Silent Shame: Ways to Reach Out For Support When Seeking Addiction Treatment


That word is so powerfully painful even to simply contemplate–and those who struggle with it personally know how difficult it can be to deal with. Harboring a deep sense of shame can impede your addiction treatment and recovery process, because it pervades all other aspects of personal growth and health in your life. Committing to becoming a healthier version of yourself through treatment was the most important and brave first step, but knowing just how to ask for help and support as you do so can be extremely trying and emotionally charged.

Treatment for and recovery from an addiction is not easy, but reaching out to family, friends, and trained professionals for love, support, and guidance as you walk this path will not only give you confidence in your decision to seek help, but the motivation and inspiration to walk that same path forever. A few pieces of guidance will help you when seeking this support.

Be responsible.

Opiate use has become an increasingly frightening epidemic in the last five years–and heroin is at the top of the list. Because it has become so easy to obtain, the number of overdoses in America keeps getting bigger every year. Thankfully, it is a problem that is getting national recognition, and many law-enforcement officials want more than ever for addicts to feel comfortable asking for help on their own with their own motivation. In Gloucester, Massachusetts, addicts that walk into the police department and express a genuine and honest desire to receive addiction treatment will receive just that: not only will they be taken directly to a treatment center, but they will also receive help financially to do so.

While this program near Boston has not yet reached outside of the state, the idea behind it can be used nationally in order to make addicts feel that when they take responsibility for their addictions and choices, they will be looked upon with care, compassion, and concern, rather than condescension and stigma. Because you’ve already mentally committed to treatment, taking that next step of responsibility for your addiction in telling a loved one or support professional–while difficult–can put you on the road to recovery.

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Be honest.

It will be extremely easy for you to hide some of the truth from those you choose to seek support from as you go into treatment. Speaking of your experiences out loud might bring about intense feelings of shame, guilt, and fear–but it will also make you a stronger and more resilient person going into treatment, knowing that you’ve been honest about your need for support.

Looking into someone’s eyes and asking for help may be scary, but it is very doable and very worthwhile. If you’re not exactly sure how to begin an honest conversation about your addiction, try one of these statements to segue into what’s on your mind and heart:

  • “I recognize that I am sick, and I want to become healthy again.”
  • “It’s very hard for me to ask for your help and support in treatment, but I value myself enough to do so.”
  • “Going through treatment alone scares me–and it would mean a great deal to me to have your support and care as I go on this journey.”
  • “I have decided I need treatment, but I’m not exactly sure how to go about it; please help me get some more information on how to heal.”

The more you feel comfortable with your past and present, the less shame will get in the way of your future. Being honest when asking for support is easiest when you realize that you are worth supporting, and believing that is what will sustain you throughout this process. Even if you feel as though you have no support system that includes friends or family, there are always people you can be honest with about your desire for quality treatment for drug addiction.

Be open.

Approaching those you are seeking support from as you enter into treatment requires an openness both emotionally and mentally. Where honesty requires you to be true to yourself in asking for support and care, being open requires listening to others’ truths and suggestions and accepting them with love and compassion. Overcoming the initial hump of voicing your needs out loud in an honest way is the first step–but the willingness to receive help and support afterward is just as important.

In order to be open with yourself and with others as you make the leap into treatment, you must feel comfortable–which is easier said than done. Holding on to shame and guilt concerning your addiction may make this even more difficult, but once you break the silence of shame, you’ll be one step closer to a successful recovery. Fortunately, there are several ways to prime yourself for the emotions and difficult conversations that follow a willingness to heal:

  • Prepare what you want to say beforehand. If you’re already feeling nervous and/or shameful about reaching out, having a list of things you want to express may assuage those nerves and help you open up.
  • Have the conversation in a comfortable location. Sitting in a crowded restaurant to have this conversation might not be what works best. Approaching others about your decision to seek treatment is a major moment, and finding a place that gives you a sense of stability, comfort, and bravery–perhaps somewhere outdoors, or your parents’ family room, or another location where you feel at peace–is crucial to that sense of openness.
  • Listen. Yes, you’re the one seeking support–but it is crucial that you listen and consider what your support system has to say. Receive them and their thoughts with the knowledge that above all, you are committed to becoming healthier and addiction-free.

Releasing the shame you might feel from your addiction is normal and natural–but it doesn’t have to be forever, and you don’t have to do it alone. Reaching out, while hard, can be the best thing you do for yourself; it signifies that you value YOU above anything or anyone else. Alta Mira’s individualized programs, in conjunction with a good support system, ensure that you not only will walk the path of treatment with pride, but that you’ll have a safety net of love and care in difficult moments throughout your journey.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive residential treatment for drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.