I want to talk about why autism guilt and shame keeps us in addiction for Asperger’s and autistic people. It seems like there’s a lot of guilt and shame with Asperger’s and autism because we’re already kind of different than other people.
We are highly sensitive. We’re very sensitive to our surroundings, plus the Asperger’s disorder is a social and emotional disorder so it really affects how we are with people and how we feel about ourselves.
I’ve always had low self esteem. It started with my dad scolding me when I was four or five years old. I remember one time picking up a piece of fiberglass when he told me not to and he just spanked me so hard in front of the public that I was, I felt a lot of shame and a lot of embarrassment, even for a four year old boy. I knew that cars were driving by and they could see me getting just walloped by my dad.
Autism Guilt and Shame
So that was the beginning, and from then on, I was kind of scared of my dad and then that kind of gave me a sense of shame and my self esteem was low because when you’re punished like that, you feel like you’re worthless, you feel like you’re broken – you feel like they don’t love you. So that kind of sets the whole scenario for the rest of your life if you don’t deal with it.
So when I got older, I decided to just keep to myself, because of the bullies in school, because of girls that didn’t want anything to do with me, of my parents scolding me, my dad laughing at my big dreams, even teachers, you know making fun of me and even hitting me in school, just set a scenario of me having very low self esteem.
So when I discovered alcohol, when I was 17, I really was ready for an escape from reality. I took to alcohol like there was no tomorrow. It was my magic potion. But what it did was obviously it gave me hangovers. Then I started getting in trouble with the law.
So, it made me feel really good for a couple hours, but then I usually had to pay for it with hangovers and with breaking the law and then my dad being even more mad that I did that, so it just kind of perpetuated that vicious cycle of, you know, getting a little bit of freedom through alcohol, at least the illusion of freedom, then getting reprimanded and punished for feeling good.
So it was kind of a hard time, and I didn’t really feel free from any of that until I was 18 when I just left home. I slept around on my friend’s floors and then I got my own van and lived in my van. But, you know, times were tough.
Then I started picking up other addictions and felt autism guilt and shame for everything that I did. It was a vicious cycle and I could never get out of that low self esteem cycle. Eventually I had tried to get sober and every time I got sober, I could feel that I was getting some self esteem back. I was getting some self worth. I put my energy into taking action.
Usually, when I got sober, I would start working out and I would repair my health. I would get a job or two and start saving money, start paying off collection agencies and debts and start to pick up my self esteem.
But then I would self sabotage by relapsing, then the relapse would make me feel shame and guilt and I would feel bad. I would just start drinking and drugging again.
I could really never get out of the crab pot so to speak, I was living in a small town, and my friends were bullies, and it just wasn’t a good scene. So the crab pot analogy is where you’ve probably heard of this, but when you live in a small town or in a competitive area, let’s say, a lot of African American rappers experienced this in the ghetto. They try to get out of the ghetto, and picture a bunch of crabs in a pot or a five gallon bucket, and they’re trying to climb out.
The crabs will pull the other crabs back down. They’re trying to climb out by grabbing the other crab that’s up higher, and they pulled each other down so they never truly escaped the five gallon bucket.
That’s how most rappers are because they’re trying to get that hit song or that hit album to get enough money to get out of the ghetto.
And I felt the same way trying to get out of that small town. I was getting drunk every night, feeling shame and guilt, and showing up late to work, and just letting my health go, and then having bully friends tease me. It was a very hard time to get out of that town.
So, basically shame and addiction work hand in hand. So, you feel shame, you feel low self esteem so you self medicate. But then what that does is it basically just keeps you feeling crappy and you can never get out of that situation.
Basically what you want to do to break out of that vicious cycle, for one, is to get sober, even 12 step programs, they reward you for every single day that you’re sober. In fact, if it’s really hard right now, you can celebrate each hour that you’re sober, you can celebrate each hour of anything that you do.
For me, to pick up the pieces, I did little things. I would go take a shower. I would eat something healthy, I would clean my house, because a clean house always made me feel better, and I would wash my clothes, I would wash my hair, I would get things organized, I would pay a bill or two.
So, that helps and then the ultimate thing though, that will get you out of this vicious cycle, this self sabotaging cycle is you have to forgive yourself, no one is perfect. If your parents were strict and they abused you, they’re just as sick as anyone else. They probably got it from their parents.
I know that my dad’s dad was very scary. He was a drunk and he was very abusive to my dad. Then my dad just repeated the cycle with me. And I know that my dad has Asperger’s just like I do, and he’s a control freak like I am, and living under his roof was very hard because we were both bullheaded.
I have to forgive my dad but first I have to forgive myself, because I was an innocent sweet boy. I just wanted to make people laugh, and I was highly sensitive, highly sensitive people become victims because we’re so vulnerable. I pretty much got squashed. My innocence got squashed by all these external situations but I had to forgive myself. That is the number one key.
The next thing you can do to relieve all that guilt and shame is to share your story with others and try to help others because as addicts and alcoholics, we are very self centered. Same with autistic and Asperger’s people are very self centered because we’re usually in fight or flight. We’re trying to survive because we know we’re different. We’re highly sensitive to our environment.
You have to forgive yourself, and then share your story, and try to help others. That’s what I’m doing with this channel. There’s nothing else I want to do with my life. I’m sober. Now I give back and help others. I’ve been sober for 13 years. I still have little things that I’d like to stop, like the stimming, the rocking back and forth, eating sugar, things like that.
But, it’s not as bad as it used to be. I’ve really changed over the years. And even if you just improve yourself 1% a day, you can look back after a year, and you’ll see some tremendous progress. Okay. Just get back on the horse if you relapse, don’t feel any guilt and shame. I know you probably will, but don’t hit yourself too bad, you know, get back on the horse and keep riding because over time, with just little improvements, you will see a big difference. I am a totally different person than I was 13 years ago when I was drinking. So share your story, to help others.
The next thing is rebuilding your self esteem. You know you can join 12 step groups, you can share your story and create your own brand. Look at your nutrients, you know if, stay away from caffeine, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes. It definitely is a dietary issue as well, but number one is forgive yourself because we all make mistakes, and as a perfectionist control freak that is my biggest thing that I need to work on.
Because once you forgive yourself, you will forgive others, you will forgive the ones who wronged you. And that’s pretty much why we self medicate because we’re holding on to grudges. We’re holding on to resentment, you know we’re pissed off at our parents, we’re pissed off at our exes, we’re pissed off at our teachers, we are pissed off at the cops, we are pissed off that we’re poor, whatever it is.
You have to take accountability, you can change your life, no matter how poor you are or how unhealthy you are, but take baby steps and you will get better. And that will help fix your self esteem and raise it to where you can start doing bigger and better things and then it will feed off of each other. You’ll start getting win on win and you’ll have an upward spiral of success, instead of a downward spiral of failures, you can flip that around and start upwards, with little successes.
So I hope this helps. Hit that subscribe button if you’re new here, leave a comment if you want to get sober, or how long have you been sober, what are you doing to stay sober. You know, it’s, it’s very scary out there right now. A lot of people are dying from overdoses.
It’s a hard time to begin with. So give yourself a break, you know it’s in the collective, there’s a lot of negativity right now. A lot of black versus white, you know, all the craziness with the mainstream you know it’s just a lot of a lot of craziness so give yourself a break forgive yourself. We’re all in this together. We all have our own problems. You’re not alone. And I love you guys. God bless, we’ll talk to you soon.
Here’s more Resources for Asperger’s and Addiction
Erik C Johnson