcoming the Shame
There are 3 things we can do to overcome shame
Shame becomes more powerful when we are quiet. When we talk with others and share our stories, the strength of connecting in that process takes the power out of the shame and gives it back to us.
I have learned that unconditional acceptance of our Loved One’s disease and situation is the starting point for healing. When we accept them and their substance challenges, we open the door for them to share their struggles. This ends their isolation and begins the connection with us.
The second part to unconditional acceptance is for us to accept where we are at and then share that reality with the people who are close to us. This takes away the shame and replaces it with acceptance, understanding and empathy.
Each Other Up When we support each other and our addicted or alcoholic children, we build self-esteem which helps us all feel better about ourselves. The more we cheer the people around us on, and build on their strengths, the more worth-while they feel and the less power shame has.
We are not excusing the irresponsible behaviour or bad choices of our Loved Ones. Nor are we excusing the horrible ways they have treated us and the people around them. That behaviour is a product of shame and addiction. A they find recovery, they will have to take responsibility for their poor behaviour and choices. Right now, it is about ending the shame and isolation for them and you. That happens by connecting.
For more information about finding ways to connect with friends, family and possibly a support group, explore our website for articles and programs.
is a Vancouver-based Addictions Specialist and Family Therapist with training and experience in numerous areas related to healing and recovery from the devastation of addiction & alcoholism.