“Guilt is what we feel about something we did; shame is how we feel about who we are.”
I still remember my first therapy session. We were at a donut shop having a coffee, and my friend and I were talking about addiction – my addiction. And he was trying to explain the nature of addiction and its proper treatment. Using my coffee cup, the salt and pepper shakers and the sugar dispenser he tried to illustrate for me how it works.
Forming a semicircle with the salt, pepper and sugar dispensers, he placed my coffee cup in the middle to represent my addiction. “If you try to remove the addiction from the equation,” he said as he nudged my cup to the side, “you will find that another addiction will replace it.” He then proceeded to push the salt shaker into the middle, which represented another addiction taking the place of the first one.
Addiction is a disease that is best treated at its root cause. Acting out (‘using’) is not the problem; it’s merely a symptom of the problem. Winning freedom over an addiction involves far more than managing it. If you, for example, stop drinking and manage to somehow stay away from it, you have only treated the symptoms. The addiction will come back later in full force, either with the same symptoms, or in another form.
Shame is what fuels the addiction. Remove the fuel from a car and it stops moving; deal with the shame and the addiction stops.
The 12 Steps are designed to address the shame we carry inside. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t feel a certain amount to shame, the feeling that we aren’t enough and don’t measure up. The Steps help us to raise our heads from shame and accept the grace of God.
Upon taking the first Step we admitted our powerlessness over our addiction. Steps 2 and 3 required that we surrender to a Higher Power. This exchange of our weakness for God’s power begins a journey, starting from the place of our own unworthiness and moving to a place of love and respect for ourselves and others (Steps 4 through 12).
Our first defense against shame is exposure. Just knowing what it is will help us to recognize it when it shows up in our lives. Working the steps allows us to experience oneness with God, others and our selves; healing our relationships is what helps to reduce shame.
You have everything you need as you journey from shame to grace.