When we're in recovery, many of the emotional patterns that we've been perpetuating while struggling with our addictions continue to be a problem for us. We continue to think and feel in very self-harming ways. One of our common emotional patterns is that of self-blame. We blame ourselves for being addicts. We blame ourselves for all the mistakes we've made and things we've done wrong. We judge ourselves harshly and beat ourselves up. We're unkind to ourselves. We deny ourselves forgiveness, understanding, and compassion. Where we might be able to show others compassion, and understand why they did the regretful things they did, we aren't nearly as forgiving with ourselves. Holding onto self-blame in recovery can be one of the detrimental emotional patterns we continue even after achieving sobriety, and ultimately it can limit our progress and stifle our growth.

Self-Sabotage Fuels Addiction

Self-blame very often leads to feelings of self-hate and self-rejection. For those of us struggling with addiction, this can manifest as patterns of self-sabotage, self-destructiveness, and self-harm. We feel so bad about ourselves that we want to punish ourselves. We inflict harm on ourselves because we feel haunted by the pain of our shame. We obsess about our list of regrets. We're filled with remorse for the things we've done wrong, and even when we've begun the work of making amends to the people we've hurt, we refuse to forgive ourselves. We feel unworthy, unforgivable, and unlovable. We often will turn to our drugs of choice to make ourselves feel better, to escape the pain of our self-rejection, and the self-sabotage that is rooted in our self-blame becomes a major driving force behind our addictions.

Internal Pressure Leads to Relapse

When we're constantly inundating ourselves with intense feelings of self-blame, we're often not thinking rationally about our mistakes. Oftentimes our perception is tainted. We're so self-hating that we're not seeing ourselves and our mistakes clearly. We don't give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We hold ourselves to extreme standards of perfection. We have impossibly high expectations of ourselves. When we're this hard on ourselves, sometimes our intense pressure ends up causing us more difficulty in the long run. We're piling more layers of stress onto ourselves, making our fragile sobriety that much more vulnerable. We're often triggered into relapsing because we've been pushing ourselves too hard, unable to forgive ourselves and allow ourselves to be happy. We see every single day, every single action as an opportunity to right our wrongs, and because we're so self-blaming and unforgiving with ourselves, this can become a major source of pressure for us, even an obsession. We're relentless in our pursuit of redemption, and this can ultimately create so much fear and stress within us that we collapse under the weight of it all. We relapse when that's what we've been fearing most because we haven't been giving ourselves the self-nurturing, gentleness, patience and forgiveness we need to heal.

Self-Hate Yields More Regret

Our instinct when we've done something wrong is to blame ourselves, to beat ourselves up, to love ourselves less, and to see ourselves as unworthy. We don't see that the pain of our unhealed trauma is often a major contributing factor to, if not the direct cause of, the ways in which we've caused others pain. We don't make the connection that our unresolved internal issues and all the stress we're under are actually creating more issues and problems for us to have to deal with, which causes us to make more mistakes and do more things we later regret. We aren't compassionate with ourselves, and we see ourselves as shameful, immoral, unworthy people. Our self-hating sense of self-perception can cause us to do even more questionable things, because we're acting out our fear and pain. Our lack of self-worth can cause us to make even more mistakes and accumulate even more regrets, because we're manifesting from a place of self-hate and self-deprecation. We're caught in recurring cycles of doing more things we feel bad about because we haven't forgiven ourselves for past wrongs.

Pouring Self-Love Into Ourselves Instead

The solution, therefore, when we're inundating ourselves with self-blame, is to focus on loving ourselves more when we've messed up, not less. What would it feel like to look at your mistakes, your overall history, your life story, and your sense of self, and pour love into yourself rather than withdrawing your love? What would it feel like to show yourself more kindness rather than less? How would it feel to treat yourself the way you treat a loved one when they make a mistake? How would it feel to accept your own apology and grant yourself forgiveness, the way we often do when someone else has wronged us? What would it look like to give yourself the gift of more love rather than denying yourself?

Gaining Strength in Recovery

Self-love is the answer for so many of our negative, self-destructive emotional patterns, along with all the behaviors that accompany them. When we're self-loving and self-forgiving, we're more likely to feel strong enough to resist our drug of choice when we feel tempted by it, or when we feel emotionally triggered. We become emotionally more resilient and more self-empowered. Our drug of choice and all our self-harming habits become so much less appealing because we now know how much better it feels to be good to ourselves.

If you're continuing to blame yourself excessively in recovery, consider exploring your mistakes and regrets with a therapist, coach or spiritual guide with whom you feel safe. Really examine your past, and try to be as objective, honest and clear about it as you can be. Picture a loved one doing the exact same things. Would you forgive them? Would you be able to understand why they might have made those choices and acted in those ways? Chances are, as you shed your self-hatred, as your self-perception becomes more aligned with your true self, as you see yourself more clearly, you'll gain more objectivity and clarity around your past, and you'll feel more inclined to forgive yourself.

Professional help can make all the difference in your life. We are dedicated to helping young people achieve sobriety and mental and emotional well-being. We can help you live up to your full potential.

Reach out to WinGate Wilderness Therapy today.

(800) 560-1599

P.O. Box 347
Kanab, UT 84741

About the Author:
Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Roots Intensives Director

Josh Nelson has a deep, and extensive background in...

Josh Nelson has a deep, and extensive background in wilderness therapy, having grown up around some of the very first wilderness...