Why Shame is Not Your Friend

shame addiction recovery family intervention Allies in Recovery

shame addiction recovery intervention Allies in Recovery

Brené Brown

Dr. Brené Brown’s Groundbreaking Discoveries

Renowned researcher Dr. Brené Brown describes shame as the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel, and one that no one wants to talk about.

For many people struggling with addiction, shame is a powerful undercurrent that fuels use. These feelings lead to self-loathing, which in turn, lead to numbing and more use.

Shame Feeds on Addiction

As you interact with your loved one, you too may experience serious bouts of shame. You may blame yourself for your loved one’s behavior or feel defeated by your loved one’s refusal to seek treatment. Without self-care, your loved one’s addiction problems can leave you exhausted, or worse, set off a shame spiral.

Addiction in the family brings up many difficult emotions for everyone involved. You may be more familiar with anger, hopelessness, and fear. But shame is also there for all of us, in varying amounts.

After having studied this emotion for years, Dr. Brown describes it as “lethal.” If left to its own devices, she says, shame can destroy lives. In this short video, Brown talks with Oprah Winfrey about her discoveries. She defines shame, reveals the three things it requires to grow, and the one thing that stops it in its tracks.






Thinking About Shame in Your Own Life

After watching the video, get a pen and some paper, or your private journal, and contemplate shame and the impact it may be having on your life and the life of your loved one:

  • What situations trigger shame for you personally?
  • How do you feel when you find yourself in the midst of a shame spiral?
  • How do you react in those difficult moments?
  • Are there certain actions or thoughts that alleviate the shame?

In our next post, we’ll share three things that Dr. Brown recommends for stopping a shame spiral when it strikes.

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Can You Practice Letting Go of Shame?

Shame is a human emotion, meaning we all experience it. It has even been suggested that it is the most primitive of all emotions, dating back to our origins as humans. Shame, however, is toxic in large amounts, and many of us find ourselves stuck in that leaky boat. Understanding how shame works is the first step in preparing to conquer it.

You Oughta Be Ashamed of Yourself!

Positive reinforcement, as basic and childlike as that sounds, is a motivating force for progress. Speaking to someone’s goodness despite their wrong choices unlocks their worth. “You’re not a bad person, you’re just headed in a bad direction.” Or maybe “You shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself, maybe just aware of faulty patterns so you can choose different ones.” That’s a great way to start motivating someone. Versus, “I told you so, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Moving Past Stigma

Stigma is a very powerful deterrent to treatment, recovery and hope. Yet how do we move beyond this when even those in the medical profession continue to stigmatize the disease of addiction?

An Extract from David Sheff’s ‘Beautiful Boy’

David Sheff’s story about his son’s addiction and recovery has led him to several realizations about himself as a parent his own need to recover from the experience. He found that his constant suffering and struggle through near crises with his son was easier to deal with than focusing on himself. Today, their relationship has evolved into one of independence, acceptance, compassion and always love.