I have written before about how How the shame cycle barricades us from recovery in terms of addiction. In particular, here, I think about people who are AuDHD. If you exist at that particular intersection of experience, there is an increased likelihood that you use substances to improve your own wellbeing. Where there is self-medication, there is an increased risk of addiction. Where their is addiction, there are people trying to shame them into quitting.
Autism, ADHD, and shame
Being neurodivergent usually comes with a level of shame. This is due to the fact that society uses neuronormativity to police how we think, feel, act, and emote. It is estimated that ADHD children receive around 20,000 negative or corrective comments by age 10. Let us not forget that if a child is AuDHD, then there is a risk that they have been exposed to harmful interventions such as ABA or perhaps even MMS to try and make them “indistinguishable from their peers”.
When we consider this with respect to AuDHD adults, we are literally creating a factory line that takes children and turns them into adults who believe that who they are is wrong, invalid, a failure, or subhuman. To be AuDHD is to be constantly told why you are not enough. I believe from this you can already see why we may turn to drugs and alcohol to feel better.
Why does shame not stop addiction?
Addiction is insidious. It creeps into your life and slowly dismantles it. Stripping away your sense of identity, your relationships, your economic stability. It slowly takes everything from you until it is ready to take you away from the world. Addiction is not a moral failing, and it certainly is not a choice. No one wakes up one morning and decides to give away their liberty in the pursuit of oblivion.
One of the reasons we seek that oblivion is because the pain we experience is so intense that we would rather feel nothing at all. Shame adds to this pain. It eats away at us, tells us we should hide and obfuscate those parts of us that need to be in the light. If open communication is the key to recovery, then shame is the barricade keeping us from it. For this reason, shame will only ever keep us heading back towards oblivion.
What helps AuDHD people recover from addiction?
As we have discussed. AuDHD people are already driven to conceal themselves from childhood. Driving that further by shaming their drug use only serves to entrench that more deeply. In order to recover, we need to be able to communicate our inner experience openly and honestly. We have to create environments where a more natural embodiment of our internal experience is not something that will be penalised. To consider it another way; we have to let people be themselves.
Before we can be ourselves, we have to know ourselves. This is why community connectedness is so very important. Aside from an overall reduction in minority stress, it allows us to learn about ourselves through shared experience with others. By engaging in natural communication and AuSociality, we learn what it is to be us, and how to improve our wellbeing. When we begin to feel good about ourselves, it becomes easier to tackle addiction.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery, but I am certain that shaming AuDHD addicts will never achieve what you hope it will. If we want to save lives, we have to begin creating safe and nurturing spaces, not driving people back to the oblivion they already feel they deserve.