Guilt and Shame Dangerous feelings undermining happiness and success.
How do we free ourselves from the emotional bondage, the dangerous feelings guilt, and shame?
When I was on the streets using 5 bundles of dope a day, I did what I had to do to make my body feel normal and function in the morning. This is where the dangerous feelings of guilt and shame are born unto me. Having to deal with what I needed to do sick on dope The horror I felt when I woke up in the morning strung out and no money or a fix to wake up is hard to describe. I sit here now and can feel the nervousness and anxiety welling up in my solar-plexus. This is how I will illustrate waking in the morning sick with heroin withdrawal. I first would compare the anxiety to butterflies in my stomach. This anxiety mixed with the worse symptoms of the flu. Every muscle aches and there is not any position to relax. Sometimes relief can be found by kicking your legs hard, sort of leg snapping from the knee. (this is where the phrase for heroin withdrawal ‘kicking’ was coined.
Having to steal first thing in the morning to get straight and act like the rest of the world is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Shoplifting to support a drug habit is an existence I would never wish on anyone. Shoplifting with the pangs of drug-sickness beating on my door is hell I wouldn’t even wish on an enemy.
People have asked many times why didn’t I just get into a detox center and rehab and quit. I will answer this question first. Then I will look at the guilt and shame that I kept beating myself up with so I could stay messed up and finally the forgiveness it took to silence the demons Guilt and Shame and other negative emotions and anger.
The demons drew strength from me one syringe full of dope at a time…
Why not just go into a detoxification unit, in-patient rehab, get on methadone, and just clean up?
Seriously! JUST SAY NO!!!
Oh, I hope and pray that it will someday be so easy for other addicts in the world to “just say NO”, Nancy, but we all know that this is not an option.
The wheel starts spinning. I have told myself so many times that I would just do it one day and stop, and then the days and nights would grow longer and the visions of getting a fix would never cease to entertain my thoughts. The ever-growing cravings for dope would fill me until I overflowed with want and desire. Every cell in my body would thirst for that familiar taste of heroin. I would beat myself up over these cravings and desires. Could I use occasionally? Why was I so worthless? Why was I such a big loser dope-fiend junkie?
This is where it would start. The thoughts that would destroy any self-esteem left inside of me:
The perpetual cycle of worthlessness.
I would begin wondering why I couldn’t stop and I would always answer the same way.
What is the reason to stop?
- I haven’t any money to rely on once I am sober. I cannot steal if I am not strung out.
- I hadn’t any family or old friends to turn to for help in the process of sobering up.
- I was homeless and had nowhere to go. Why get clean to live in the shelter.
- Lastly, methadone? I used methadone to not be sick in the morning. I never tried to get sober with medicated assisted treatment such and Methadone or Suboxone.
Under these circumstances, I could never find a reason to want to sober up. I sobered-up each morning to my reality, a world created that was so dismal and bleak any man would turn to shooting heroin to avoid having to drink from that cup!
Hmmmmmm, no joke!
Before discussing how I dealt with guilt and shame, I would like to say that many of us in this world have allowed ourselves to do something we regret. One time or another we have let our guard down on our conscience and allowed ourselves to violate our own personal moral code of ethics.
I am not saying this to make myself feel better by any means. I am saying this to let you, the reader, understand that a person does not have to be seeking recovery or relief from active addiction to benefit from my blog or my website. All you have to do is want to personally shoe into the best most ethical incarnation of yourself. No one is a judge within the abstract walls of HAHC. We are all equals here. So please keep reading and learn to stop letting dangerous feelings ruin the life you deserve.
Guilt…is a way of telling ourselves that we are about to do something that goes against our moral code or ethical principles. We feel this little pang in our heart or chest when we decide to wrong another or break a promise.
Guilt…is our conscience directly speaking to us. It is in the guilt of yesterday that we use as an excuse for trying to achieve sobriety today. In this guilt, we stay pinned under and the pain it causes in our hearts.
Therefore, guilt provides the perfect excuse to feel sorry for oneself and wallow in the misery of our lives. It’s the excuse we use to keep us feeling sick and tired, beating ourselves up today, tomorrow, and the next day.
Shame: Once we have chosen to ignore our moral code completely no matter how much guilt we have felt, shame comes along and makes it worse. At this moment we are beginning to believe the lies we tell ourselves about ourselves. It’s shame that tells us we are not worthy, are a bad people, can’t be trusted to do the right thing, are sinister, conniving, drug-addicts and we will never change.
Our shame also drives us to do the right things; to correct our mistakes, fix the hurt and the wrong decisions we have made. There are many times when we cannot fix these mistakes, or we’d not know where to begin, so we pretend we do not see these shameful acts. We hide them away deep in our conscience and try to forget the demons are there.
As our closets overload, and the doors are about to burst, causing more guilt and shame, we learn to lie, cheat, and hide the guilt.
The cycle becomes vicious. The world is broken. The addict’s world becomes devastated. The only way to fix it is to not FIX UP. The only way to deal with it is to feel. Correct it. Make it better for all parties involved when possible, and then carry on.
How does a person correct the guilt and shame?
How can a person cope with dangerous feelings?
4 ways to fix dangerous feelings guilt and shame are as follows:
- We must admit when we are wrong. Own up to it. Become accountable for our actions and our words. Admit to all our mistakes when we make them. Own up to the pain and problems we might have caused others in the past. Accountability goes a long way and shows maturity and growth. Become accountable, by facing the consequences of past actions.
- Once we have become accountable it is time to correct the wrong doings we have suffered upon others. We must correct our wrongs whenever it is possible.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible to correct this wrongs we have done to others for various reasons, so it is best to get creative. Sometimes it is best to leave a person we have hurt alone. But we feel the need to still correct our wrong doing towards them, so we can do something nice for the family of that person, do something for the person or family anonymously, or do something for his/her community. Try to be positive in all that we do and say.
- When it is possible we can always ask others for forgiveness, publicly, privately, or in our prayers or meditations. Remember that sometimes our actions have hurt others beyond their forgiveness. Do not let this stop you from asking for the forgiveness. If this is the case do not open old wounds. Let the person be and ask forgiveness silently or in writing. Never hurt another more or reopen the wounds in order satisfy your need for forgiveness.
- The most important item on this list is forgiving ourselves. I feel that we cannot truly do any of the above if we do not first forgive ourselves. We must begin the healing process with ourselves. We must heal our heart and soul. Accept what has happened and get on with life. After we have embraced the self we can then move on to start correcting the errors of our misguided and desperate ways.
Forgiveness is the surest way to beat guilt and shame at their cyclical game. We must be accountable to ourselves and others. Practice accountability, correcting wrongs, and stop hiding in the shadow of our dangerous feelings and negative emotions.
Live life and correct the mistakes you have made.
Further reading: A great article about cognitive distortions and irrational thinking patterns can be found on the Smart Recovery web page under the title, The ten forms of self-defeating thoughts.
Are there more ways to defeat the demons dangerous feelings guilt and shame? Please share ways you have dealt with guilt and shame in your life in the comments section.