Let Go of Shame and Guilt

Blog Post created by Thomas3.20.2010 on Feb 17, 2016

People with Nicotine Addiction need to move past their guilt and shame in order to move into a healthier Smoke FREE Lifestyle. People feel guilty if they think they did something wrong, but feel shame when instead of believing that they did wrong they come to the conclusion that they are wrong. When people feel guilty they will often be worried about how their actions affected other people. When we feel shame we are focused on our own sense of being damaged. Often, we cannot move past our shame until we forgive ourselves.

Addiction drives people to act in ways they never thought they were capable of. Because of addiction’s influence on the brain, many smokers do not feel shame until they enter Recovery. Looking at your past you may not believe how you treated yourself and the people around you. Once in Recovery, you may begin to shoulder all the blame of your past. There is no need to drown yourself in self-blame. You must remember that many things factored into your addiction, many things that you could not control.


There are many possible reasons why people will experience guilt in Recovery including:

* Things we did or said while under the influence of Nicotine
* The impact of our addiction on family, friends, and work colleagues
* The years wasted on addiction
* The damage to our health
* The damage to our finances
* Irrational guilt for things that were beyond our control
* Failure to live up to expectations
* Low self esteem
* We fear the stigma associated with our history as a smoker
* Guilt about thoughts of Relapse


Guilt can come from others blaming us, or from blaming ourselves. Perhaps someone makes you feel guilty for things you did while smoking. Maybe, you feel guilty about thinking about smoking again. In any case, it is not a good motivator for you to stay in Recovery. Like shame, guilt makes your past influence your present actions. Unlike shame, guilt can be used to grow into a better person.

Guilt as a Relapse Trigger

Guilt is a common relapse trigger. You may be feeling bad about things that happened in the past. Your feeling of guilt means that you experience plenty of mental discomfort. This may lead you to thoughts of how you can escape this pain. In the past you would have smoked as a way to escape guilt. Nicotine will have numbed your brain so that you could forget about such uncomfortable feelings. If you have no better way of dealing with your guilt you will be tempted to return to your addiction.

How to Deal with Guilt in Recovery

·     Seek Forgiveness from others or yourself. Figure out how best to make amends, and do it as soon as you are able to.

·     Acknowledge your acts as wrong, then move forward. Just as important as seeing your mistakes is to see them as in the past.

·     Learn from your actions. We all make mistakes- use them as a way to grow.

Only when you stop living in the past can you see the present. From there, anything is possible. Recognize yourself as a human- mistakes were made, and you will make more. But as a human, you can change for the better. Let go of your past shame and guilt. Life in Recovery is about finding out who you really are, and how you can live a better, more productive life. Find strength in your New Smoke FREE Life and take joy in its possibilities.

Chronic Shame in Addiction

Whereas guilt is a right or wrong judgment about your behavior, shame is a feeling about yourself. Guilt motivates you to want to correct or repair the error whereas shame is an intense global feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, or self-loathing. You want to hide or disappear.

The worst part of it is a profound sense of separation — from yourself and from others. It’s disintegrating, meaning that you lose touch with all the other parts of yourself, and you also feel disconnected from everyone else.

As with all emotions, shame passes. But for addicts it hangs around, often beneath consciousness, and leads to other painful feelings and problematic behaviors. You’re ashamed of who you are. You don’t believe that you matter or are worthy of love, respect, success, or happiness. When shame becomes all-pervasive, it paralyzes spontaneity. A chronic sense of unworthiness and inferiority can result in depression, hopelessness, and despair, until you become numb, feeling disconnected from life and everyone else.

Healing Shame

Shame of your past can paralyze your present Recovery. Fear of failure is natural, but if it is preventing you from taking the next steps in Recovery, you should remember this:


·         Your past actions have no sway in your present outlook or character. You’re always capable of making a positive change in your life.

·         No one is perfect, so don’t hold yourself up to impossibly high standards. Life is about the long game and you can come back from a terrible first quarter.

·         Asking for help is a sign of self-awareness and strength, not weakness. Sometimes just having this Community can make all the difference between Success and failure.

Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. Sometimes it takes an empathic therapist or counselor to create that space so that you can slowly tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates.

Whatever it takes leave your guilt and shame behind! Become an EX and you will never regret it! Success not only means not smoking. It helps you reclaim your integrity, self confidence, and zeal for Life! It shows you that you can do anything that you set your mind to.

Life’s too short! Don’t smoke it up!