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In recovery, we sometimes feel as though we’re still consumed by our past mistakes and wrongdoings. We feel haunted by them. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves. We blame ourselves excessively and judge ourselves harshly. 

As we’re doing the work to recover, an extremely important part of our recovery is taking responsibility for the things we’ve done wrong, the ways we’ve hurt other people, and the harmful things we’ve done to ourselves. We feel compelled to take responsibility, to right our wrongs, and to make amends. While this is vital work for us to do, there is a significant difference between taking responsibility for our actions and feeding into our patterns of excessive self-blame.

Courage vs. Fear

The act of taking responsibility allows us to courageously take accountability for the things we feel we’ve done wrong, while self-blame perpetuates our fear. When we’re self-blaming we often fear that we’re not good enough, that we’re shameful and immoral, that we don’t deserve to be forgiven. 

When we take responsibility, we can feel confident in ourselves and in the fact that we’re doing the right thing for ourselves. We’re also doing right by the people we’ve hurt. We’re committed to our recovery and to healing the wounds of our pasts. We know that our mistakes don’t define us. They are not the whole of who we are. Our mistakes and wrongdoings – and the shame we feel around them – don’t have to continue to overpower us. We’re facing up to our mistakes with courage and taking responsibility for them. 

Self-blame, on the other hand, thrives on our lingering, festering fears. We feel as though we’re drowning in fear, shame, and self-condemnation. We feel inadequate and unworthy. We feel unlovable. We feel undeserving of forgiveness and incapable of redemption. 

Moving Forward vs. Staying Stuck in the Past

Taking responsibility allows us to move forward, while self-blame keeps us stuck in the past. When we take responsibility for our addictions, we’re telling ourselves that we’re strong enough to own up to the wrongdoings of the past and everything we did while struggling with addiction. We’re strong enough to take an honest inventory of ourselves, our actions, and our addictions so we can create a better future for ourselves. By taking responsibility, we’re not shying away from the self-assessment and self-exploration work we need to do to move forward – we’re just not holding ourselves hostage to the pain of the past. 

Self-blame does the opposite. It forces us to relive our pain – over and over again. It causes us to dwell on our triggering memories and replay them constantly, contributing greatly to our sadness, anxiety, and shame. We don’t feel capable of moving on from the past, of processing our pain, moving through it, and releasing it. We don’t forgive ourselves, and we don’t see possibility for change. We assume we’ll always be functioning in the same detrimental ways, making the same mistakes, and committing the same wrongdoings. Self-blame doesn’t allow us the space for transformation. It doesn’t allow us to move forward and create a new life for ourselves.

Understanding Human Nature vs. Expecting Perfection

When we take responsibility, we remember that we are human beings who make mistakes. We are flawed and imperfect but still worthy. When we self-blame, we’re holding ourselves to impossible standards for perfection and maintaining excessively high expectations of ourselves. We beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we should have done better, we should have known better, we shouldn’t have messed up. 

When taking responsibility for our mistakes, we’re showing ourselves understanding. We’re fully aware that our mistakes are a part of our healing journey and that without them, we wouldn’t have evolved as fully and completely as we have. We’re showing ourselves compassion and forgiveness, telling ourselves it’s okay that we’ve messed up. We’re being patient with ourselves and with the progress we’ve made in our recovery and in our lives overall. We’re assessing the mistakes of the past and taking responsibility now. We’re determined to stop our destructive cycles. We’re committed to doing better. 

Self-blame is an entirely different energy. It is an energy of self-deprecation, of berating ourselves, of knocking ourselves down, of holding ourselves back from even trying to do better. We’re so unkind to ourselves that we deplete ourselves of the energy we need to be able to make changes in our lives. We’re forgetting that mistakes and even shame are part of human nature, and that none of us will go through life without experiencing them.

Don’t Choose Self-Blame 

Let’s make it a part of our recovery work to show ourselves more understanding, compassion, patience and forgiveness. We can learn from the mistakes of the past and take responsibility for them, without blaming ourselves excessively and compounding our shame. 

As we know, self-blame feeds our addictions, because many of us turn to our drugs of choice to escape our painful feelings of shamefulness and unworthiness. We can learn to love and accept ourselves, and put an end to the patterns of self-destructiveness and self-rejection that fueled our addictions for so long. 

The caring, compassionate staff of The Guest House is here to support you as you start your journey to recovery and healing. Call 855-483-7800 or visit today for more information.