Feelings of blame are all too common in addiction recovery. Individuals may blame themselves for their condition, blame the condition for its consequences, or blame others for their roles in their substance abuse. In recovery, blame can complicate an individual’s healing process. A person must learn to overcome blame. This allows a person to take responsibility for their actions without added distress.
Understanding Blame in Active Addiction and Recovery
Alcohol and drug use can cause lasting brain changes that make it easier for an individual to use repeatedly. As a result, an individual in active addiction may not be able to fully think through the potential consequences that substance abuse is having on their life. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before these consequences become evident and begin to affect other people.
Self-Blame From Substance Abuse
An individual may blame themselves when they become aware of the effect that substance abuse is having on their life. However, at the same time, they may feel helpless when it comes to their illness. In this sense, self-blame can be used as a catalyst for recurring substance abuse. Meanwhile, in recovery, self-blame is understood to be an undeniable risk factor for relapse.
Self-Blame From Stigma
Unfortunately, self-blame can also surface because an individual needs help. Addiction is a highly stigmatized disorder. Those who struggle with addiction may experience discrimination and harsh judgment from others. According to Neuroethics, stigma impacts both the self-identity and self-esteem of individuals that develop addictions. Feelings of self-blame can be further exacerbated by societal norms, especially if the stigma of addiction and substance use is prominent in one’s community.
It is important to remember that this stigma has developed from decades of misinformation about the true nature of the disorder. Addiction is a disease of the brain that causes lasting changes to brain circuits. This impairs decision-making, self-control, and motivational processes. Additionally, a person may feel more susceptible to blame due to their brain changes.
Learning to Take Responsibility Without Blame
To effectively recover from addiction and its negative impacts, an individual must be willing to take responsibility for their past actions without self-blame. There is no question that this is easier said than done. However, this is a skill that is necessary for living a healthy and sober life.
Identify Contributing Factors
Individuals do not need to blame themselves for taking responsibility for their actions. Instead, it can help to address the circumstances that led to substance abuse in the first place.
It is essential to understand that an individual can bring awareness to these circumstances without necessarily blaming themselves. To do this, a person must address these circumstances without tying emotions to them. By practicing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) skills, a person can understand their addiction more objectively.
For example, some individuals may have been introduced to substance use within their homes at a young age. This could have been introduced through parental substance use or from other peers. Additionally, many people turn to alcohol and other substance use in an attempt to self-medicate trauma and its effects.
It is important to practice self-compassion when identifying these factors. Therapy is instrumental to this process and the process of overcoming feelings of blame.
When an individual experiences intrusive thoughts of blame, shame, guilt, or otherwise, they may feel tempted to engage in problematic behaviors like substance abuse. Instead, a person can use mindfulness to handle the feelings head-on.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Some examples of mindfulness practices include meditation, yoga, breathwork, or simple awareness. Moreover, the intentional stillness involved in mindfulness can be calming to the body’s nervous system. With time and practice, mindfulness can be strengthened, and feelings of self-blame can be reduced.
Foster Empathy in Relationships
Empathy is an essential interpersonal skill. It allows an individual to step into the shoes of another. Through this process, they may gain a better understanding of situations and circumstances. In recovery, empathy can be strengthened through participation in group therapy and other sober social events. It can also be strengthened through rebuilding relationships with family members and friends.
Practicing empathy for others can help individuals extend such empathy to themselves as well. This can directly challenge feelings of blame that may surface throughout the recovery process.
The Ability to Change
Individuals seeking recovery have the power to choose a path of healing. The brain is malleable, meaning it is able to adapt and change. As a person practices self-compassion, mindfulness, and empathy, they strengthen these pathways in the brain. It will become easier to forgive than to self-blame. Always remember that the path of healing is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Blame can be a common experience for those working to establish recovery from addiction. It is essential to address and overcome feelings of blame, so they do not complicate your recovery process. At 12 South Recovery, we understand why feelings of blame may surface throughout your healing journey. Fortunately, we can offer you professional support and guidance as you work through these distressing emotions during treatment. We offer a number of outpatient treatment programs for those seeking recovery from substance use and mental health disorders. We will guide you through the healing process if you or a loved one is struggling. Call us today for more information at 866-839-6876.