People become addicted to a variety of reasons. We might have experienced trauma or illness but one of the most common contributing factors is low self-esteem. Substance abuse, which can lead to addiction, gives us a false sense of confidence. It makes us feel braver and more charming. It helps cover the sinking feeling we have that we don’t fit in or the creeping fear we have that people will not like us. As our illness progresses, however, it erodes our self-esteem further. Inevitably, we do things that make us feel small. The people in our lives might withdraw, convincing us that we were right; We are unlikeable. Combined with the stigma of addiction, many of us find ourselves stuck in the darkness of the disease.

The Importance of Self-Esteem in Recovery

When we enter recovery, we find ourselves facing things we could not or would not face when in active addiction. Not only do we need to dig into the root causes of our addiction, but into the things, we did while using that might be unpleasant. In recovery, we are forced to look at the way we see ourselves. We look at the lies we tell ourselves to protect ourselves from shame and guilt. We examine the things people have said about us and determine how they fit into our lives.

Self-esteem comes from a variety of places. It comes from situations and the people we have in our lives. If we grew up in a harsh home environment where people expected perfection and criticized anything less as a failure, we might begin to believe that we are incapable or less than the people who present themselves as our role models. Abuse and neglect teach us that we are unworthy of love or respect and inhibits our ability to build strong relationships. We might avoid them or seek them in inappropriate ways. When we learn to look at things clearly, without outside influence, we can step past them into a healthier mindset.

How to Build Self-Esteem

Just because we struggle with self-esteem doesn’t mean we can’t build it. Like everything in recovery, we have to commit. The first step to building self-esteem is to examine our thoughts. When we find ourselves thinking negatively about ourselves, we need to stop and ask ourselves a few questions. First, we need to identify the thinking and then we need to ask, is this true and if it is, is it true all of the time? Then, we need to honestly ask ourselves, what skills do I have to address this situation?

Feeling insecure is a habit. Our brains return to the familiar over and over. We need to question those habits. Most of the time, if we look back, we can find that we have actually been successful in many ways.

If we think we’re stupid, we have to examine the truth behind this. How many times did we learn something new and apply it to life? In active addiction, we were often creative in how we sustained our illness. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that it takes a certain level of intelligence and creativity to do this for years. Addiction is hard work. The goal now is to apply these skills to healthier choices. How are we going to strengthen our recovery rather than our addiction?

Once we’ve learned to accept our and skills, we also have to teach ourselves to take credit for triumphs. If we have a single day without using, we need to celebrate it. In 12-Step programs, newly sober people are called forward and supported. They are praised. Positive input often means a positive output. We need to change our thinking from dwelling on our failure and mistakes. This does not mean to forget them. Instead, it means we need to learn from them. We need to build systems to prevent them from repeating and we need to go back and correct or amend them whenever possible. First, though, we have to accept the fact that we are unique and valuable additions to the world.

One of the harder parts of recovery is learning to take care of ourselves. Addiction affects every part of our lives. It changes the way we think, the way we behave and the way our bodies work. Building self-esteem teaches that we deserve to feel better. In order to accomplish that, we need to change our damaging habits to healthier ones. Replace the rituals of addiction with the rituals of recovery. Walk instead of drinking. Eat food that nourishes instead of food that simply covers the hunger. It is easier to feel better about ourselves when our bodies feel better.

Using Self-Esteem to Get Help

Making the decision to move away from active addiction is hard. Even when it is hard to think of yourself as worthy, take a chance. Choose to believe it when we say that you are precious and beautiful. Take one step. Everyone can take one step. There are people waiting for you on the other side who can help you learn the rest. At Fort Worth Recovery, we’re waiting for you. Get help now. Call us today at 817 382 2894 or visit us online.


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