The Self-Loathing Spiral of Addiction
Self-loathing and addiction--for as long as I can remember, my self-loathing has been an ongoing spiral in my addiction journey. The spiraling cycle starts with hating myself for being addicted in the first place, then giving in to my addiction, then hating that I gave in, and so on. My self-loathing took the form of many things in my life including my anxiety, my depression, and my suicidal tendencies. However, my addiction wasn't the only reason I hated myself for so long. I think those feelings started long before my addiction ever formed.
Self-Loathing in Childhood
Like many children who have endured traumatic events, I was forced to cope with the cruelties of life in a variety of ways. Some young people cope with self-harm, others turn to substances, and some (like myself) punished themselves through other means.
Even though I never participated in overt self-harm in my youth, I still harmed myself in subtle and psychological ways. My self-harm tactics came in the form of cruel words about myself, cutting myself down both publicly and privately, and constantly allowing my fears and anxieties to make decisions for me.
As I grew older and began to participate in increasingly unhealthy behaviors I think my self-loathing took on new forms and over time it became heavily intertwined with my addiction.
The Spiral of Self-Loathing in Addiction
My addiction technically began as a teenager, however, I didn't fully recognize it until I was in my early 20s. At that point, I had been engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior for over five years, but, somehow, the thought of being a sex addict just didn't cross my mind.
I believe that there can be an aspect of self-loathing in any addiction because nearly every addiction fathomable involves some level of shame. However, with sex addiction, it definitely feels like the potential for shame is amplified. Due to extreme stigma and so many unhelpful opinions on the topic, the idea of sex addiction is horrifying for those of us who experience it.
It is horrifying to view yourself as a sex addict, but it's also equally horrifying to think about others viewing you as a sex addict, especially your loved ones. So many of us suffer in silence and secrecy for years (or even a lifetime) out of fear and anxiety of what others might think.
Feeling like your desire for sex and/or your sexual behaviors are out of control is absolutely terrifying and often even infuriating. I spent years hating myself for my own desires and my inability to control them. I didn't understand why my brain seemed to work so differently and require so much extra care.
The self-loathing I developed as a child only flourished in life as a shame-filled sex addict. I was constantly putting myself down and continually wishing that I was someone else. I wanted to be anyone but me.
Recovering from Self-Loathing in Addiction
It's been a long journey and some days truly feel impossible. It often feels like it's just in my nature to hate on myself or to undermine my own abilities. Over time, through many different forms of therapy, psychiatric care, and a lengthy list of positive coping skills, I have managed to get through.
Having compassion for myself has been a lifelong lesson that I have to continually relearn, but every time I'm forced to love myself and forgive myself, I know that it's worth it. I know that I'm worth it no matter how hard the fight might be.
How do you deal with self-loathing in addiction recovery? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Richardson, A. (2020, January 28). The Self-Loathing Spiral of Addiction, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2020/1/the-self-loathing-spiral-of-addiction
Author: Amanda Richardson
This is such a brave and honest account that I'm sure many will feel so comforted to read. Shame can be such a difficult thing to acknowledge and navigate, especially when it comes to areas of addiction and mental health. I love that you talk about having compassion for yourself because this is one of those things that's so easy to think about extending to others and yet we don't apply to ourselves. Thank you for sharing your journey!
Thank you so much for your kind words! You are so right, developing compassion for ourselves is so difficult to put into practice. I'm so glad the blog was helpful for you. Thanks for commenting!