Emotions & Shame

Saying No to Shame

“Recovery has helped me accept my shortcomings and face them without shame. I won’t let society tell me I should be ashamed of attention deficit.” Our ADHD and addiction blogger on throwing off the stigma.

I don’t feel a social stigma when I admit I’m an alcoholic. That wasn’t always the case. Admitting it to myself was probably the biggest challenge and then, for a long time in early sobriety, I squirmed, coughed and choked out the word. That’s passed. I don’t wear it on my sleeve or anything but in the right setting, with a person I trust, I don’t feel shame over the admission. I have accepted my problem, have a healthy fear of what would eventually happen if I drank again and have come to terms with the fact that alcoholism will always be a part of my life.

Society is accepting of alcoholism as an issue that some people have to deal with. That helps. It seems like a lot of people know an alcoholic or have been touched by the effects of alcohol. It makes it a lot easier to admit and to accept because fewer people these days automatically assume that alcoholism is due to weak willpower or indicates some moral failure. In fact, most of the time when I share about being an alcoholic, I get encouragement and positive feedback.

That’s not always the case with ADHD.

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A few weeks ago an article made the rounds on Facebook — it wound up in my timeline from several different sources — that claimed that ADHD is more common in the United States than in another country. It decried over-diagnosis, even though the different definitions made a true comparison impossible, and overmedication. Fair enough to raise the important issues of diagnosis and medication. What I found frustrating though was the article’s assertions that ADHD in the United States was the result of inferior parenting.

In the process of my recovery, I have been alert to situations where shame is used as a motivator. I may be a bit hypersensitive to it. Nevertheless, it is disheartening that such a shameful message was put out there with such authority. (The original article was from a reputable magazine.) It shamed the children diagnosed with ADHD and it shamed their parents. The author of the article was promoting her book and I can only hope that the book had more helpful positive information that would help families rather than criticism.

I was not diagnosed with ADHD as a child. I wonder, though, where I would be if I had known about it and been treated, perhaps with medication, earlier? Would I have turned to the addictive behavior that very nearly cost me everything I hold dear? I am also the father of a boy with ADHD. Is it my fault that he has ADHD? Well, genetically, it is likely my contribution to his makeup. But what about the nurture part of nature vs. nurture? I know I’m not a perfect Dad but every decision my wife and I make for our kids comes from the sincere desire to do what it best for them. We do the best with what we’ve got.

I am grateful that in recovery, I have learned to accept myself with all my shortcomings. I don’t appreciate someone trying to sell books by making me or my son feel ashamed of who we are.

[Life Is Too Short for Shame]