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7 Steps to Overcoming Shame and Guilt in Addiction Recovery

If you’re struggling in addiction recovery, then shame and guilt are probably familiar emotions. 

Shame and guilt can be powerful emotional triggers that make it difficult to stay sober—especially if they get stirred up without warning. 

But these feelings also play a role in motivating people to seek help for their addictions. Many addicts feel deep-seated guilt as they struggle with their disease, which motivates them to get help for themselves or loved ones who need treatment. 

We believe that understanding shame and guilt can help you overcome them during this critical time of recovery so you can reach your goal of staying sober forever.

Here are seven steps you can take to overcome these negative feelings:

1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.

If you are ashamed of your addiction and have been using drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with the shame, then the first step is learning how to deal with this feeling in healthy ways.

Emotions are a part of life, but they can sometimes be overwhelming at times. It’s important for us all to understand ourselves better by learning about our emotions and how they affect us both positively and negatively.

This will allow us to take care of ourselves better overall in recovery from addiction.

2. Tell someone you trust about your struggles.

If you feel shame or guilt, it can be helpful to talk about your feelings with someone who will listen and respond with empathy. 

It’s important that the person you choose has your best interests at heart and won’t judge you negatively for what they hear.

Often, the best person to talk to is a licensed therapist at a center that specializes in dealing with people that face what you are facing. They are better equipped to help you deal with these struggles. 

3. Find ways to cope with the shame and guilt.

A therapist, self-help book and support group are good places to start learning how to cope with these emotions. 

You can also try meditation or writing down your feelings in a journal. 

Whatever method works for you, taking time for yourself is important so that you can relax and unwind from the stress of addiction recovery.

4. Learn how to forgive yourself and others.

Forgiveness is a process, and it’s important to understand that you can’t move forward until you forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself means letting go of the past and forgiving others means releasing anger toward them.

To forgive someone else, think about what they did from their perspective–how they were raised, what their life experiences have been like, where they are now in recovery or if they’ve even started their recovery journey at all yet. You might find that if we were able to see ourselves through another person’s eyes (or vice versa), we would have compassion for one another instead of judgment or resentment towards each other.

5. Understand that shame and guilt are normal in recovery.

It’s important to understand that you are not alone. Many people who have been through addiction have felt these same feelings at some point in their lives.

In some cases, shame may be a result of something specific that happened during your addiction such as stealing money from someone or lying about taking drugs. 

Whatever it is that caused the feeling of shame, remember that there are plenty other people who have experienced similar challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

6. Identify triggers that cause you to feel shameful or guilty.

Listing the people, places, and things that make you feel shame or guilt can help you to avoid these triggers. 

Writing down how situations make you feel and going back to read these regularly can help you to identify a pattern or source of shame or guilt.

Then you can find a way to alleviate these feelings.

7. Take care of yourself by eating well and exercising regularly.

Eating well and exercising regularly are essential in addiction recovery. It’s important to pay attention to what you put into your body, as well as how much of it.

Eat plenty of healthy foods that contain essential vitamins and nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins like fish or chicken breast. 

These will help keep your immune system strong so you can fight off illness better than if you were eating junk food all the time (and feeling sick).


It can be challenging to overcome shame and guilt, but it’s worth the effort. You deserve to feel good about yourself and your recovery!

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