Do you often experience negative self-talk in your mind? Are you tired of blaming yourself? Self-blame is common among people who have substance use disorder (SUD) because, after years of substance use, you may believe that you are in some way destined to fail and therefore only focus on the negatives of life. It is time to relearn self-compassion, a neglected but important topic for successful addiction recovery.
How Addiction Brings Shame and Self-Blame
SUD comes with a range of experiences that can bring on shame and self-blame. These include judgment from others, societal stigma, living in a country with a long history of criminalizing substance users, anger at self, and comparison to others.
These negative feelings of self-judgment do not automatically go away even just because you’ve gone through treatment and recovery. When you hold onto these things for a long time, they can reshape your neurological responses and impair your emotional regulation. This is part of why SUD is so often closely associated with mental health issues.
The Benefits of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion means extending acceptance and care to yourself in moments of failure, imperfections, and suffering. Show up for yourself the same way you would for a close friend or confidant.
Imagine this situation: If your best friend failed in maintaining sobriety, what would you say to them? Would you judge them for wanting to reach for a drink, emphasize the failure, blame them for the outcome, or chastise their way of coping? The answer is probably no. Why is it so hard to do the same for yourself?
Self-compassion is based on the belief in inherent self-worth. Many people with SUD struggle with low self-worth or low self-esteem in the first place. The reasons are often circumstantial. They may have grown up in broken families who seldom expressed acceptance or affirmation.
Practicing self-compassion is key for people going through addiction recovery. A lack of this skill can perpetuate anxiety and depressive moods which can trigger cravings and relapse. This means that self-compassion is an integral part of your relapse prevention plan.
Practical Advice on Practicing Self-Compassion
The first step in expanding your capacity for self-compassion is to extend forgiveness to yourself. Since you are already in treatment, you have set a new beginning in your life. Look at your missteps as lessons to learn from, not reasons for self-judgment. Drive this truth home to your inner self: you do not need to act or behave perfectly to be deserving of love and understanding.
When feelings of judgment and blame emerge, be aware of them, but then replace them with a truth that comes in a positive light. For instance, if you’ve done something to jeopardize or break your sobriety, your inner critic might say, “I’m the worst! I am bound to fail again.” Instead, you might try a more neutral response, like, “I recognize that I did something I feel bad about. I acknowledge that and release it because I can overcome it.”
During recovery, think of self-compassion as a tool. It allows you to be aware of negative sensations without letting them take over. It takes a lot of practice to know how to “talk back” to negative thought patterns and course-correct toward healthy inner conversations. Try starting a recovery journal to write down affirmations to replace voices of blame and shame.
Self-Compassion and the Mind-Body Connection
Whether you are practicing acceptance meditation, art therapy, or recovery journaling to work on self-compassion, invite yourself to notice and be curious about how your emotions and bodily movements are closely related. Ask yourself: Do you notice any areas of tension in your body? Can you try releasing them through this activity? Self-compassion involves listening deeply to the information your body can share with you if you pay close attention.
Bodily movements may also help you process negative emotions. Whether it is yoga or aerobics, allow yourself to focus on how the process feels for you—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and detach it from how you look to others. This is also a part of how you shift into the practice of self-compassion.
Health professionals in your treatment center can help support you to rebuild self-compassion. Some offer an integrated approach that may incorporate cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), journaling, mindfulness, and other holistic methods. These have been proven effective to enhance positive mind-body connections. If you struggle with self-blame, remember to include self-compassion-promoting interventions into your treatment plan.
Self-compassion is a state of being and accepting yourself as you are. Recovery offers the opportunity to rebuild this important piece in life for the benefit of your long-term well-being.
A holistic treatment program helps you heal your mind, body, and spirit and reduce the need to use drugs or alcohol as coping mechanisms. Through better physical and mental health, you can enjoy a higher sense of well-being, a sense of purpose, and greater happiness in a life of abstinence. At Laguna Shores, we will work with you to develop a personalized plan of action to tend to your mental and physical needs using self-compassion. This integrated approach will include interventions such as CBT, journaling, mindfulness, and other holistic and clinical practices. Laguna Shores Recovery also offers treatment options such as detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching at our full medical and residential treatment facility. Schedule an appointment with us today. Call (866) 229-9923, and we will be happy to talk with you about short-term and long-term planning.