Organizations like Stop Stigma Now do much to combat the stigma that comes with opiate addiction and especially with methadone or Suboxone treatment. When you go beyond Webster’s definition of stigma—a mark of reproach or disgrace—we are brought to the edge of absolute shame that often comes with opiate addiction. Those feelings can become overwhelming if you don’t know how to overcome them, but fortunately for those of us who work on our addiction through methadone or Suboxone treatment, there are resources that help.
The word shame evokes a gut reaction—a sensation of disgrace that we want to keep hidden. Since the time when humans first walked the Earth, shame has been part and parcel of human emotion, one of the most primitive feelings that we can experience. Everybody has shameful experiences in their pasts, whether or not they relate to alcohol or drug addiction. The thing about shame is that even when the action that caused the shame is long past, the feelings of shame persist. You never know when somebody will utter a word or give you a look that recalls that long-ago memory. Then your cheeks burn and your heart sinks and you tell yourself, I’m just not worth anything.
What a fallacy! The fact that you can feel shame about some past event proves only that you have a heart, a soul, and a conscience. It underscores your place in the universe as someone worthy of care and concern. What you must do, as you educate yourself about recovery and participate in methadone or Suboxone treatment, is learn how to refute shame.
Shame From Past Abuses
Many people succumb to addiction because they self-medicate in order to deal with a past history of abuse and neglect. A study of 177 children, half of whom had abusive mothers, demonstrated the association between abuse and shame. As the children reached school age, their teachers noticed increased levels of anger among those who were abused. They displayed more behavioral issues and also had difficulty in expressing their problems.
That’s why a mental health evaluation is such an important part of the assessment process when you opt for methadone or Suboxone treatment. If you’ve experienced shame that comes from your past, you need to learn if you have a treatable mental health diagnosis that has possibly contributed to some of the poor choices you’ve made.
Shame From Wrongful Behavior
We also develop shame about our substance abuse, often accompanied by guilt. The National Institute on Drug Abuse tells us that shame relates to the negative feelings that we have about ourselves, from the beliefs we formed about ourselves over time, feelings that we are not worthy of love because we are weak and we lack good qualities.
Guilt, on the other hand, evolves from the bad or immoral things that we’ve done. If you’ve stolen Grandma’s pain pills, you feel guilty about that. If you convince your girlfriend to prostitute herself so that you can both score heroin, then you both develop feelings of guilt.
And so we go into treatment carrying feelings of shame and knowledge of guilt. What makes it worse is the condemnation we experience at the hands of the people we love because they don’t believe we can succeed at rehab. It’s surprising, despite the evidence published about the benefits of methadone or Suboxone treatment, that people continue to denounce medication-assisted therapy as an invalid way to recovery. It’s just one more way they send us off burdened with more shame and guilt.
Overcoming Guilt in Methadone and Suboxone Treatment
You cannot overcome your feelings of shame and guilt on the first day you begin methadone or Suboxone treatment—although you can certainly take pride in making a good choice. Counseling plays an important part in teaching you how to throw off the negative emotional baggage you’ve been carrying around for some time, and that includes shame and guilt.
For example, if your counselor locks you from dosing or if you’re called for a filmstrip count, your first reaction is to be angry about it. But why? If you haven’t done anything wrong, you should simply present yourself and go through the inconvenient process that’s part of methadone or Suboxone treatment.
But if you’re ashamed because you’ve relapsed, and that’s why you left without a drug screen or skipped your individual counseling session, then the best thing you can do is to go and admit the problem. Once it’s out in the open, your counselor can help you process the events that led to the relapse. Once it’s out in the open, your heart can feel lighter by shaking off your feelings of shame and guilt.
Brené Brown, a noted lecturer and author on the subject of shame, tells us that there is one surefire way to stamp out shame: by confronting it. If we admit it and share it, we can chase it where it lives in the darkest corners of our lives and eradicate it.
For the things done to us that we could not help—for the neglected children, the beaten women, the traumatized war veterans—the best way to eliminate that shame is to share it, again with our counselors. Because empathy, Brown tells us, eliminates shame. Once we have shared shame and received some empathy for its cause, it loses its power over us.
Brown tells us that if we deny what we’ve done, those denials define us. But we can silence our critics by rising up with our skinned knees and bruised hearts, strong and whole. These words, incidentally, come from her website, where you can read more about her newest book, Rising Strong.
Melody Beattie is another author who offers us validation and reassurance of our own self-worth. She has written many words about codependency, and she also teaches us to value ourselves through daily readings that testify to our pride and integrity.
If you can’t afford to buy books written by people like Brown and Beattie, ask your counselor if she has a copy you can borrow. You can also check out your library—if you’ve provided the documentation necessary to get into Suboxone treatment, then you qualify for a library card!—and borrow the books for free. Amazon also offers used copies of many books at amazingly inexpensive prices.
The Steps to Methadone or Suboxone Treatment
Remember that shame and guilt represent unnecessary baggage in your life. Here are the ways you can overcome them:
- If you’ve failed at other types of treatment for opiate drug addiction, try methadone or Suboxone treatment. It helps people manage the cravings that come from opiates and the withdrawal symptoms that make them so hard to quit.
- Educate your family about methadone and Suboxone treatment.
- Talk to your counselor about shame and guilt, because sharing those emotions can wipe them out.
- Read books by people like Brené Brown and Melodie Beattie, because you can learn so much about your emotions and the people around you.
- Call your local methadone or Suboxone treatment program today, because if you haven’t begun treatment already then it’s time to get started.