When I was growing up, we had this ugly green couch in our living room. It was not comfortable; it was part of a set in the one room in the house that we didn’t really hang out in. The reason I remember this couch is not for its value to me, but what was hidden underneath. My mother hid her beer cans under this little couch, and often I would see them peeking out from the folds of the fabric. I loved my mother, but she was an alcoholic. She suffered from depression, and used alcohol to numb her pain and anxiety. This green couch became her place to hide. On one occasion, I remember my father yelling at her about this couch. The protruding beer cans set off an argument about why she couldn’t stop drinking. Shame. She retreated to a chair soon after that, with a glass of wine next to her as she cried. To me, this couch represented her shame. I would never have the chance to talk to her about why she drank, or why she felt such sadness. She would never let go of her shame, even her closest friends later in life would not hear her speak of her drinking problem.
You are an addict. She is an alcoholic. Harsh words. Shameful words. Addiction has the power to become who you are. Society labels you as an addict, and begins to attribute negative characteristics to you, whether they fit or not. As a family member of someone addicted to alcohol or drugs, we can easily become “the mother of an addict,” or ” the child of an alcoholic.” That is not who you are. Brene Brown (Shame vs. Guilt) describes shame as, ” the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” It is the belief that you or your family are damaged goods. Shame makes you want to hide. You will do anything to cover up the self-imposed truth about who you are. Shame and addiction are joined at the hip. Recovery is made even harder as shame reminds you that you are a failure and will only repeat past mistakes. In my mother’s case, her own inner demons constantly fought against any efforts she would make to recover. I will never know where her shame started, but I can stop it from continuing to have a hold on our family.
Addiction is not who you are. You are a woman, a man, a mother, a son. You are a human being created by God with a purpose to fulfill. Although you may have an addiction, that is not who you are. Stop listening to shame. When we focus our thoughts on ourselves and how we have failed, we lose sight of our connection to the world. Yes, recovery is personal. It is a journey that only you can walk, but if we keep our eyes glued to our own feet, we will trip over the stones in the path before us! No matter what your recovery path looks like, you are an individual with a hope and a future. That said, this journey is really not about you or me. It is about the part we play in the bigger story. When we realize that we are all connected to each other, and to God, then we can truly begin to recover. We are not meant to walk this journey alone, looking at the floor in shame. Are you trying to do your recovery on your own? Is this speaking to your heart?
When we acknowledge our shame, we break its silent hold on our hearts. if you are not connected to support, find somewhere to get connected. Stop allowing shame to keep you isolated and quiet. Don’t be embarrassed to let someone know what you are fighting. Shame will try to remind you that you are hopeless, that there is no way out. That’s a lie! There is always hope – always a light at the end of the tunnel.
What can you do to let go of your shame? Psalm 25 says:
“Lord, direct me throughout my journey, so I can experience Your plans for my life. Reveal the life-paths that are pleasing to You. Escort me along the way, take me by the hand and teach me. For You are the God of my increasing salvation, I have wrapped my heart into Yours! (Psalm 25: 5 TPT)”
Start by praying that as a prayer to God. Renew Your connection to the ultimate power source. Then find someone to talk to. Release the shame instead of keeping it silent, and remember…. you are not in this alone.
What happened to that ugly green couch? I have no idea. Eventually we moved on, but isn’t it strange how that couch stuck in my memory? Don’t let shame have that kind of hold on your memories, you are better than that old green couch!
Brown, Brene. Shame vs. Guilt. https://brenebrown.com/blog/2013/01/14/shame-v-guilt/