Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Overcoming Shame and Guilt in Recovery - South Carolina Rehab

Can a Rehab Center Help Me Overcome Shame And Guilt in Recovery?

Shame and guilt are normal human emotions that most people experience throughout their lifetime–and often regularly as they go about their day. These feelings are often connected to behaviors that people wish they could undo. People may feel shame about doing or saying something that contradicts the kind of person they believe they are or would like to be.

But shame and guilt in recovery from addiction are even more common because addiction can cause people to do things they would never consider when sober. While most people can learn to cope with shame and guilt, people in recovery may struggle to deal with the effects of their behaviors and the feelings that come later. These emotions can prevent people from moving forward in addiction recovery.

Understanding the role of shame and guilt in recovery can help you seek treatment to overcome them and move forward. Reach out to the team of specialists at South Carolina Addiction Treatment to learn more about addiction recovery or explore your treatment options.

Understanding Guilt and Shame

Guilt describes feeling remorse or responsibility for an offense–real or imagined. People may feel guilty after doing or saying something that may harm someone, taking something that doesn’t belong to them, or acting in any way that violates their own morals or values.

Guilt and shame are not always negative emotions. In fact, they can be very motivating and may help people identify standards, morals, and values they hold deep down. Guilt can make people think about their actions and make choices that align with their values in the future.

In some cases, shame is often associated with a loss of confidence or self-worth. Identifying the causes of your shame and learning skills to overcome it and move forward is essential.

The Effects of Shame and Guilt in Recovery

If you’ve ever done or said something you regret later, you understand what shame and guilt can feel like. People who behave in ways they’re not proud of may lose some of their self-esteem and doubt their ability to make decisions. Some may worry that they are not the kind of person they aspire to be.

Getting comprehensive addiction treatment can help people overcome guilt and shame in recovery. Treatment plans include evidence-based and holistic therapies that allow people to identify the roots of their addictions and process complex emotions around their substance use.

Treatment plans generally include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Medical and mental health treatment
  • Holistic practices to support overall health and well-being, such as nutrition support, yoga, and mindfulness

Working through an addiction treatment program gives people the time, space, skills, and support they need to process guilt and shame about their actions while abusing substances.

How To Cope With Guilt and Shame in Recovery

Most people in recovery have some level of shame, guilt, and remorse about the impact of their addiction on others or how it changed the course of their lives. There is no magic wand to make shame and guilt disappear–but you can take steps to understand these feelings and let them go.

Face it

Pushing your shame and guilt down will not work. To eliminate it, you’ve got to shine a light on it. Talk to a counselor, peers, or others about your feelings. Tell your story, listen to others with similar experiences, and be honest about how you feel and what you’ve been through.

Forgive yourself

Addiction isn’t a choice you made–it’s a severe and complex condition with deep-reaching roots in your genetics, environment, mental health, and other aspects of your life.

Get to the roots

You may be carrying guilt and shame for things that were beyond your control. Get curious about your emotions. Is it reasonable that you feel guilty or ashamed about your actions? Examine your past honestly to discover where your guilt may not be appropriate.

Make changes

If you feel guilty about something you’re still doing regularly, stop doing that thing. It sounds simple, but developing new habits may take work, effort, and dedication. Get the support you need to make the changes that support your recovery and well-being.

Identify your values

You can’t change the past, but you can ensure the future is different. Think deeply about your values, goals, and priorities. Write them down and remind yourself of them often. Consider how your habits and behaviors support these values or work against the future you want.

Make amends or seek peace

Whenever possible, apologize directly to the person you harmed through your words or actions. Show that you are committed to making changes and dedicated to behaving in ways that align with your values. If you cannot apologize directly, consider writing a letter expressing your regrets–even if you never send it.

Let go

You can’t change what happened, and fixating on it will only keep you stuck in the past you’d rather forget. Do what you can to make amends, commit to new habits, and clarify your values–and then let go. Commit to the present and the future. Forgive yourself.

During an addiction treatment program, you’ll work with addiction specialists and other caring professionals to begin to release guilt and shame, allowing you to progress in life and recovery.

Get Help Now

Letting go of shame and guilt in recovery can feel impossible. Comprehensive, compassionate treatment can help you move forward. Reach out to the caring professionals at South Carolina Addiction Treatment today to explore your treatment options and find the support you need to thrive in recovery.

Medically Reviewed: November 21, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.