Quite possibly the greatest single lie that gets lodged in our brains during active addiction is the one that is most authored by SHAME.
The weight of this lie upon a person’s life is staggering. And yet it presents itself to us quite simply. Here’s the lie accompanied by its various expressions:
“You are wrong”
“You are worthless”
“You are unlovable”
“You are disgusting”
“You are a pervert”
Have you ever felt shame whisper any of these lies into your ear? For me, it wasn’t long after first discovering pornography at the age of 13 that I started to believe these lies.
The longer I was a willing participant in this make-believe world, I started to discover how my real world was crumbling. The perception I had of myself and the opposite sex was distorted into images I didn’t even recognize anymore.
Throughout the past 13 years, I’ve found freedom from shame. I’ve discovered grace in a way that I never knew before.
Grace from the steadfast love of my Heavenly Father. From counselors and pastors and teachers and other brothers who really cared about my heart. They helped me to learn how to love myself again.
To show myself the grace that I had long forgotten.
Certainly, there was a lot of work to be done in my behavior and within my literal brain, but the work really needed to start with my heart. The shame had to go. It had to be broken off of my life. Only then can we start showing ourselves and others the kindness we need to thrive in recovery.
An example of this occurs when, during some kind of slip or relapse, instead of labeling yourself as a worthless piece of crap, ask yourself important questions to help you figure out what the cause of the slip was to begin with. They are literally two polar opposite voices speaking and our job is to choose which is healthier to listen to.
Which voice sounds kinder to you?
“I can’t believe you did that again! What were you thinking?! You’re so selfish.”
“Let’s figure out what you were feeling and what you were thinking that may have led to this slip. Learning helps prepare you for the future.”
I think the choice is pretty obvious, don’t you? When we begin to learn how to show ourselves grace & empathy, our response when something bad happens is constructive and intentional. It doesn’t have to lead you into further entrapment.
As you learn to treat yourself better, you’ll have more compassion for others when they struggle too.
I felt so much shame as I walked into my very first support group. I couldn’t believe all that I had done and all the damage I had caused. I had adopted a vision of myself that wasn’t truthful. By learning about the stories of others, I quickly knew I wasn’t alone in this struggle.
I love what Psalm 34:5 says in The Passion Translation:
“Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come. Your faces will glisten with glory. You’ll never wear that shame-face again.”
Too many men and women are trying to walk out of a life-controlling addiction with a shame face on. They’re trying to muscle their way through only for the struggle to continue.
They haven’t processed trauma. They haven’t explored the abuses. They haven’t navigated through the pain they’ve experienced in their life that has led them to this place. Shame has a solid grip on their lives.
It’s only when we embrace the life of the One who knew the shame of the entire world and defeated it with the shedding of His blood that we will find freedom. This really is the starting place for our recovery.
I’ve said many times to people that as much work as I’ve done in recovery for myself if it weren’t for the grace of God to really bring me to full repentance over my addiction, there’s no way I would be who I am today.
So I want to encourage you this week to start listening to a new voice: One of truth, but also one of kindness.
The kind of voice that says you ARE worth every second of redemption. Your addiction is not the end of the story but can potentially be the beginning of a beautiful new chapter of recovery. One you could have never imagined.
You and I both know where shame leads us. We’ve been there too many times. Start showing yourself the kindness you deserve.