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How Shame, Identity and Self-Esteem Relate to Substance Abuse

The disease of addiction links closely with various negative emotions that can hinder your recovery process and prevent you from becoming your best self. Fear, guilt, anger and hopelessness are among these complex feelings, but shame is often the underlying driver sustaining all this other upheaval. What role does shame play in substance abuse, and how does it impact your identity and self-esteem?

Substance Abuse Worsens Shame and Self-Esteem 

Shame perpetuates the message that you are deeply and irreparably flawed. Self-esteem often suffers due to the shame that accompanies addiction, fueling a seemingly endless cycle of depressive thoughts and behaviors. Further, shame that makes you feel unworthy of getting better can hold you back from seeking treatment for your illness. 

The mental health burdens that come with substance abuse could lead you to believe you’ve earned them through your behavior. An inner monologue of constant negativity can chip away at your identity until you no longer recognize yourself as a person who deserves love and happiness. 

How Do Other People Influence Your Identity?

Sometimes, others in your life can change your view of yourself, which could be the case for you if friends and family members don’t understand the nature of addiction. Whether they mischaracterize your struggle as a weakness or stigmatize severe mental health conditions that require professional counseling, your loved ones could be making you feel guilty or ashamed of yourself without realizing it.

Family members and close friends might mean well when saying things like “I know you’re better than this” or “I don’t understand why you can’t get past it on your own,” not realizing how hurtful those statements can be to someone with fragile self-esteem. Ultimately, shame-based thinking can drive you further into substance use as you attempt to escape from this pain.

Understanding Addiction as an Identity

As an addiction progresses, your identity can become intertwined with your substance of use. In other words, one reason you might continue abusing drugs, despite negative consequences, is that you self-identify as an addict.

Equating your sense of self, purpose and belonging with drinking or drug use could represent another significant barrier to seeking treatment, since getting sober will require you to carve out a new personality for yourself that doesn’t revolve around intoxication and self-destructive behavior. That’s why many recovering addicts face a psychological problem called an identity crisis. 

Making a clean break from harmful substances may make you feel like you’ve lost a crucial part of yourself. As a result, you might experience a grieving process in the early stages of sobriety where you mourn the person you used to be. Creating a new, substance-free identity may be a challenging aspect of recovery, but you can do it with help from your sober support group.

Rebuild Your Self-Esteem With Men’s-Only Treatment

Addiction can make you think you don’t deserve to feel better, but you shouldn’t let the choices you’ve made in the past diminish your hope of a bright future.

Moving past shame and identity-related issues in recovery is not easy, and often requires the help of qualified mental health specialists using clinically excellent treatment methods. If you’re ready to make the call that can change your life, contact us at Spearhead Lodge today.