How the shame cycle barricades us from recovery

They say in life that nothing is certain, but if anything is, then it’s the fact that shame will deny us entry into recovery.

I’m going to consider this from the perspective of addiction recovery, although it applies to recovery from any psychological trauma. I merely choose addiction recovery for this article because it makes the illustration of my point much more simple.

Consider the nature of addiction. A person’s needs are unmet. Due to the trauma that arises from this they seek to escape their pain, and in doing so turn to a path of addiction.

Addiction is seen by society as a moral failing, and so is the behaviour exhibited by those under the influence of their addictions. People are chastised for their addiction which creates shame.

This is a fatal mistake.

Shame is like poison to an addict. Shame in itself creates more trauma from which their is even more need to escape. Which in turn results in further, or even increased engagement with their addiction.

This in turn leads to further chastisement, and thus the cycle perpetuates.

This cycle can, and often does, continue until fatal consequences occur.

In order to help an addict break away from active addiction and enter recovery, we need to remove the shame that comes with addiction.

This takes many forms such as trauma-informed treatment, adequate socioeconomic support with things like housing and finances, and an adequate support network.

It’s not just about being nice to addicts, it’s about putting them in a safe place to rediscover their love and pride for themselves. This applies to more than just addiction.

Shaming addiction and other forms of psychological trauma is an act of violence that can both directly and indirectly kill people by barricading recovery. Until society drops the moral judgements, shame will continue to kill indiscriminately.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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