Are you ashamed of drinking?

ashamed by alcohol bingeUnfortunately, drinking too much alcohol can make people feel ashamed, especially if you believe that drinking excessively suggests there is something defective about you. Or you believe it is something that needs to be hidden from other people, as you fear their judgement. This is the nature of shame, it is a particularly negative feeling, and is often a factor in depression. It is usually tinged with regret of course, at having done things while drunk that we would never do sober – perhaps hurting other people or behaving inappropriately.

How can we reduce the effects of shame then, or minimise it’s impact? How can you feel less ashamed of drinking alcohol? The first thing to consider is compassion. These are the feelings of nurturing, caring and forgiveness that we normally feel towards a child or a loved one, but we also need to apply to ourselves. Most of us are our own harshest critic, and when feeling ashamed about drinking that tendency can go into overdrive.

So forgiving yourself is an important aspect of reducing shame. Some will have concerns here, that if they forgive themselves then they’ll lose control of their drinking entirely. But this is not to suggest that the behaviour itself is forgiven, just the person is forgiven; “I did something I regret, but that does not make me a bad person”, for instance – taking responsibility for your actions, rather than berating or blaming yourself. Many people find the idea of self-compassion awkward, it’s not something we’re accustomed to, but most therapeutic approaches recognise the importance of it for mental health.

Some might say that the easiest way to avoid feeling ashamed is to stop drinking so much. But that is overly simplistic, because many people find they cannot do that easily, they may have tried many times, but without success. A vicious circle can develop, whereby someone feels ashamed of their drinking, becomes self-critical and starts to feel depressed as a result. This can then be a trigger for further drinking, as alcohol often lifts your mood. But again, the important thing to distinguish is that drinking too much is a regrettable habit, not a sign of a personality defect.

6 Comments

  1. Jamie*angel 1 March, 2017 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    I feel ashamed but realise this is a waste of energy. I have three beautiful children and feel that I’m selfish jeopardising my health. I’m determined (today) to quit drinking or at least get it under control. I think about drink all the time and it’s so exhausting. I want a different life to this. I lost my son 12 years ago but I can’t keep using that as an excuse.

    • Tobin Hunt 2 March, 2017 at 7:23 am - Reply

      Losing your child is one of the most devastating things that can possibly happen to a person, so although it’s not an ‘excuse’ for your drinking, your grief might well be a factor in it. It’s worth considering some bereavement counselling perhaps.

  2. Anonymous 5 December, 2016 at 12:17 pm - Reply

    Hi Iam new here and just wanted to share my story. I have been binge drinking for 6yrs. It started when my son committed suicide. I found this the only way to cope.couple of bottles of wine here and there,till it progressed to daytime. I am now at peace with the fact he is gone but the alcohol hasn’t. EVERYTIME I feel stressed,have a bad cold or just feel I need a lift I reach for the wine. I don’t understand why I keep on doing it. I have 2 lovely daughters and 2 granddaughters also a amazing partner. Last weekend I downed 6bottles of wine in 3 days,Iam so ashamed. I did it because I had no sleep for a week as I had a bad toe infection. I thought a bottle of wine would send me off to sleep but oh no,I just kept on drinking,it was wine that we had bought for Christmas……all gone,didn’t touch the champagne though. The look of hurt in my partners eyes was awful. I truly am disgusted in my self. I am wanting to quit. I have it in my head Noe this can’t go on. I will be coming back to this forum and reading all your blogs for the strength to kick this in the butt. Thankyou for reading x

  3. Anonymous 9 March, 2016 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Easier said than done Tobin,

    I have had an episode lately that involved me being arrested and spending a night in the cells, I have never been been in trouble in my life let alone locked up in a cell, The shame, hate self loathing is what follows and for now I can not forgive myself.

    • Tobin Hunt 9 March, 2016 at 2:36 pm - Reply

      Try to separate the act from the person, so while you can regret the act, and even feel ashamed of the behaviour, do you need to judge yourself as a person?

  4. Narinder 14 September, 2015 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I am ashamed of myself as I have been caught drinking at work twice but I don’t know how to overcome my self esteem as my late husband who was a alcoholic past away 2012 and I still have outrage as he wanted to have half share of the house knowing that the children are still there but I still can’t believe that he chose the house over his own children. I can’t let go because I feel if I did not get a court order to get some help put the joint property in my name without a fight I would have nothing for our kids if he was still alive. kulwinfor was the father and nothin can stop the children seeing him be alive even though I had to do this abusive and
    Mentally very disturbing he was very verbally abusive to the children

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