Substance abuse disorder, or SUD, is a complex issue that impacts more than 20 million American adults each year and about 1 in 10 at some point in their lives. Close to half of those with a drug or alcohol addiction also have what’s known as a co-occurring mental health issue like depression, anxiety, personality disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who live with addiction, mental illness or alcoholism never get the help they need to address the complex issues that caused them to become substance abusers. A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that just 10 percent of those who need treatment get the help they need.
The many barriers to accessing rehab and treatment in the United States include a lack of insurance coverage or financial resources, problems finding qualified treatment providers and trouble getting quick access to detox and rehab. What you might find surprising it that one of the biggest barriers for adults who need treatment is themselves.
Many Addicts Won’t Admit They Need, and Deserve, Help
Many people who are suffering from SUD aren’t ready to stop using despite the toll their addiction is taking on their lives. While it can be easy to dismiss those who won’t seek treatment as being unwilling to work on their issues or to say they haven’t hit bottom yet, there’s another common reason why many who desperately need rehab and treatment won’t pursue it. They don’t feel worthy.
The Role of Shame in Addiction
Shame is a common emotion that everyone experiences in their lives. Everyone’s had those moments of self-loathing where they have wanted to shrink away and hide from themselves and everyone around them.
Shame is about how you feel about yourself, inducing feelings of inadequacy, embarrassment, and failure. It’s the idea that you can’t measure up to your own standards. It’s something that sticks with you, making you feel isolated and less worthy than everyone else.
If there are things about yourself you don’t like, abusing drugs and alcohol can be a way to escape that shame about who you are, what you’ve become and the ways that you’ve failed to meet your own expectations.
Regardless of what substance an addict abuses, all addiction is rooted in a desire to escape reality to some degree. Drugs and alcohol alter how you perceive the world around you, change your mood and make you feel differently than when you’re sober.
Is Shame Sabotaging Your Recovery?
While many people can work past their feelings of shame and move on with their lives in a way that’s healthy and non-destructive, those powerful feelings of inadequacy can also feed an addiction.
Shame is often the reason why some people turn to drugs and alcohol after a traumatic event or situation such as witnessing a violent car crash, losing a loved one or working as a first responder. It’s also not uncommon for survivors of abuse or sexual assault to feel a deep sense of chronic shame fueled by thoughts that somehow they could have stopped the abuse, changed the outcome and preventing their own victimization.
Over time, these feelings of shame can become impossible to deal with. They seep into all aspects of your life, filling your head with irrational, self-destructive messages like “I’m a bad person, I don’t deserve to be loved, and I’m a failure.” Unless you get the help you need to work through this negative self-talk, you may seek to escape by abusing drugs and alcohol.
Breaking the Negative Shame-Addiction Cycle
Shame can fuel your substance abuse, and it can also keep you trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction.
You may have started drinking or using drugs to escape, and now that you’re addicted, you might feel like you’re not worthy of help. Recognizing the tremendous impact that shame is having on your life is key to tackling your addiction issues, stopping the negative self-talk that keeps you from getting the help you need and deserve to start your journey toward recovery.
Try to recognize that everyone makes mistakes in their lives, and people rarely manage to live up to their own expectations all the time. Shame is something that everyone feels but rarely talks about.
If others around you have been encouraging you to get help and seek treatment for your addiction and mental health issues, try to listen to what they are saying. Even if you don’t feel like you’re worthy of saving, they do.
In treatment, you’ll learn to identify your shame, understand the role it’s had in your addiction and what you can do to stop the negative self-talk that’s keeping you stuck in the cycle of addiction. While dealing with the root causes of your shame might mean digging up old memories and dealing with difficult subjects, the fact is that shame feeds addiction. That’s why it’s important to recognize when shame is keeping you from seeking help.
Are You Ready to Talk About Your Addiction Issues?
You may be struggling with shame over your addiction issues, embarrassed by the fact that you need help with your mental health. Your worries about what other people will think of you could be keeping you from getting the treatment you desperately need.
When you’re ready to take control of your life and deal with your addiction issues, FHE Health is here for you. Our team of compassionate, experienced addiction and mental health experts is available 24/7 to take your call or chat online.
Don’t let the shame you’re feeling over your substance abuse and mental health problems keep you from living your best life. Let us help you get well.