The Shame of Addiction
On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst . . .Zephaniah 3:11
The addict spends a tremendous amount of time wallowing in his own shame. He hides his destructive behavior and when he’s around others, he constantly wonders if they know. Then, when disaster strikes, his worst fears are realized as everyone can see his darkest deeds. Drowning in the shame, he hates himself and longs for a different life.
Shame says, I’m such a loser. All I’ll ever be is an addict. I’ll never be normal. In his misery, the addict uses his shame as an excuse to get high, as that’s the easiest way to numb the pain. Even if he finds recovery, in sobriety, as his mental faculties return, and he begins to comprehend what he’s done, the shame threatens to overwhelm. Though he should be working at recovery, the newly sober addict, paralyzed by shame, just wants to ignore his problem.
The addict then, is faced with these choices. He can simply dismiss the shame, pretending that he’s not engaged in horribly destructive behavior. Or, he can return to drug use in a vain attempt to treat the pain. Or, he can do the only thing that can really be done to address the shame . . . he can change.
This, Zephaniah says, is the end of our shame, to stop doing the thing that caused us shame in the first place. The day that we are free from the shame of our destructive behavior is the day that we abandon that destructive behavior forever.
The addict, new to recovery, still impulsive and impatient, wants to be free from the shame instantly. Finding sobriety for a day, he demands that the world recognize it. The problem is that he’s claimed to change many times, only to relapse many times.
To truly abandon our shame, we must truly abandon the hurtful behaviors that led us there. This is not something we do once. This is something we do daily, for the rest of our lives. If we want to know life and recovery instead of shame and misery, we must abandon our way for God’s way every day.