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Building Self-Esteem in Recovery

In active addiction, many people with a substance use disorder put themselves in compromising situations and do things they probably would not do otherwise. Later, when they get sober, they regret these actions or behaviors. It’s important to not let what you did in active addiction consume you or inform your perception of yourself. There are some things that you should keep in mind when you are working on your self-esteem in addiction recovery.

You are not your disease

Addiction is a brain disease with a number of contributing biopsychosocial factors with a relapse rate similar to that of diabetes. You are a person outside of substance abuse; addiction does not define you unless you let it. Of course, you are responsible for your actions to an extent, but you are not what you did while intoxicated any more than you are your addiction.

Accept this fact, forgive yourself, and allow yourself to move forward.

Feelings are not failure

On that note, feeling down on yourself or as though you have failed does not mean that you have, and negative emotions should not convince you that feelings are facts. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling, but do not let feelings consume you and convince you that there is no hope.

Stop self-harming thoughts in their tracks

When you catch yourself being self-critical or questioning your worth, put those ideas to rest on the spot. Negative thinking does not support a healthy relationship with yourself. If you want to like what you see— figuratively and literally— you have to be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and deserve to be happy just like everyone else.

Letting yourself give in to self-harming thoughts is also unproductive and a waste of time and energy; why spend time beating yourself up when you can instead spend time doing something that benefits your recovery?

Accept compliments

Don’t dismiss compliments as artificial or misplaced. Someone offered you kind words for a reason, so let yourself see the truth in them. Don’t let the voice in your head convince you that you are undeserving of the compliment. Hopefully, you’ll get into the habit of accepting compliments without questioning their validity or the intent behind them. Keep in mind, however, that self-esteem comes from you and is not something you can get from others.

Substance abuse can often lead to codependent relationships, and it is possible that you may have gotten yourself into the habit of deriving your self-worth from another person. Your worth is not about anyone but yourself and cannot be given or taken by another person. Despite compliments being nice validation, your self-esteem comes from yourself, your thoughts, your behaviors; you are responsible for building your self-esteem.

Be the energy you want to attract

Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at this cliché, but there’s a reason that it’s become such a common phrase. If you want to surround yourself with people who are positive and self-confident, you should emulate these qualities yourself. Of course, self-esteem isn’t a switch you can just turn on; other people who believe in and value themselves can set a good example for you to follow.

Take care of yourself

Self-care is often neglected in active addiction, as poor eating and sleeping habits become part of your routine and take the place of healthy behaviors. In detox or inpatient treatment, you took the first steps toward incorporating healthy behaviors back into your life, so build on what you have learned.

At Royal Life Centers at Sound, our guests’ mental and physical well-being is of utmost importance to us, which is why we offer an assortment of holistic therapies. We treat dependence on alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. Please reach out to us at (877)-RECOVER for help or with any questions or concerns that you have about our programs.

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