Guilt and shame go hand in hand with the disease of addiction. They are two of the strongest emotions that drive the alcoholic or addict deeper into despair. They create what seems to be an unstoppable downward spiral, but professional treatment and therapy can break the cycle. Guilt comes about when people suffering from an addiction do the same thing over and over again, even though they promise themselves, and others, that they won’t. When they say they won’t repeat this undesirable behavior, they mean it; yet as soon as alcohol or drugs enter into that intention, it disappears. Guilt affects addicts because they feel ashamed and out of control. They know they are letting down people who count on them and who want to believe them, but their drug of choice takes control and causes them to self-destruct again and again. Families engage in behavior that creates guilt, too. Because they care about the addict they love, they keep giving “one last chance.” When the “one last chance” fails to produce the desired results – an end to the drinking or using – they feel guilty for being sucked into the cycle of chaos.
Families Feel Guilt Resulting From Self-Blame
One of the danger zones of addiction is the self-blame that often arises in family members and loved ones. Those people closest to an alcoholic or addict often believe that the situation is somehow their fault. In many cases, addicts contribute to this misperception by actively accusing everyone around them for making them unhappy, thus justifying their addiction. Family members fall into the trap of blaming themselves because they cannot seem to find the magic elixir that will make the addiction stop. They make excuses to neighbors, friends and employers; they provide food and shelter; they loan money; and they are disappointed over and over when those seemingly helpful methods don’t make a difference. Professional treatment involves families, too, so they can learn how to support their loved one without enabling and without guilt.
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