The Destructive Role of Shame in Addiction

“Othering” is a term used to describe a process most people participate in. At the core of the practice of “othering” is a difficulty connecting to empathy. Empathy is the human quality which allows us to fully understand one another and share in the experience of another’s feelings. Though we cannot feel precisely what another person is feeling we can identify with the experience of that emotion to the best of our ability and recognize that all people experience things emotionally. Othering is the way we cut a tie in that precious human bond. Experiences happen to other people who have other problems. Addiction, for example, is something that most people assume happens in other households instead of their own. Coping with the shocking news of a loved one developing an addiction is hard for many family members because they cannot believe that thing of addiction which happens to other people is happening to them. Except, addiction isn’t happening to others it’s happening all over the place to people we all know and love.

It is vital to understand that addiction doesn’t discriminate. Forty million Americans over the age of 12 years old can meet the clinical criteria for a substance use disorder. Millions of adolescents and teenagers in addition to adults are struggling with the symptoms of addiction. Their addictions vary from drugs to alcohol and nicotine. Death by drug overdose is now a leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50 and caused more deaths in 2015 than gun violence and car accidents combined. New data leaking in from 2016 suggest the number increased even higher. According to The New York Times, drug-related deaths increased 19 percent between 2015 and 2016. Though many statistics have indicated that the opioid “epidemic” is winding down, this jump is the largest increase the US has ever seen.

Who are the people who are dying? One might never tell. Shame and stigma are pervasive when it comes to addiction. Shame, the painful feelings of humiliation about one’s behaviors, gets in the way of millions of people asking for the help they need. People are reluctant to talk about their substance abuse outside of the few people who know there is a problem. Despite family concerns, they won’t go to treatment or speak openly about their struggles. While some choose to be public and vocal, others continue to try recovering in the shadows. The ongoing shame gets in the way of understanding that addiction is happening to millions of people not just in America but all over the world. Men, women, teenagers, LGBTQ, all races, all cultures- addiction is happening to everyone. There is no shame in addiction because there is hope in recovery.  
If you are struggling with addiction, do not be ashamed. There is hope in recovery. Don’t give up. Call Cottonwood Tucson today for information on our residential treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring disorders. Our integrative approach to treatment will help you heal mind, body, and spirit. For information, call: (888) 727-0441

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