Overcoming Self-Blame in Recovery

“I relapsed again. It’s all my fault. Everything’s my fault.”

It’s easy to blame yourself when you make mistakes or fail to meet your goals. And those who are struggling to recover from an addiction experience this more than most people.

At such times, self-blame may seem natural or even correct. But it’s not. It’s actually very destructive and will thwart all of your attempts to overcome addiction.

Fortunately, there’s a way you can defeat this toxic thought pattern so it won’t defeat you. Learn how to do this by reading this guide.

Understanding Self-Blame

To free yourself from self-blame during recovery, you must first understand it. Namely, why does it happen? The answer is unfortunately complicated since the concept of self-blame is both abstract and self-generating.

The Origin of Self-Blame

Any type of blame, when it originates, is a choice. But, through repetition, self-blame becomes a habit, not unlike addiction itself.

The first time, self-blame is an attempt to make sense of what’s happening. The idea is, if we can figure it out, we can fix it and/or prevent it from happening again. In this instance, we punish ourselves with guilt as a means of pushing ourselves to do better.

Alternatively, we might find that we’re unable to fix or prevent the problem. Then, self-blame becomes a bitter “truth” we try to accept in order to minimize pain. That is, if you accept that the situation is hopeless, it seems less painful than feeling hope and then seeing those hopes fail.

Self-Blame as an Identity

At this point, self-blame has become more than a choice or a habit. It is now an identity of failure.

Furthermore, it is no longer based in logic or dependant on circumstances. It is simply an automatic, conditioned response.

Self-Blame Is Not Helpful

As you may have noticed, self-blame doesn’t actually accomplish anything. Or, at least, it does nothing to address the relevant problem. Really, all it does is state the perceived cause of the problem.

But, does it offer advice for fixing the problem? Does it come up with a step-by-step plan? Or does it do anything at all to focus on a solution and move on?

No, it doesn’t. In fact, it keeps one’s focus on the problem instead of on a solution.

Self-Blame Is Actually Hurtful

Furthermore, besides being unhelpful, self-blame can even be actively destructive. That is, while it does nothing to solve the problem, it does a lot to make one feel hopeless, shameful, depressed, anxious, etc.

We all know painful and unproductive these negative emotions are. And yet, in the moment, they offer the illusion that they are helping us and even preventing pain.

The Destructive Cycle of Self-Blame

You see, if you blame yourself for everything, it means that you see yourself as a failure. If it’s true that you are a failure, it means that you have no hope of ever being anything else (because that would require succeeding).

Finally, if you are truly hopeless, then the idea of a better life is just a cruel, painful joke. At this point, you might choose to resign yourself to hopelessness for fear that hope would lead to even greater pain.

In reality, though, this means choosing a life of depression and hopelessness (and, therefore, misery and pain). Thus, attempting to spare yourself pain through self-blame actually perpetuates pain instead.

Self-Blame and Addiction

Furthermore, all these overwhelming, negative emotions could drive addicts to engage in their addictive behavior in order to escape the pain and stress. Thus, self-blame is not productive for overcoming addiction, either.

Ask Yourself

For the best illustration of that last point, look to your own memories. Go ahead and ask yourself if self-blame has ever motivated you to accomplish anything.

Granted, self-blame does sometimes offer short-term help, but at a terrible future cost. For example, beating yourself up with guilt could motivate you to improve some aspect of your life. But it also makes you feel horrible.

So, what’s the point in improving if you can’t even enjoy it? That’s the very question you ask yourself when it happens.

Unfortunately, the answer is, “There is no point.” Then, you lose all motivation to continue improving. If you’re an addict, you might feel so bad at this point that you relapse.

Conquer Self-Blame With Self-Accountability

Finally, let’s get to the solution to self-blame: accountability. You see, the only reason blame exists at all is because it’s simply a misunderstanding of the idea of accountability. After all, accountability does mean acknowledging who made the mistake or caused the problem.

So, what exactly is the difference between accountability and blame? It’s judgment.

Blame doesn’t simply identify who is responsible for the mistake. It pronounces them guilty.

Accountability, on the other hand, simply states the facts. Holding yourself accountable does mean acknowledging your mistakes and destructive decisions. But it does so without attributing any judgment whatsoever.

Why This Differentiation is Important

To reiterate, we know that beating yourself up with judgment and guilt does nothing to solve an addiction or any other problem. But holding yourself accountable means that you also shouldn’t ignore what happened. Again, the difference is judgment.

So, when you hold yourself accountable, you say, “Yes, I did that.” But you also understand that those mistakes and harmful decisions are not “bad.” They simply “are.”

This is the most difficult part for people to understand, especially addicts. For example, if addiction is a problem, that means it’s “bad,” which means that engaging in it is “bad.”

But that’s not how accountability sees it. It’s not about good or bad. Instead, it’s concerned with “opportunity.”

Opportunity vs Judgment

Mistakes are an opportunity to learn. Thus, accountability asks, “How do we move forward from this? How do we address this opportunity for improvement?”

Blame, on the other hand, does not ask. It has already decided what to do. Namely, it pronounces judgment on the “guilty” party, and then the prosecution rests, helping no one.

You Can Overcome Self-Blame During Recovery

Self-blame is a cruel, burdensome enemy. But it is not invincible.

You absolutely can overcome this hurdle as you journey deeper into recovery. Remember this guide and defeat self-blame by practicing self-accountability.

All right, that’s enough about the negative stuff. Now it’s time for something positive. Read these 10 reasons to take pride in your recovery journey next.

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