Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my DUI.
This has been a long week filled with anticipatory anxiety and more shameful memories than I can bear. Writing about shame today isn't going to be easy, but I will do so with hope that it will help ease the endless negativity happening in my brain right now. Thoughts of what a horrible person I am for doing such a horrible thing are getting the best of me this week.
With a little help from the wise words of Carrie Bradshaw and my "Food & Feelings" workbook, I feel ready to work through this.
"As we drive along this road called life, occasionally a gal will find herself a little lost. And when that happens, I guess she has to let go of the coulda, shoulda, woulda, buckle up and just keep going." -Carrie Bradshaw
One year ago I was lost and headed toward my rock bottom. There wasn't much hope left in my life and honestly, I didn't believe I could ever be well again. As a result, I got myself into some pretty big trouble. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, I am still haunted by the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas" and filled with shame.
Last week I wrote about guilt, which most people assume is basically the same thing as shame, but after doing a little reading, I discovered the difference between the two:
"Shame goes deeper- far deeper than guilt. You may eventually neutralize its sting, but it's doubtful you'll ever giggle over what happened. More likely, you will try to avoid public exposure of your act at all cost. In fact, because of its cringe potential, the word "shame" rarely crops up except in clinical circles. Colloquially, "I'm embarrassed" is often inaccurately substituted for "I'm ashamed" because it sounds (and feels) so much better.However, minimizing feelings for comfort's sake only promotes the false impression that they hold some sort of power over you. Name them exactly for what they are and you gain power over them."
Shame has left me with a relentless sense of self hatred. Did I really get into that much trouble for my actions? This makes me feel dirty, unlovable and useless. According to the "Food and Feelings" workbook, this is shame at it's finest.
So what can be done to help ease these shame-filled days? As the quote above states, to start, I can talk about what I'm ashamed of as a way to gain power over it. Also, the shame chapter continues with a list of irrational beliefs about shame, that I often have, and then combats them with rational thoughts. I made a list of my own for this exercise and just might need to pin them up all over the house until this all sinks in.
Irrational Belief: I can't bear feeling ashamed.
Rational Belief: I can bear feeling ashamed; it's only a feeling. Feelings can't hurt me and they will pass.
Irrational Belief: I have done a horrible thing, which makes me a horrible person.
Rational Belief: I am not a horrible person. I am working through my issues and making serious progress. Look how far I have come in just one year.
Irrational Belief: Nobody will love me or want me in their life once they find out what I did.
Rational Belief: I actually have more love and support in my life right now than ever before and everyone knows.
Reading through those rational and irrational beliefs, is surprisingly, quite helpful. In my perfect world, I would go back and fulfill my shoulda, coulda, wouldas, but I have come to terms with the fact that, that will never happen; it's time to let go of them, as Carrie Bradshaw suggested. Just like guilt, I still have some work to do before I am free of my shame, but today I am choosing to face these feelings head on instead of avoiding them. It's painful and a not-so-fun way to spend my Friday, but in the long run I know it will be worth it.
As my mom always says, "This too shall pass...."