So many new to or considering sobriety talk about shame: the shame of misusing alcohol, the shame of relationship or job problems caused by over-use of alcohol, the shame of alcohol-fueled obnoxious or illegal behaviour.
And shame feels so bad, so soul-destroying, that we will do almost anything to avoid it. For most of us, the easiest most familiar escape is the anesthesia of alcohol. Bottoms up! Pour another glass!
This becomes a very vicious self-replicating circle. Feel shame, feel bad, escape with alcohol, feel more shame about drinking, more alcohol to escape....
Shame is a powerful negative, unwarranted and useless emotion. Useless? you say??. Unwarranted? Yes. Shame involves feeling defective, feeling powerless, feeling as though one doesn't deserve happiness, doesn't deserve sobriety, doesn't even deserve a life. Shame is poisonous and destructive. Shame serves no useful purpose, and is a huge de-motivator for sobriety. (Randles, Tracy 2013- see full reference below)
Guilt can be useful- it may feel bad, but it can also motivate appropriate reparation. Embarrassment also feels bad, but can motivate avoidance of repeating the situations causing the embarrassment. But shame? It just cuts you off at the knees. It makes you feel useless, defective, unworthy. And none of us should feel shamed.
It is part of our birthright as human beings that we are inherently worthy people. We have made mistakes and bad choices, have done things we are sorry about- but we are still worthy people: People who deserve to escape the trap of alcohol, people who deserve friends and support, people who deserve to pursue sobriety and happiness.
Let go of shame. I deserve better, and so do you!
Randles D, Tracy JL. Nonverbal
Displays of Shame Predict Relapse and Declining Health in Recovering Alcoholics. Clinical Psychological Science, April 2013; vol.
pp. 149-155., epub February 4, 2013