Addiction is a complex issue. Addiction and its behaviors aren’t always as simple as “makes someone feel good” or “the brain needs it.” These are individuals, and sometimes emotions, feelings, and thoughts play a role in both behaviors when a person struggles with addiction, and the what fuels their addictive behaviors further.
An example is shame. Family and friends often wonder why someone with addiction seems withdrawn, distant, or averse to connection. Often the reason for that is shame. When someone has an addiction, some of their most prominent thoughts are replaced with feelings of being unworthy, unlovable, a failure/disappointment, etc.
So what happens to the individual is that they respond to those feelings by enacting protective strategies that help them avoid the potential for others to see what a disappointment “they are.” They isolate themselves and disconnect from those they love because they do not feel they deserve love and fear they can hurt them further.
Shame and the Cycle of Addiction
Shame is also a powerful emotion, and the behaviors associated with shame can lead to furthering addictive issues. For example, when a person feels shame, they may desire the substance of their addiction as a way to feel better. Because when self-esteem and agency in life or dimensioned, it leads to a greater need to numb the uncomfortable feelings.
When they also isolate themselves, they also don’t get the support they need and could find themselves thrusting themselves deeper into addiction. And because returning to the substance cause more shame, that continues these behaviors and leads to even further distance from others. Shame makes people feel like addiction is who they are as opposed to an activity that they are just doing.
What’s Next to Stop This Cycle of Shame?
Addiction therapy on Long Island is especially important, because it is often extremely difficult to break free of an addiction without professional help. But in the interim, it is important to make sure that there are feelings of positivity and support surrounding the person. That doesn’t mean that the addiction should be enabled or praised, but it does mean:
- Identifying the shame and addressing the negative thoughts.
- Learning to find acceptance within oneself.
- Finding positive connection in others.
It is critical that the person with the addiction be the one that is ready for help, because while friends and family can be supportive, those that have addiction are the only ones that can accept personal change. But if you’re a loved one of someone with addiction, you can make it clear that the addiction, while a problem, doesn’t define them, and that they do not need to feel shame around you.
Learn more about our addiction psychotherapy services for both those struggling with addiction and their families by contacting Long Island Psychology today.