Shame, Trauma & Addiction

Oct 26, 2021 | Blog, Recovery Coaching

The links between shame, trauma and addiction

Shame, Trauma & Addiction

The links between shame, trauma and addiction


Addiction and recovery are complex topics. There’s often no set path to follow and everyone’s experience is different, but there are some overlapping ideas and themes we’ve seen at One Good* Day in our Recovery Coaching with clients.


We recently sat down with One Good* Day NDIS Recovery Coach Jarrett Goh to talk about his lived experience of addiction and two things that he’s discovered impact addictive disorders: shame and trauma.  



What is shame?


When we think of shame, we might feel embarrassed, or the humiliation associated with a behaviour or something that’s happened to us.

“Shame is often described as both healthy or toxic,” Jarrett explains. “Shame is all about secrecy – people often don’t know they have it. In rehab they might touch upon it, but it’s something that lives within you, but it’s not as obvious.”


In her popular TED talk Listening to Shame, Brené Brown discusses the difference between shame and guilt: “Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’” Learning the difference between the two can be useful in learning to heal from shame, but if someone has experienced significant trauma in their lives, shame can manifest in many different ways.


“Someone with complex trauma can be sensitive to rejection and abandonment, or even experience hypervigilance,” Jarrett offers. “People with shame and trauma often find a lot more value in drugs because they melt away feelings of shame, inadequacy and failure.”


Trauma’s role in addiction


We’re discovering more and more about the impact of trauma and its role in addiction and beyond – and it’s not all negative. Research into posttraumatic growth is on the rise and the work of clinicians, like Dr Gabor Maté, are gaining widespread popularity. 


“With a lot of the clients I’ve worked with, complex trauma is the most common cause of their addiction,” Jarret states. “People with addictive disorders may take one of two stances: either they’re ‘better than’ and become a perfectionist or high-achiever, or they adopt a ‘less than’ identity, but they’re really two sides of the same coin.”


Tips for coping with shame and trauma


Jarrett strongly believes in the power of lived experience in mental health and has dedicated his work and personal research into learning as much as he can about shame, trauma and addiction. We asked Jarret for his insights about how we can all work to shape a more compassionate and inclusive world when it comes to mental health and recovery.   


1. Become trauma-informed


Most people, whether they realise it or not, have likely experienced trauma in their lives. Approaching everyone with this in mind – in line with learning more about the symptoms and triggers for trauma – can create a safe space for anyone to express themselves freely.


“Remember: the things that might not bother you can be really upsetting to someone who has experienced shame or trauma,” Jarret counters. “Be non-judgmental, respectful and respond, rather than react, to what they’re telling you.”


2. Rewrite the narrative


With the support of a psychologist or psychotherapist, it’s possible to revisit past traumas and heal. Trauma often lives on in the way past events are retold, so how we talk about trauma is just as important as how it’s treated. 


“Part of the longer work is to go back into your past and rewrite the stories,” he explains. “The healthy adult can revisit the inner child to heal those experiences.”


3. Get support


Many people who experience trauma and shame often don’t have the ability to self soothe. So it can be really important to find the right support to manage any mental health concerns you might have. 


“It’s really important to know that it’s a lifelong process, especially if you’ve been so deeply scarred,” Jarrett offers. “One Good* Day recovery coaches can be really useful here – working with us builds trust and consistency, which are two things people crucial to healing from trauma.” 


You don’t have to go it alone


One Good* Day Recovery Coaches can support you to realise your NDIS plan goals and connect you with the support you need to get back on track. For more info, contact us – we know it can be a lonely road, but we’re just a phone call away. 

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