People with experience in addiction health, or addiction in general, would agree that there are certain stigmas attached to the word “addict.” The sad fact of life is that an addiction rarely affects just those who are actively using or drinking but rather impacts the lives of their families, friends, coworkers, etc. The addict’s inner circle see’s the shame in the person and almost always immediately associates the addict as a sick person, or even of low moral character. Armed with dozens of facts about substance abuse and what it does to a person, perceptions can often default to the harmful idea of “This is a bad person.” Or “It is their fault that they are using, and the blame is on them.”
That word blame is something we who have been affected by addiction are quite familiar with, whether we realize it or not. Often times addicts don’t even have to associate themselves with it. Rather, it is thrust upon them by those who fail to understand the true nature of addiction. With that in mind, it is not hard to see how blame inhibits the addict’s growth in recovery when we consider the idea of shame as opposed to guilt. To put it simply, guilt means “I have done bad things.” Shame equates to “I am a bad person.” Understanding those key differences, we see where the possibility of growth and constructive healing is, and where it is not.
Let us examine that word guilt in the guise of another word; Ownership. When beginning recovery, one is tasked with a sense of self-examination of past actions, thoughts, and behaviors in order to form new habits, reactions, and coping mechanisms. Part of this self-examination involves recognizing where past faults can be found and recognized for what they are; faults. The strength-based side of an addict recognizing these specific feelings of guilt comes directly from that ownership. Once they have owned the fact that they have done wrong things (or that they are guilty of doing wrong things) they can then begin to understand underlining factors, which if constructively walked through, make no room for shame, which again, only aims to hinder an addict’s growth, and will ultimately keep them locked in active use.
Furthermore, ownership of one’s own wrongdoings has the potential to instill a sense of self-confidence and pride within the addict in recovery, inspiring them to keep persisting and have life-long success. It is strength-based recovery such as this that allows us to shift blame from the addict and back to the addiction.
Through intervention models based on strength-based recovery, focusing strongly on a solid family dynamic, Compassionate Interventions aims to help both the addict and the affected family enter into a healing mindset, not bent on blame towards the addict themselves, but on the addiction that needs treatment, as well as the person or persons affected by the addiction who deserve, above all else, to be happy, joyous and free.
-J. Dalton Williams, BA