By Michael Rice, LISAC, CTRTC
Addicts and alcoholics all lack happiness and a sense of well-being. It’s what prompted them to drink/use in the first place. Happy people who truly like themselves don’t have a need to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to feel better. Pure air is more than sufficient for them.
When one has acquired the love of one’s self as well as the love from the important people in his/her life, they have acquired a pervasive sense of happiness and well-being. Even in times of adversity or illness, the person who loves and receives love deals with unhappiness in healthy ways of hope and gratitude. They handle life’s woes much better than the person who lacks love and connection with others.
Ironically, it is an addict’s/alcoholic’s drugged behavior while under the influence that causes them to lose whatever love they may have had. The more they drink or use to dissipate their unhappiness, the more they create their own sense of shame and guilt . . . adding two more things they want to overcome by drinking or using.
What they need the most is love. However, if those who are closest to them hold much resentment, harbor a lot of anger, and feel wounded by their behavior, it would be extremely difficult for them to show any compassion or love towards them. The behavior of an addict or alcoholic oftentimes creates resentment and anger to those closest to them. Others see their behavior as the person’s true behavior and not their drugged affected behavior.
Even in many treatment centers, the need for genuine love is overlooked leading to failed attempts at sobriety. One of the reasons A.A. works so well is due to the love and understanding given them by those who have been there. This is why A.A. is called, “A Fellowship.” But all too often, it is the alcoholic/addict’s shame and guilt that puts up a defensive wall towards “getting help from outsiders” or “people who don’t even know me.”
The most successful mental health and recovery programs are those which are aware of the magic of love towards their clients. I am not speaking of romantic love between therapist and clients but the love of true caring and concern from the important people in one’s life. Love, both caring and romantic, has the power to create long lasting happiness and wellbeing. Of course there is more than just Love that and addict/alcoholic needs. They also need forgiveness and acceptance which falls under the umbrella of love. Once again, I refer to the Beatles:
By Michael Rice, LISAC
One of the necessary approaches in dealing with addicts or alcoholics is to help the person release or let go of all their shame and guilt. You don’t have to be an addict or an alcoholic for this to be effective in your life. Anyone who harbors shame and guilt will not know true happiness and peace of mind until they are rid of their shameful and guilt ridden thoughts.
What is often amazing to both myself and to my clients is to discover that much of what they are keeping secretive, along with the fear of being discovered, is so trite in nature that if or when others did find out, the discoverers would either be understanding, bored, or not even care. All the stress and fears of being discovered are self-imposed. It would also appear that those who are most susceptible to shame and guilt by the manipulation of others who believe what one “should’ think or do, are the most easily taken advantage of. These individuals have a very hard time in saying “no” to others and end up doing things that they really would rather not do only to please the person making the request. They would create feelings of shame and guilt in themselves if they refused the requests of others. Afterwards, they begin to feel angry and turn their anger inwardly (depression) because they would feel guilty and shameful if they let their anger out. Continually giving up one’s own wants and needs for the sake of someone else’s wants and needs will lead to unhappiness. Once a person shows signs of continually trying to please others, others will begin to take advantage of this trait. No one can walk on you if you don’t lay down.
In A.A., members who seek recovery along with their sobriety do more than merely attend meetings. They put the twelve steps into action with the help of a sponsor. Ridding one’s self of shame and guilt is like having the weight of the world taken off one’s shoulders. It’s like being able to exhale after holding your breath for years. I have even witnessed some individuals break down in tears of joy after letting go of their shame and guilt. It is truly a sight to behold and an experience one never forgets once they release it. The process involves making amends wherever possible, forgiving one’s self, and realizing that they are humans who are prone to make mistakes and yet still be loved; feeling worthy of giving and receiving love.
One’s lack of self love is due to their perception about themselves which is laden in shame and guilt. The second genetic need for Love and Belonging is so powerful that when adequately acquired, all of the other genetic needs seem to be more easily attained. Not only does one need Love and Belonging from others but from one’s self. How can you expect others to love you if you don’t like and love yourself?
Personally, I contend that when a person finds love through someone else’s acceptance, they are actually feeling love for themselves as much as for their partner. It is the concept of, “I like me better because you love me.” Love for another person enhances our need for love of our self.
In the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) begins to realize he is miserable without love and belonging? He finds himself being attracted to Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) and on a casual date he says to her, “You make me want to be a better man.” Melvin has reached an epiphany and realizes that if he wants love and belonging, he needs to stop being such a jerk that drives others away. He’s beginning to deal with his shame and guilt. And what does this all mean? If you want things in life to be better, the first person who needs to change is one’s self.
By Michael Rice, LISAC
All of us have done something in our life of which we are not particularly proud. And there may be some who may have even had some things happen to them by someone else that they are keeping secret. In either case, the basis for keeping these things secret and not wanting others to know about them will be rooted in two things: Shame and Guilt.
Shame and guilt can be the core of most, if not all, of one’s unhappiness. Yet both shame and guilt are not always bad. There is such a thing as healthy shame and guilt and these are the principles which keep many people from breaking laws, harming others, or performing deeds that would affect others in negative ways. It could be said that healthy shame and guilt keeps our innate urge to be selfish or harm others in check.
I don’t believe we know about shame and guilt until we have been taught what is proper and what is not proper when interacting in society and in our families of origin. And while we are known to be products of our environment, there are some individuals who have not been taught about what may be right or wrong and therefore may possess minimal shame and guilt, if at all. And there are some parents who use shame and guilt to “control” their children . . . to manipulate them to behave the way they want them to or to get from them what they feel they are lacking. Playing the martyr is an example of how this is utilized by a parent or spouse to get love and attention that they feel that don’t have. They suffer or pretend to suffer to instill shame and guilt in someone so that the other person will show them some pity and attention. . . .another form of external control.
It is toxic shame and guilt that destroys one’s happiness and peace of mind. Toxic shame and guilt consist of the following beliefs: Guilt is: I DID something wrong. Shame is: I AM something wrong.
We often hear, “We’re as sick as our secrets,” and to this I must agree. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep from being “found out.” One must be ever vigilant and looking over their shoulder to keep others from finding out whatever it is they don’t want others to know. Shame and guilt affects all of our genetic Basic Needs of Survival, Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun.
A leading cause of substance abuse is found in what is referred to as the Shame and Guilt Spiral. Drugs and alcohol put to sleep what would make a person feel bad. As long as they are high or buzzed, the things that normally tend to cause one to feel bad go away, albeit temporarily. What happens next is the spiral. Once sober, they begin to feel badly about what they just did (drinking or using) on top of all of the other things of which they feel bad. They just added another 5 pounds of shame and guilt in a 3 pound container. The quickest remedy? Drink or use some more. This behavior continues to spiral downward until they either get help or die.