January 11, 2021
Have you ever wondered why it is SO hard for someone to stop their addiction? Even when they know their addiction is unhealthy, they still are a slave to their addiction.
My father is a recovering drug addict. He was clean for 17 years, relapsing right before my 17th birthday. I remember the day I found out my dad relapsed as if it was yesterday. At 17 years old, my naive self- said STOP-just STOP; you did it before.
Ten years later, and he was still using. Also, ten years later, I was accepted into a Graduate Program for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I finally learned, in my late 20s’ why it is difficult for someone struggling with substance abuse to stop.
Shame is what fuels addiction and keeps it alive.
Addictive behaviors, including substance use, alcohol use, binging, purging, starving, self-harm, sex, gambling, etc., continue to respond to SHAME. Both our internal shame that we give ourselves and the external shame in our culture or that we hear from loved ones.⠀
Our bodies are built to survive, which means we do what we have to do to save ourselves at the end of the day. When we feel so overwhelmed, upset, like the scum of the earth about ourselves, we cannot stay in this state of deep emotional pain for long.
We need an escape, our bodies feel like they are in survival mode, and as a result, we use our primary coping skills for dealing with pain, which is to engage in our addictive behaviors. Addictive behaviors are like our favorite baby blanket. They give us comfort, and without them, we know we will have to face the problems head-on, which is scary.
After we engage in them, more shame follows. We are so upset that we gave in, that we cannot change, that we are total mess-ups and make everything worse. Many of us feel the need to punish ourselves either by beating ourselves up profusely with our thoughts (causing more shame) or using it again to escape…again.
I remember a conversation with my dad when he went into treatment one of the uncountable times he has been in recovery. We were speaking about self-forgiveness. I remember he was SO hard on himself. He felt that he was not redeemable, that when he did bad, it was worse than what anyone else has done. I asked him, would he forgive me if I did those things, he said yes. Well then, why couldn’t he do the same for himself? Why could he show me compassion, but he was unable to establish himself the same compassion.
So how do you break the cycle of addiction?
You reduce the shame by giving yourself compassion. Be kinder to yourself, be softer, and remind yourself you are HUMAN. We make mistakes, but the best thing is, most life decisions you can pivot from. And if you made a permanent decision, try radical acceptance.
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I am Tesa Saulmon, I am here sharing my story, experiences, thoughts and motivations, letting people know NOTHING can keep you down, unless you allow it to.