Why Rehab Isn’t Something You Should Feel Embarrassed About

why rehab isnt something you should feel embarrassed about

Why Rehab Isn’t Something You Should Feel Embarrassed About

Entering rehab is a big step in anyone’s life. It often comes with feelings of apprehension, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. Although all of these feelings are normal, many people also experience a profound sense of embarrassment surrounding rehab. In this article, we’ll explore why addicts and recovering addicts sometimes feel embarrassed about entering and having gone through rehab, and discuss why you don’t need to be embarrassed for being in rehab.  

At the most basic level, rehab is a journey undertaken to get better, to heal the mind and body, and break the cycle of addiction that is so destructive. At its core, rehab is a positive experience that should be celebrated by both yourself and those around you. By reframing rehab in this light, it becomes easier to let go of embarrassment and embrace the positive changes that rehab can bring to your life.

Rehab and Shame: A Complex Relationship

For many current and recovering addicts, addiction is a word that is surrounded by negative connotations; shame, embarrassment, failure. This true not just of addicts, but within our society in general. As many addicts and their loved ones know, addiction is stigmatized in the United States and many other countries.

It is both stigmatized socially, by those around us that pass judgment for addiction, and by our criminal justice system, which has approached drug use and addiction with incarceration. It is true that drug addiction is an extremely destructive force. On a daily basis, lives are destroyed and undermined through addiction to drugs and alcohol. Addiction often results in broken relationships, betrayed trust, and love lost over time.   

Every addict has experienced some form of damage as a result of their addiction. Whether it be through their health, their relationships, or through lost and missed opportunities, addiction to drugs and alcohol is without a doubt a negative force that has a widespread impact in both our personal relationships and society as a whole. The simple fact is, if addiction to drugs and alcohol wasn’t destructive to our mind, body, and relationships, no one would enter rehab. It is because of these negative impacts on the life of the addict and those around them that addiction recovery exists.  

Due to its stigmatized nature, in our society when an addict enters a rehab facility they are, in a very real sense, letting the people around them know that they are in fact addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many times, addicts suffer from an addiction for years, hiding it from their friends, families, and loved ones at all costs. In many instances, they explain away drug or alcohol use as a lifestyle choice; as something they are free to do that is inherent in their personality and allows them to live life to the fullest. 

Their decision to hide their addiction from those closest to them is illuminating; it shows that they themselves feel a sense of shame around their substance abuse and patterns of behavior. That shame can cause an addict to withdraw from those around them, in turn surrounding themselves with others who use drugs and alcohol, which imbues their actions with a sense of normalcy.  

Because drug abuse and addiction is stigmatized in our society, it is no wonder when the addict internalizes that stigmatization. It becomes a part of their life. They are on the outside, living on the fringe of society, even if they continue to be a functioning part of society on the surface while struggling with their addiction.

In this sense, part of the shame and embarrassment that surrounds addiction comes from the addict themselves.  It is an internal force that is integrally tied to their addiction, which in many cases is the unseen hand that drives and shapes their life and choices. By recognizing the fact that in many cases, personal feelings of shame about their addiction to drugs and alcohol is an internal process, it becomes clear that at least some of the embarrassment that many addicts feel upon entering rehab is the result of their own thoughts and beliefs about their addiction.

This is not to say that the embarrassment and shame that many addicts feel about addiction is solely the responsibility of the addict. It is not. The relationship between addiction and how it is stigmatized is extremely complex and not fully understood in our society. Social, religious, and governmental institutions all play a part in stigmatizing addiction as an unwanted behavior in a functioning citizen.   

These are all interconnected structures that have formed over time and together coalesce into a collective belief that addiction to drugs and alcohol is a negative trait that represents failure; failure to lead a productive life, failure to resist temptation, and failure to adhere to society’s norms. While this is oversimplifying the relationship between addiction and shame, it is helpful to understand this connection to see why many addicts feel embarrassment upon entering rehab.  

Rehab is intimately connected to addiction, as it is the process that one goes through to free themselves from addiction to drugs or alcohol.  It is one path of many potential paths in life of an addict. Other potential ends are much less positive, and yet rehab remains tied to addiction in a fundamental way. These ties carry over some of the negative beliefs about addiction, as well as some of the stigmatization. Entering rehab is concrete admission that a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Rather than always being celebrated in our society, in some cases the act of entering rehab is met with judgment.

Often, if the addiction has been hidden from those closest to the addict, it forces loved ones, friends, and coworkers to confront the idea that a person they loved and knew was suffering from an addiction and they were unaware. It is sometimes easier for those closest to an addict to pass judgment, rather than working through their own internal feelings of guilt, shock, or bewilderment.

These generalizations are not true in every case, but what they highlight is the fact that often those entering rehab carry with them feelings of shame or embarrassment around their addiction that come from their own internal thought process, the emotions and beliefs of those closest to them, and the consensus of belief surrounding addiction that exists in society in general.  

While it is natural for many to feel embarrassed upon entering a rehab facility, it must be remembered that these feelings of embarrassment or shame do not spontaneously appear.  Rather, they arise as the result of complex relationships and historical processes that have categorized drug abuse and addiction as a stigmatized activity, and thereby associate rehab with those same negative thoughts.

Letting Go of Embarrassment and Embracing the Positive

Reframing the embarrassment one feels upon entering a drug rehab center by viewing it as a result of both complex internal and external processes can help to see rehab in a different light.  Rehab in itself is a positive, beneficial experience.  

The best possible outcome for a life that is characterized by addiction to drugs or alcohol is breaking the cycle of addiction and living addiction free. Rehab is the most common, and in many cases only, way that lifelong freedom from drug or alcohol abuse can be achieved.  

Rehab is a positive experience that should be shared, and celebrated by those who choose to free themselves from their addiction. The choice to enter rehab demonstrates resolve, not weakness. Those entering rehab have made a choice to confront their addiction and the underlying issues that gave rise to it. They have resolved to undergo the uncomfortable process of detox, and then follow through with this to pursue their path on recovery.  

Recovery itself is a process that requires vulnerability, which can be extremely difficult.  However, this vulnerability allows those battling an addiction to open up about their experiences with both therapists and other recovering addicts. This is an incredibly beneficial process, both for the recovering addict and those they share their experiences with. In the case of the recovering addict, opening up about their past experiences and difficulties with a counselor or therapist will allow them to explore the critical issues that gave rise to their abuse of drugs and alcohol.  

By opening up with others, the recovering addict can share the difficulties they face in their recovery, their past experiences, and issues they may be still struggling with. By sharing these intimate details of their lives, they have the chance to help other recovering addicts along their recovery journey while learning more about themselves and the challenges others face in the process.

The decision to enter recovery, to engage in the process, and to heal is a difficult one. Recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol requires discipline to see the process through to lifelong sobriety, and the strength to break the chains of power that drugs or alcohol had in the past.  The decision to enter into rehab is one undertaken to begin a new life. A life free from the bondage of drug or alcohol addiction, and a life that is productive and meaningful. While drug addiction is itself a destructive force, rehab and a lifelong freedom from addiction is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit and the desire to live a healthy and long life.  

Although many recovering addicts will continue to battle the feelings of embarrassment that surround their addiction, it is important to differentiate these feelings from the pride that one should feel in their decision to break the cycle of addiction. Choosing to live drug or alcohol-free is a choice that should be applauded and encouraged. Often, by letting go of feelings of embarrassment or shame that you may feel upon entering rehab, the positive response that many around you will share can help bolster your resolve and allow you to see the good in your decision.

The positive affirmation of your decision to enter rehab by those closest to you can be a powerful motivator in pursuing a life free from addiction. No one is able to complete addiction recovery alone, it takes a team that compromises your support group. Often, this team is those closest to you, such as loved ones, recovering addicts further along in their journey, and medical professionals that are there to help you. By recognizing this fact, you are able to receive the strength of those around you to continue to pursue your dream of being addiction free.  

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Entering rehab is a powerful decision to change the course of an addict’s life. Rehab is a gateway to a new life free from addiction to drugs and alcohol. It allows recovering addicts the chance to explore the underlying issues that gave rise to their addiction, to heal the damage done to their health, lives, and relationships as a result of their addiction, and to chart a new course for their life.

Choosing to detox from drugs and alcohol and begin the recovery process requires a profound strength, determination, and sense of resolve. This decision is an incredibly positive one, and should be separated from the feelings of embarrassment that an addict may harbor towards their addiction.  
The beneficial power of letting go of any embarrassment or shame surrounding rehab also extends beyond yourself. Sharing your experiences in rehab ring their own recovery. Rehab will also give you the opportunity to learn new skills by helping you learn to communicate more effectively, creating the opportunity to forge new bonds of love with those closest to you, and to learn to love yourself once again.  

By reframing rehab in light of its positive benefits, rather than stigmatizing it in the same way that addiction to drugs or alcohol is viewed, recovering addicts are able to let go of any feelings of embarrassment or shame they may feel surround their decision to enter rehab. Recovering addicts will be able to see how rehab is the path for lifelong freedom from addiction, and from there wholeheartedly embrace the redemptive and restorative power that rehab holds.

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