Shame is a drug without a high.
Society makes it so easily available that we’ve become saturated with shame and addicted to numbing it. We see it in our media, churches, schools, governments, and families—messages that insist that we are not good enough or worthy of equality, justice, or love because we are imperfect.
Not skinny enough?
Not pretty enough?
Not smart enough?
Not talented enough?
Not (insert any message that society tries to trick you into believing) enough?
It’s easy to cave under the weight of shame; it’s even easier to give into the allure of shame—the belief that we will never be good enough or worthy of love and belonging. Once we accept that shame is inevitable, instead of working through it, we begin to numb. Often we use drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and even social media to numb ourselves from feeling shame.
None of us are immune to shame. In my own attempts to numb, I became reckless. Drinking enough to black out, hooking up with strangers, and overeating until my stomach hurt. Even worse, I started hurting the people I loved. I jeopardized both professional and personal relationships because, in the midst of my shame storm, all I wanted to do was numb. All I wanted to do was run away from the discomfort I was feeling while projecting my shame onto those who simply loved and cared about my well-being.
Many people may look at my life and assume that I have it all together. In fact, as a gay, disabled, and gender nonconforming Latino, I know that I am extremely fortunate and privileged to have a career, education, and opportunities that are often denied to others like me. Even with my accomplishments and having everything I ever dreamed of, the allure of shame and numbing that shame continues to be a struggle for me. I am constantly in the process of recovery and, while I may relapse from time to time and resume self-destructing behaviors, I am committed to returning to self-love.
Just like any addiction, there’s a recovery process that can take us from self-destruction to self-love, here are (12) steps to consider:
Step 1: Admit that you are numbing and that shame has become unmanageable.
Step 2: Allow your faith and love to restore you.
Step 3: Make a decision to release the false truths that shame speaks.
Step 4: Look inward and exam yourself and areas that cause shame, numbing and wrong doing.
Step 5: Admit that you have been self-destructive and then share your wrongdoings.
Step 6: Commit to coping with shame without numbing or projecting onto others.
Step 7: Acknowledge your weaknesses and imperfections
Step 8: Make amends with yourself and those you’ve hurt while self-destructing.
Step 9: Continue to be self-aware and acknowledge when you’re numbing and being self-destructive.
Step 10: Practice empathy and forgiveness with yourself and others.
Step 11: Commit to loving yourself each day.
Step 12: Accept that you are enough, imperfect, and worthy of love and belonging.
The allure of accepting the shame driven narrative in our heads is dangerous, powerful, and a constant temptation. You will fail from time to time because you are human and failure is inevitable. However, I need you to remember that recovery, much like life, is about the journey of finding, loving, healing, accepting, and embracing yourself.