Most women do not make it through active addiction without some shame. For many, their experience with shame can be traced back to early childhood. For others, the origin can be found in active addiction or sometimes it begins somewhere in between. No matter where the shame comes from this feeling keeps us disconnected and isolated, just like active addiction. It is paramount to address shame and begin building what Leading Shame Researcher, Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW refers to as Shame Resilience. If shame is left unaddressed it can turn into another reason to use again.
At the beginning of treatment a woman’s sense of worthiness is usually non-existent. When asked what she think about herself, the common response is, “I’m bad”, “I don’t deserve forgiveness”, or, “I’m a failure”, etc. This belief that “I am bad” is referred to as Shame. Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW (2012) defines shame as “… the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging” (p.69).
Women often use their behaviors during active addiction as evidence of them being a “bad person.” This shame filter prevents them from seeing their behaviors as symptoms of their disease. It is through sitting in groups and listening to other women’s stories that the individual begins to realize she is not alone.
It is through this sharing and this connection that women begin to build Shame Resilience.
Through participating in group therapy an individual is able to look around the room and see that the women of their community are not “bad people” because they have lied, manipulated, cheated, etc. This awareness of other’s inherent worth helps the individual see her own inherent worth. While working through the treatment process, the individual is able to begin to grant herself the same compassion and understanding that she so easily gives to others. Through this process of granting self-compassion and understanding an individual begins to rebuild relationships and connect with others. Through this connection they also begin the process of putting the pieces of their souls back together which allows them to believe that they have inherent worth that no one can take away.
If you think you are the only one, I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or a therapist. You do not have to walk around in the world feeling like you are not enough. Reaching out can sometimes be the scariest thing we do, but I promise what is on the other side is worth it.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York, NY: Gotham Books.