Support groups and breaking the cycle of shame

Isolation and the cycle of shame.

It has been said that the opposite of addiction is community rather than sobriety. The idea that healthy relationships, with God, others and ourselves is what brings about healing rather than just clean time from compulsive or addictive habits. 

The problem that many of us face is that our addictive behaviour has resulted in a breakdown of relationships with God, others and ourselves. The pain and shame most often keep us trapped in isolation because we don’t want to admit we have a problem or we are afraid of how others will respond or act towards us if they knew. Unfortunately this reality has made it difficult for addicts to reach out for help. The fear of judgement and even more shame for the things we are already ashamed of doing. This leads the addict to return to the place of escape and relief, the addictive behaviour. And the cycle of shame and addiction continues to spiral into a greater need to act out to feel better until the shame and regret kicks in again.

The pain of betrayal, the disappointment of a partner, spouse or family member can be  very traumatic when there is disclosure of an addiction and even more so when a person is caught out. Anger, rage, mistrust and pain are all parts of their experience and rightfully so. This means that often the people closest to the addict, because of the pain inflicted upon them, can be an unsafe relationship or a triggering relationship that actually enables the addiction rather than helps to heal it.  Both people now have a pain that needs healing. 

However, the person stuck in addiction needs a safe place where they can connect with others in a shame free environment. A place where confession does not result in judgement and further shame, triggering ongoing use, but rather an understanding space where help can be given, sharing can take place and the isolation of the addict can be broken. It is in this space where real and honest relationships foster the healing process and breaking addiction. This will often only happen in a recovery support group.

My experience of a support group

While all of our journeys are unique, what I have found in my support group is a group of men who are open and honest with themselves and each other. Not always, but the environment fosters honesty and truth. The encouragement to be honest with the group means we first have to start being honest with ourselves. That results in deeper reflection, acknowledging what we have done and why. Understanding what our actions have done to others and what the consequences of our addictive behaviour has had on their lives. We learn from each other’s mistakes and victories. We pick each other up when we fall.  We are there for each other so that nobody ever has to feel alone, or that they are the only one struggling. The support group space helps us to reconnect with God, ourselves and others in a healthier way. And it breaks the cycle of shame.

Different support groups may have a different approach, but what they all have in common, is that they help break the prison of isolation and shame, which helps break the cycle of addiction. 

In a manner of speaking my support group is a bunch of men with limps, all limping through life together helping each other learn how to walk again.

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