Rehab 4 Addiction

When you have an addiction, it’s far too easy to become hard on yourself. You might be at a point where you want to quit, but experience a lapse or a relapse.

You might be in active addiction, or abstinent but still feeling guilty about things you said and did in the past.

Along with self-forgiveness, there’s another act that’s vitally important to practise so you can effectively move forward with healing.

What’s that?


Why is self-compassion useful?

Self-CareSelf-compassion is a trait that shifts your mind to a space of self-understanding. Obsessing over yourself and those things you’ve done that you aren’t happy with doesn’t take the whole picture into account.

Taking in the whole picture is what you need to start doing.

This is your life and you’re living with an addiction. These are incredibly important realities.

So what needs to be in the picture when you think about it? What makes your picture whole?

You need to remember what led you to be where you are today. This will let you understand the situation fully.

 The more understanding you have, the more you have an informed opinion. With that informed opinion, you can make healthy choices to improve your life.

What is self-compassion?


Self-compassion is basically looking at your whole picture and using that to create healthy changes. 

It’s imperative you make those changes. It is only through changed behaviours that self-compassion is actualised and you are able to quit substances.

A person who has self-compassion looks at themselves with honesty.

That isn’t just considering the mistakes you might have made. It’s also looking at the terrible things that may have happened to you which have led you to behave in a particular way. 

The person who is able to learn self-compassion is more likely to be able to change. A skill that is essential where addiction is concerned.

Compassion is NOT…

Compassion is not

Compassion is not positive affirmations or pumping yourself up with compliments.

It is NOT:

  • Excusing your speech and behaviour because bad things have happened to you.
  • Burying your head in the sand and pretending everything will be fine.
  • Saying, “I’ve had a really hard time, I deserve a drink.

On the contrary, self-compassion is actually saying, “I’ve had a really hard time, but having a drink will not help me or the situation because it could make things much worse.”

Finally, it’s really important to remember that self-compassion is not being selfish or turning yourself into a victim. You may have been victimised by another in the past and that truly is terrible.

However, self-compassion is recognising the awfulness of that and also learning how to look after yourself in a healthy way going forward.

What does self-compassion sound like?

Relaxed but Firm

Compassion for yourself is about taking care of your own well-being.

It’s about discovering where you need more support and learning what you need in order to look after your health and wellbeing effectively.

  • Self-compassion is relaxed but firm.
  • It is gentle and supportive yet reflective of reality.
  • It takes into account the whole picture: your history, influences, strengths and weaknesses.
  • It acknowledges your limits and the negative experiences you might have had.
  • It is encouraging.
  • It outlines a new way of doing things.

For instance, it might sound like the following:

“I really want some cocaine, but knowing how addiction runs through my family and how I started doing it too often in the past, I know this isn’t safe. Others might be able to stick to using it for one night, but I won’t. 

This is something I acknowledge and accept about myself. With the difficult troubles I’m experiencing in life linked to trauma, I know that adding cocaine into the mix will not help.

I need to do healthy things to get myself through this. I deserve that after having gone through so much.”

The more you practise speaking to yourself in this way, the easier it becomes to do going forward.

The more you begin to implement changes as a result of this new way of thinking, the more you develop self-compassion and the ability to change.

Self-compassion in practice is creating change. It is positive action.

Learning from mistakes

Learning from mistakes

It’s important to recognise how your actions have consequences for yourself and others. Addiction often leads to people doing things they later come to regret.

Self-compassion supports you to navigate this uncomfortable emotional space in a helpful way.

It pulls you out and away from simply zoning in on the negative event that has happened. Self-compassion allows you to take into account the whole picture, your whole life that has led to this event.

You’ll truly start to understand yourself and your actions.

How do you know if you have started practising self-compassion?

Practicing self-compassion

This will manifest in how you act.

If you’re starting to make decisions that are better for your health and wellbeing, then you’re starting to practise self-compassion. This is a huge step towards change, as you begin to move on from substance abuse and towards a successful recovery.

You will be kinder to yourself whilst still being firm. You’ll be looking after yourself in new ways. You might start eating or drinking better or become more active.

Your internal voice will be kinder, you will have more self-esteem and you will feel more comfortable in your own skin.

Developing boundaries for yourself

Developing Boundaries

Self-compassion helps you to develop an awareness of what you can handle. It’s about knowing you have an addiction and that it was influenced by a whole range of factors, the majority of which were not your fault. 

Nobody starts off wanting to develop an addiction. It’s helpful to remember that.

Self-compassion takes you to the point of acknowledging this and then becoming aware of what you can and cannot handle.

You’ll become honest with yourself, identifying people, things and places that can make it harder for you to turn down the substance.

It’s not about beating yourself up that you aren’t able to face those triggers; it’s about giving yourself supportive and solid boundaries.

At the same time, if you were to lapse or relapse, self-compassion isn’t about giving yourself a hard time. This can make the substance use continue.

If your friend relapsed, would you tell them what a failure they were and that they were never going to be able to quit anyway?

No! Of course you wouldn’t. So you shouldn’t do this to yourself either.

Self-compassion during recovery is a space where you reflect on what made that lapse occur. It’s then choosing not to put yourself in that situation again because you deserve to heal after all you’ve already been through.

How being compassionate towards others helps you to be so to yourself

Compassion to others

Many people in addiction recovery find that showing compassion, understanding, and care to others helps with their own healing. 

If you decide to do this, make note of how you speak and act with them. The way you behave with them is a learning tool for you to use.

It teaches how you can be to yourself.

Bear in mind, it can be too easy for people in recovery to then go overboard because of guilt they feel for previous actions.

You don’t want to end up in a situation where your kindness and compassion is being taken advantage of.

You must exercise boundaries.

It’s important to bear in mind, however, that people who harmed you don’t have to be given your compassion. This is a choice.

You can recover without giving someone who has damaged you any compassion. Alternatively, you might choose to be compassionate towards someone who has hurt you without forgiving them. 

These are your choices to make.

Final thoughts


Self-compassion is a hugely important part of recovery for people who have addictions. 

It can, however, be quite difficult to get your head around and begin to practise. After a lifetime of thinking and behaving in certain ways, guidance is really helpful.

Therapy can help you begin to practise self-compassion.

Psychotherapists, especially addiction therapists, are brilliant at guiding you to self-understanding.

Through them, you can unravel the events that have happened to you, understanding what has shaped you, what has led you to become the way you are and what you can do to change.

12 Step groups also offer a great space of support in understanding self-compassion through a social network.

Understanding these areas of yourself gives you far greater chances of recovering. If you’d like to find out more about recovery services in your area, contact Rehab 4 Addiction today.


Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.