Low self-esteem can also be dangerous to your recovery because it correlates with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. And, if depression or anxiety was one of the factors that led to your addiction — as is for many individuals — then you risk repeating the vicious cycle.
Why You’re Not Feeling Good About Yourself
One of the reasons behind low self-esteem is the soul searching you did during your treatment program. You likely contemplated the various decisions and actions that led to your addiction — and as result feel bad about yourself.
Substance use treatment also changed your brain chemistry, working against years of damage. This change has resulted in an emotional roller-coaster, and you may be experiencing many feelings for the first time, including your opinions about yourself.
Most likely, you had low self-esteem as an addict. In fact, studies have shown that low self-esteem in childhood and early adulthood can lead to addiction later in life. But as an addict, you were numb to those kinds of feelings.
Drugs and alcohol also may have given you a false sense of self-confidence. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, you may have used substances to self-medicate when you were down.
This may be the first time you’re discovering yourself — and you may not like what you’re seeing.
Why Self-Esteem Matters
Low self-esteem can hinder a person in any stage in life. But for those in recovery, it can become a paralyzing barrier to achieving wellness goals.
When you’re not feeling good about yourself, seeking — and finding — happiness is a struggle. You may think you’re a terrible person because of everything you’ve done, and that you don’t deserve to be happy.
Without happiness, you lose hope, and without hope, you lose motivation to rebuild your life. Are you seeing the pattern yet?
Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem in Recovery
As with anything else in recovery, change takes time. Don’t expect to rebuild your self-esteem overnight. But if you use consistent strategies, you will get there.
Here are some steps that can help you toward that goal:
Forgive yourself: This is one of the first steps because without forgiving yourself, you’ll be holding yourself back. Forgive yourself first, and forgiveness from others will follow as you mend your relationships.
Surround yourself with positive people: Negative feelings are contagious. You simply don’t have the energy to fight negative people. On the other hand, positive people who know what you’re going through will encourage and uplift you.
Reframe your thinking: To use an old cliché, do you see the glass half empty of half full? As an addicted person, you learned to view the world through the lens of negativity. Learning to recognize your negative thoughts will help challenge your negative thinking.
Accept yourself: In addition to forgiving, you need to accept yourself. Accept those things you can’t change — and set goals to improve those that you can. It’s also important to not compare yourself to others. You are your own unique person.
Do something kind: Volunteering and other acts of kindness, even small ones, are a great self-esteem booster. When you put a smile on someone’s face or make their day better, you instantly feel good about yourself. For inspiration, check out ideas from Random Acts of Kindness.
Keep a gratitude journal: Writing about daily events and people you’re grateful for doesn’t just lift your spirits. It’s a way to become more attuned to the positive things in your life.
Set small, achievable goals: What can make you feel better about yourself than achieving a goal? The key is to keep your goals realistic, which means breaking them down into small steps that you can take every day.
As you’re working on self-esteem and other aspects of emotional wellbeing, seek out professional help. Whether it’s a recovery coach, a counselor or group therapy, you’ll benefit from an impartial view from someone who understands your journey. Your support circle can also challenge your thinking and help you gain a different perspective about yourself.