Letting Go of Shame in Recovery

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Guilt and shame are normal human emotions – nobody’s perfect, and everyone has regrets in life. How you react and respond to shame is key, however, because if you can’t learn to let go, these feelings will weigh you down, preventing you from realizing your true potential.

We don’t get a chance to go back in time and do things differently. That’s why the best thing you can do to stay healthy is to accept that fact and keep moving forward. Doing so is vital to your growth as a person. With that in mind, here are some ideas for getting past guilt and shame in recovery.

Moving Past the Shame Cycle

Recovering from an addiction often involves feeling guilt for what how you behaved in active addiction, and shame for allowing yourself to make decisions that harmed yourself or others. If you try not to think about these mistakes, it can lead to a shame cycle that traps you in feelings of worthlessness.

The first step to breaking out of this downward spiral is to make a written list of all the mistakes you believe you made. Then, go back over the list, and next to each item, write down at least one lesson you can learn from them. Next, do at least one positive thing each day to cancel out negativity from your past. The antidote to shame is pride. If you do things that make you feel good about who you are today and who you will become in the future, your pride will gradually chip away at your shame.


You can’t heal and rebuild your life if you don’t learn how to forgive yourself. Most of us are our own worst critic, so the process of self-forgiveness isn’t something you can accomplish overnight. However, there are steps you can take to help it go more smoothly.

  • Take ownership of your actions: Your addictive behavior probably hurt some of the people who care most about you. Hold yourself accountable and apologize. You’re not the same person today as you were when you were letting your addiction control your life. There’s still time to make things right with your family members and friends.
  • Seek therapy: A therapist can help you learn to understand and process your emotions. Identifying the root cause of your addiction can help you understand why you behaved the way you did, and unlearn the unhealthy coping mechanisms you developed as someone with an addiction.

How to Get Over Guilt

As hard as it may be for you to accept, guilty feelings represent a step in the right direction. They mean you are aware of the times you did something wrong. Now that you are admitting to yourself where you went astray, learn to embrace those mistakes as learning experiences that are shaping you into a better person. Yes, it can be difficult to learn from your mistakes, but that is not an excuse to stop trying.

Like learning self-forgiveness, getting over guilt takes time. Start by exploring what is making you feel guilty, and whether there is a logical reason for you to feel guilt over it. Maybe the guilt is valid, but it’s also possible for it to be all in your mind, and something you’re beating yourself up over for no reason. Write it down or talk through it with your therapist. Once you scrutinize your guilty feelings, you’ll be able to decide how to put them behind you and take the appropriate steps to heal.

Your New Life Is Ready to Begin

At Canyon Crossing, we believe there are always reasons to be hopeful about what tomorrow will bring. When you choose to start your recovery at our women’s-only drug and alcohol rehab facility, you will discover the benefits of holistic therapy in a serene desert location that gives you time and space to grow as a person. Contact us to learn more about admissions.

Benefits of Residential AddictionTreatment

You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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