Self-Compassion and Addiction Recovery: The Ultimate Guide to Moving Forward

Learning self-compassion in addiction recoveryFor many people, addiction recovery does not stop solely on substance abuse. There are so many parts of us that impact the journey we’re on and just as many parts that have risen out of addiction. It is often through the process of recovery that many people discover the extent of harm to which they’ve placed on themselves and those around them. For some, substances have served as a way to “tune out” what has come from trauma and other stressors and even someone with the best of intentions can struggle on the path of addiction. It is during one’s time spent in recovery that they have a chance to face their addiction and past – head on.

Blaming Ourselves: Stepping Away and Turning to Responsibility

It’s easy for those in addiction recovery to get started on this endless cycle of shame and guilt, as they may constantly blame themselves for the paths they’ve taken. If this is something you can relate to, see if you recognize any of the following phrases, we often start saying to ourselves when self-blame occurs:

“There’s no way anyone could love me after what I’ve done.”
“I’m meant to be a failure.”
“I’ve ruined everything – there’s no turning back now.”
“I’ve deserved everything that’s happened to me.”

In 2017, a researcher published an article in the journal Neuroethics, suggesting that we replace blame in addiction recovery with responsibility. Rather than telling yourself how horrible you are for having done what you’ve done, acknowledge the pain you’ve caused yourself and others. Take responsibility for the actions you’ve had control over and make an active decision to work towards your recovery. In doing this, as the review notes, you’re more likely to feel comfortable with changes coming your way.

What is Self-Compassion?

Healthy Place defines “self-compassion” as,

“…Being kind to oneself when feelings of shame, inadequacy or failure come up.”

When we focus our thoughts on blaming ourselves, we’re coming from a mean place. We’re pushing ourselves down and making ourselves feel bad and what good does that do? Self-compassion nourishes our self-worth and reduces selfishness by opening up a space within our mind and heart to be gentle and kind. As The Fix emphasizes, you can take responsibility without placing blame on yourself – and that will get you much farther in recovery because you’ll stop resisting, you’ll let go of excuses and you’ll keep it simple by treating yourself as a vulnerable human being.

Applying Self-Compassion to Recovery

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence sought to explore the connection between self-compassion and PTSD. A total of 176 participants were involved, ranging from ages of 18-65. Individuals in this particular study were female survivors of domestic violence. The researchers discovered that the more self-compassion shown by these women, the less the severity they were to experience of PTSD symptoms. In fact, self-compassion gave many of these women the tools they needed to work through their emotions effectively, which led them to building and strengthening their resilience.

It’s not uncommon for those in addiction recovery to have experienced some form of trauma in their lives, as sometimes substances are a way of coping with the pain derived from trauma.

When we apply self-compassion, however, that underlying, negative tone playing over and over in the back of our mind begins to change. We become more tolerable and understanding of our mistakes, taking into account everything we’ve been through. We suddenly have more love for ourselves and others, which opens us up to more opportunities. A 2016 book titled Mindfulness in Positive Psychology: The Science of Meditation and Wellbeing stated that with self-compassion, we transition from the perspective that it’s only we who are suffering to the reality which is that suffering is part of human existence.

If you want to apply more self-compassion in recovery, what can you do? Check out the following tips:

  • Remind yourself that you’re human and adjust your expectations to meet that reality. Don’t place so much pressure on yourself – it will take a lot of time, effort and patience, but it will all be worth it.
  • Keep inventory of how you’re thinking about yourself. When negative thoughts come up, watch them patiently but don’t assign any meaning to them – instead, give them some time to pass. This is a true act of self-compassion.
  • Practice self-care, daily. Get plenty of good rest, eat healthily, exercise and build on your current hobbies. Learn something new and spend time with people who love and support you.
  • Be kind to others. Practice random acts of kindness and watch your heart grow right in front of you as you make other people smile.
  • Celebrate how far you’ve come. Acknowledge when you’ve taken the steps you’re supposed to and when you’ve defeated moments that could have led to relapse or another unhealthy event.

It’s time to take a break and give yourself some self-love. If you’re ready to begin your journey to recovery, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights. The time to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit is now.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.

Call us today at 1-800-646-9998 to take the next step towards your happiness and health.