By Adam Cook, Founder of AddictionHub.org
Taking the first steps to get clean and sober is courageous. Once you’re in recovery, it takes the exact same courage to rebuilding your life while staying positive. It’s completely normal to have feelings of guilt and shame, but you also have power over those feelings. Being in recovery from addiction, and the feelings that come along with that, don’t define you. Here’s how to be true to yourself and let go of shame while moving forward.
Breaking the Stigma
Addiction has long been associated with the idea of moral failing, even though the science behind addiction shows that isn’t true. There is still a social stigma, so a desire to remain closed off about addiction is understandable. You don’t want to be seen as having a weakness or failure. The reality is that by going through recovery, you are doing something very brave and showing yourself how strong you truly are. As hard as it may be, talking to people can actually fight this stigma and give you the self-confidence you need to see yourself in a positive light. As one person who is in recovery told The Chicago Tribune, talking to other people helped them combat low self-esteem.
While fear and shame are completely normal feelings when you’re in recovery, it’s important to understand the difference between the two and how they affect you. Researcher and author Dr. Brene Brown explains that guilt is a matter of saying to yourself that you’ve done something you wish you hadn’t, while shame involves talking down to yourself about what you’ve done. She says that you have to change this self-talk, and really believe it, to embrace your truth without imposing shame on yourself.
Staying Positive in Recovery
Besides feelings of guilt and shame, it’s easy for all kinds of negative thoughts to creep in as you work toward rebuilding your life. Those negative thoughts can have a powerful effect on how you feel about yourself, but you have the ability to control those feelings by working on positive thinking. When those negative thoughts pop up, get in the habit of automatically replacing them with positive ones. As one contributor to The Mighty explains, it helps to realize that there is nothing you can do about the past, but with positive thinking, you can create a better present and future.
Positive thinking may be hard at first, but you can help yourself by starting new habits that encourage positivity and make you feel good about yourself. Take up a hobby you enjoy and that feels productive, or listen to music or read books that keep you on the right course. Finding something active you enjoy has enormous benefits too because exercise releases endorphins that give you a natural feeling of happiness. Getting stronger physically and meeting a challenge you set for yourself is another great way to boost your confidence.
Managing Real Life
Returning to work and managing a job while you’re still in recovery is just one more challenge to meet. Fortunately, more employers understand the reality of addiction these days and are willing to work with you. The important thing is to continue focusing on what you’re doing now and the positive impact you can have working, rather than focusing on the past. Some employers really help with that by offering Employee Assistance Programs that link you to counseling and peer support groups. Using this type of program helps make the transition back to work easier because you know you have support in the workplace. It can also help you hone your job skills, which of course is another boost to your confidence that helps with focusing on positive thoughts.
Staying positive in recovery isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a process that is ongoing and involves taking life a day at a time. As each day and new challenge comes, focus on letting go of shame about the past, and instead focus on what is positive in your present and future.