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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shame's Role in Recovery

The road to recovery is often a hard road, where demons cross one’s path frequently. It can be hard for recovering alcoholics to let go of the shame they harbor regarding their behavior while actively using. Shame is a powerful feeling that in many cases can break or make one’s recovery. Many who struggle with addiction have a hard time forgiving themselves for their past transgressions; in turn this can make them susceptible to old ways of thinking and even relapse, a new study suggests.

Newly recovering alcoholics took part in the study about shame's role in recovery. In order to gauge participants’ feelings of shame, they were asked to describe the last time they drank and felt badly about it - researchers took their body language into account. They considered a narrowed chest and slumped shoulders to be “shame-related behaviors,” LiveScience reports.

After four months, participants were asked if they had maintained their sobriety. Those showing more shame-related behaviors in the first session were more likely to start drinking again. Keep in mind, participants’ own assessment of whether they felt shame about drinking did not predict whether they relapsed, the researchers report in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

“How much shame participants displayed strongly predicted not only whether they relapsed, but how bad that relapse was — that is, how many drinks they had if they did relapse,” study authors Jessica Tracy and Daniel Randles of the University of British Columbia said in a journal news release. They added, “Our research suggests that shaming people for difficult-to-curb behaviors may be exactly the wrong approach to take. Rather than prevent future occurrences of such behaviors, shaming may lead to an increase in these behaviors.”
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