How Guilt and Shame Prevent True Recovery from Addictions

By on June 1, 2011

By Jamee Rae Pineda –

As a counselor in a Christian recovery program, I often find myself helping women undo guilt and shame. These women’s stories of addiction are traumatic in terms of their personal pain and the damage done to relationships with loved ones, especially children.

Bad things happen when mothers, wives, sisters and dear friends begin to choose their drug of choice over important relationships. This process of demoralization happens over time until the addicts are no longer themselves, and their loved ones wonder how this person went from being a giver to a selfish taker. The children feel often feel abandoned and blame themselves for their parent’s lack of love.

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Addiction is selfish. There’s no need to sugar coat it. Whether someone considers addiction a disease, a weakness or a sin, the end result is the same. It becomes all about the needs, desires, cravings and emotions of the person who is obsessed with alcohol and/or drugs. In this single-focused state of mind, women make a lot of decisions that are not in the best interest of those they love. In truth, they manipulate and take advantage of families and friends, break ties with concerned friends, and put their children at risk.

I recently counseled a young mother who had been clean and sober a few months. (We’ll call her Sarah for the sake of this article.) Our session started with Sarah being angry at certain family members who she claimed had control over her two children. Our conversation then moved on to Sarah’s frustration with a case worker at the county’s family services division, who she said was making her “jump through too many hoops.”

I allowed Sarah to vent and acknowledged her anger and frustration. After all, her feelings were real. But then I asked her to take a minute to think about and describe the real emotions at work. “Everyone makes me feel like crap. I’m trying to get my life together and all they do is bring up my past.”

“Are they making you feel like crap, or do you just feel like crap?” I asked.

Sarah paused before answering. “I feel like crap. They just confirm that I am a piece of crap.”

Her answer didn’t surprise me. I’ve been there, and have worked with many women coming out of addictions who judge themselves more harshly than others do. This shows how guilt and shame hide behind other emotions while playing a major role in preventing true recovery from happening.

True recovery from addictions is much more than the act of getting clean and sober. It’s coming to a place of peace regardless of the past. It’s allowing the truth to be told, no matter how painful it is to hear. It’s looking in the mirror and admitting mistakes, then taking responsibility to turn things around. It’s working as hard on getting things right as the addict worked to get high.

After several counseling sessions with Sarah, she began to be accountable for her actions and to partner with the family members who had temporary custody of her children. She met with her case worker and agreed to jump through every hoop handed to her. Most importantly, Sarah forgave herself for having cared more about the drugs than she did her own children. As a result, she overcame guilt and shame, which set Sarah on a course to true recovery. She is now regaining the trust of her loved ones and will soon regain custody of her children. The goal is to get a fresh start and live a life of integrity.

Every woman who has ever been addicted has regrets. I have mine, for sure. But I use my regrets to help other women see the value in getting honest with themselves. From a Christian perspective, this is bringing all the dark parts of our hearts to the light. It’s not allowing the enemy of our soul to keep us bound up with guilt, and instead allowing repentance to do its purifying work. This is how we gracefully deal with the consequences of addiction.

If you or someone you love is addicted, or coming out of addictions, you can visit our Christian recovery website at You can also follow me on twitter @solidrockroad, or find The Solid Rock Road on Facebook. I also co-wrote a recovery book titled “Follow The Solid Rock Road: Pathway to Radical Recovery, which is on

About Jamee Rae Pineda

Jamee Rae Pineda is a journalist by training and has worked as a professional writer and editor since 1985. She is the owner of Writing For All Reasons in Medford, Oregon, currently specializing in social media. Pineda earned a Theology Degree from Zoe Bible College in 2002 and is a teacher for the college. Pineda also wrote Follow The Solid Rock Road: Pathway to Radical Recovery and is co-creating the facilitation manual and other training materials for the program. Pineda and members of her team are available to speak at churches and other groups on the subject of addictions, intervention, group facilitation and spiritual warfare.


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How Guilt and Shame Prevent True Recovery from Addictions