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Guilt and Shame

Relapse Triggers: Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are common for people who are battling with an addiction or alcoholism. Guilt and shame usually perpetuate drug use or drinking because the addict or alcoholic is trying to self-medicate those feelings with substances. Even after an addict or alcoholic gets sober they still have to deal with feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings can make recovery difficult and less exciting as it should be and for some people guilt and shame may even be a relapse trigger.

What is guilt?

Guilt is experienced when a person feels like they have broken some kind of moral code or personal expectation of themselves. This is especially true if the actions were conscious.

What is shame?

It is said that shame is different than guilt because shame has more to do with self. When an addict or alcoholic feels shame it is because they are focused on their own sense of being damaged not on how they hurt other people. Shame is the thought that they are wrong not that they did something wrong.

What are relapse triggers?

Relapse triggers are anything that causes a person in recovery who is sober to consider returning to drugs and alcohol. Being aware of relapse triggers is vital for anyone who is trying to get sober and stay sober. Guilt and shame are very common relapse triggers. An addict or alcoholic begins thinking about bad things that have happened in the past and their feelings of guilt and shame cause them to get uncomfortable. This feeling of being uncomfortable can cause an addict or alcoholic to want to escape and for the alcoholic and addict the escape is usually drugs and alcohol. The chemicals in drugs and alcohol will take away the feelings and the discomfort they feel about them. There are many relapse triggers for those in sobriety and guilt and shame sometimes are ones that go unnoticed but they can be very powerful in creating a craving to use drugs and alcohol in the addict or alcoholic who wants to forget the bad things they did to themselves and others.

Guilt and shame are dangerous emotions for people who are trying to stay sober. The dangers of guilt and shame are:

  • It is a relapse trigger which means addicts and alcoholics use guilt and shame as a reason to drink and use again.
  • Many addicts and alcoholics use alcohol and drugs in the first place to cover up their feelings of guilt and shame. If guilt and shame are not dealt with in recovery they may want to revert back to this self-medicating attitude.
  • Guilt and shame really hinder an addict’s or alcoholic’s ability to recovery fully.
  • Guilt and shame can lead to depression which could be another relapse trigger all together
  • Guilt and shame can cause insomnia and insomnia is also a relapse trigger. Being tired or feeling emotionally and physically exhausted can easily make an addict or alcoholic think about using.

Luckily there are ways to deal with relapse triggers such as guilt and shame through things such as looking at things as a learning lesson, getting involved in a 12 step fellowship, making amends to those people the addict or alcoholic may have hurt and so much more. No one has to relapse due to relapse triggers such as guilt and shame.

If your loved one is in need of addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

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