How Shame and Self-Loathing Keep Us Trapped
I was never able to manage lasting improvements in my life for so long as I was motivated by shame, self-loathing, and disappointment. These negative thoughts kept me stuck in addiction, and it meant my outer reality became a reflection of the darkness inside of me.
Only shame and self-hatred could make life as a drunk appear a viable option to me. It involved believing I didn’t have it in me to quit or improve my life because I had made too many mistakes, thrown away too many opportunities, and burned too many bridges. This negative attitude towards myself created the perfect soil for addiction and other bad behaviors to blossom.
For so long as self-loathing maintained the upper hand, I never really had a chance of escaping addiction. It was only when I started paying more attention to a different voice in my head, a voice that knew there was a better way of living, that things began to improve for me.
I Will Love and Respect Myself When….
Waiting for your life to improve so you can love and respect yourself is a terrible idea. Your life will improve because you love and respect yourself right now. You need to become your ‘number 1 supporter’ and friend - otherwise you will be actively sabotaging your own happiness through shame, pessimism, and self-criticism.
Don’t kid yourself that being hard on yourself is in any way motivational. How could believing you are a failure ever help you find success? How could feeling such shame ever help you become worthy? How will pessimism about the future encourage you to create a better one?
There is another voice inside of you more worthy of your attention. This voice dares to hope for something better and it knows you are deserving of love and respect right now.
Respect Yourself Even If You Relapse
Returning to alcohol or drugs is usually a huge disappointment, but it doesn’t mean you are a failure or a hopeless case. If you use this as an excuse to be overly hard on yourself, you are playing into the hands of the addiction. This is sometimes referred to as the abstinent violation effect - it means rather than minimizing any undesirable consequences of the relapse, you are creating the conditions for a return to full-blown addiction.
Relapse happens. I feel uneasy with the claim ‘relapse is a normal part of recovery’, because I used it so frequently as a justification, but there is some truth in this. Most of us who manage a permanent break from alcohol or drugs have a history of multiple failed attempts at recovery) beforehand.
A return to alcohol or drugs may be a part of your journey, but if you continue to respect and love yourself, it need only be a temporary stage. It is impossible to settle back into hell of addiction unless you believe the thoughts telling you that you deserve to be there.