Are You Punishing Yourself?

For those of you who know me “in person” and have seen me recently, you know I have lost a significant amount of weight. The weight loss journey is an interesting one, and I’m sure I will discover more blog-able insights along the way. This one is result of recent moments with clients and a recent epiphany on my weight loss journey.

It started with a compliment. “You are melting away.” I have under-grown my clothes. To be honest, they swim on me. I had not purchased new clothes. I’ve been “waiting” because I didn’t want to spend money on transitional clothing (I am not at my goal weight or size.) Upon reflection, though, I realized that I didn’t buy nice clothes at the size I was for years; I purchased clothes from Goodwill, other thrift stores, Walmart, Target, and my upgrade was Ross. This has been true well beyond when my budget made that necessary. I was punishing myself for being fat. I did not deserve nice, well sized, and stylish clothing.

I see the same psychological mechanism in my substance abuse clients. They hold themselves back from many moments of joy, celebration, and luxury. They make decisions out of shame and deny themselves what could be brain healing activities and fail to realize the neural cognitive benefits. Positivity is scientifically proven to have positive brain impact in the same parts of the brain that are damaged by the disease of substance abuse.

Although the stigma of substance abuse has come a long way, its vestiges are persistent. It is still common for a person in recovery to not feel worthy of the more enriching moments and “things” until some vague later date. They feel the damage they have done is too great to allow themselves access to joy. **

The core issue is the shame that develops as the disease of addiction progresses. Even if the disease has been recessed, the shame continues unabated unless a deliberate course of action is taken to alleviate the sufferer from its burden. Helpful tools in that regard are:

  1. Mindfulness – as a life orientation and also the style of meditation
  2. Brene Brown – books, Ted Talks
  3. Affirmations – go ahead, put aside your woo-aversion and google
  4. If using 12 Step recovery, understand shame and unworthiness as a character defect

As for me, I am going shopping. In person. At a higher end store.



**This mechanism is present in Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs) as well. They do not allow themselves to seek, access, or sustain job.

One thought on “Are You Punishing Yourself?”

  1. Steph says:

    So much yes to this!!!

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