What We Can Learn About Shame and Alcoholism From Stephen Moyer

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shutterstock_142104544As you may or may not already know, actor Stephen Moyer, star of television show True Blood, is sober. In an industry and place notorious for alcohol and drug use, Moyer has been committed to staying sober for years now. Hollywood isn’t an easy scene for a recovered addict, but that doesn’t get in Moyer’s way. The star has even opened up about his struggle with addiction and shared some useful thoughts.

As a board member of a nonprofit treatment facility The Clare Foundation (TCF) and former group leader for group therapy for convicts with drug and alcohol related charges, Moyer’s sobriety extends far beyond himself. The actor cares about the recovering addict community and devotes himself to being a part of it in his spare time. Moyer spoke out as a part of a panel for TCF and part of what he talked about dealt with how self-loathing, to a degree, motivates a lot of people to drink in excess to begin with. According to Moyer—and many addicts will agree—self-loathing fuels drinking, but the shame that comes with admitting your own faults after sobriety is also a difficult force to contend with. Moyer said that there needs to be an emphasis on education and eliminating the shame from the vicious cycle that often imprisons addicts.

Indeed, shame and alcoholism do intertwine in many different ways. One study tells us that recovered addicts who feel shame about their past drinking behavior are actually more likely to relapse. In order to avoid this potential pitfall yourself, here are some tips for dealing with alcohol-related shame so that you might resolve any issues with shame that you currently have.

1. Identify what causes you shame.

Perhaps you have memories you purposefully avoid from your drinking days because they make you feel so much shame. Identify the details in those memories that make you feel the worst. Drag them out from within and take a close look at them. Do you feel shame because you mistreated someone? Do you feel shame because you acted in a way that was not in line with your values? Is your shame related to your personal behavior or is it related to how your behavior impacted others?

2. Have a conversation.

If you are carrying around guilt and shame regarding how you might have treated someone from your past when you were drinking, consider having a conversation with that person to clear the air. That person does not need to listen to you or forgive you, but if you need to apologize, do so even if only for yourself.

3. Let go of the past.

We are all continually changing—some of us more so than others. Who you were back then is not who you are now. What you did back then has no impact on the freedom you have to make positive and proactive choices now. Embrace the present and loosen your imaginary grip on the past.

4. Be your best self now.

In an effort to be your best self now in this present moment, figure out all of the good things about yourself. Make a list if it helps! Practice self-love and zero in on specific skills and talents you have that can help other people. Are you a good listener? Do you love to cook for other people? Do you enjoy playing music for others? Identify what you can offer the people who are in your present life and community so you can be your best self now for those people and for yourself.


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

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