I bet there’s not one person in the world who would answer the above question with: “A person struggling with addiction!” Yet there are so many of us who have struggled with it, giving it as much of our attention it’s as if it was our job. In fact, in some cases, we give up jobs—give up our entire lives to give into addiction.
I don’t think any child imagines this is how his grownup world might be like, chasing a high. Yet we feel guilt and shame and we are often ridiculed and ostracized as if it was our choice and a childhood dream.
But using drugs and alcohol is often a response to trauma, and we must never forget that—especially when we feel guilty about how our addiction wreaked havoc in our lives. I’m not saying that we need to pat ourselves on the back, that we bear no responsibility for certain choices, but what lies at the core of how many of us have used—or use—substances, is pain. Nobody wants to be in pain. We do anything to avoid it. And psychological pain can be the worst of all. With addiction it’s a combination of psychological, physical, and for some, spiritual relational pain that gets us. And it’s the trauma that often starts it all. It is also often an early childhood trauma.
Mental illness is one of the rare illnesses where people feel guilty about having it. This is because of stigma and that includes self-stigmatizing. So many of us keep our adversities a secret for the fear of judgement. And it’s quite justified that we feel squeamish about revealing the state of our mental health—after all, you never know who will be accepting and who will be ignorant and horrified to learn that, for example, you’re a person in recovery from alcohol or drug dependency.
For many of us, even after we do recover, we still feel a lot of shame and we still feel unsafe.
The reason I mentioned childhood dreams and trauma is because I wondered if maybe in order to heal better it would help to think back to the past and feel protective of that little boy or girl who was experiencing trauma and who was completely alone. I believe honoring that child can be a great way to experience self-compassion, which in turn might alleviate guilt and shame.
Moving forward, if you’re having a lot of self-doubt and are still beating yourself up about something that you might’ve not had any control over, please consider the fact that healing can only happen in a positive, welcoming environment. Create one for yourself by trying to forgive yourself, and trying to like yourself a little more. Be mindful of that kid who had dreams that did not include mental illness, addiction and the world’s judgement.
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