Building Self-Esteem in Sobriety

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Feeling good about ourselves after struggling with alcoholism and addiction may seem like a far-off and unlikely task. Sure, it sounds nice, but we’ve suffered a lot. Most of us have done things we aren’t proud of and acted ways we wished we hadn’t. We learn quickly in recovery at Jaywalker Lodge that selflessness goes a long way in improving our opinions of ourselves. The more we do for others, the better our lives become and the more we like ourselves.

Self-love and self-esteem aren’t inaccessible to people in recovery. We all deserve to love the person we’re closest to our whole life – and that person is us. The 12-Steps build self-esteem all by themselves, even though we may not notice it at first. For some of us, building a healthy relationship with ourselves might require a little extra help.

What Does Self-Esteem Mean?

Self-esteem has a lot to do with how we see ourselves on every level. Self-esteem is most easily thought of as our opinion of our value and self-worth. For many in recovery, it can be hard to accept that we are valuable people. But we are – each and every one of us. Staying close to the program, exploring our spirituality, and spending time with our community will show us that truth. Even then, it can be hard to accept that we are valuable until we re-adjust and grow a healthy sense of self-worth.

Self-esteem, like anything else, can go to extremes. We can have too much of it and become egomaniacs, or not enough of it and be walked all over by others. Here we can turn to the Big Book, which coaches us exactly on how to deflate our ego and then reminds us that we aren’t to become “scraping or servile” either. Our relationship with ourselves is like any other relationship – it takes practice and participation to find a healthy balance.

Healthy self-esteem can help us live life more fully and be more authentically who we really are. The world needs you, and that alone is reason enough. But there are so many other benefits – from our attitude to our mental health, to the things we decide to achieve or try. Self-esteem affects how we live our lives. You’re alive, you’re sober, and you deserve to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and freedom.

How We Build Self-Esteem

It isn’t an overnight process – very few things in our recovery journey are. But the time it takes is really a gift, even if we aren’t the patient type. When things require practice and attention, they are more meaningful to us and more impactful on our lives. There are a number of small habits that run parallel to – or are already part of – what we learn as we take the 12-Steps that can seriously improve our relationship with ourselves and with others. All of this can help build our self-esteem.


It can be difficult to forgive people, especially if we feel injured by them. As we work Steps 4 and 5, however, we learn how to see our part, let go, and forgive the other person. As we work Steps 8 and 9, we learn how to ask for forgiveness from others and set about righting the wrongs of the past. But we often forget to ask forgiveness for ourselves from ourselves.

This can be a confusing or uncomfortable prospect, but it is vital – not just to building self-esteem, but to living a happy life. We do the work in the 12-Steps and then we must forgive ourselves. We walk a new path and we are new people. The past is amended the best we can, and we are grateful it brought us to recovery and this new way of life. It all starts with forgiving yourself.

Taking Care of Yourself

In recovery, our primary focus becomes how we can serve our higher power, our fellow humans, and our community. An old saying reminds us that “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” We must take time to care for ourselves so that we can be our best for others. Taking care of ourselves is not selfishness – it is making sure that we are healthy enough to give our best to our higher power and our fellows.

Take quality time to be with yourself in prayer, in meditation, and with your higher power. Working on our relationship with ourselves not only helps us have better relationships with others, but we learn how to appreciate, like, and then eventually love ourselves.

Do Good, Feel Good

The program of recovery and the 12-Steps can teach us worlds about building relationships and better habits. We learn how to be altruistic and selfless with others. We learn how to accept help from others. We learn how to participate with people in life, giving them our best, loving them, and allowing them to love us. We learn how to replace our old, destructive habits with good ones. Just going through this process helps us build self-esteem.

As we do good, we begin to feel good. Learning how to become trustworthy, helpful, reliable people can be a huge step in our lives – but it is a step we may take without even realizing it. We often overlook how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown because we are stuck in our old ways of thinking about ourselves.

Take the time to look clearly at how you live your life in recovery. If you’re unhappy about something, the program can help. Listen to your sober community and try to see yourself through their eyes. They often see us more clearly than we can see ourselves. Usually, they see someone who is far more wonderful than we give ourselves credit for.

Self-esteem, like anything else, must achieve a healthy balance to be of benefit. But once we have a healthy way of relating to ourselves, we can not only experience better but give better to those around us.

If you’re looking to build self-esteem while on the journey of recovery, or you’re ready to get your journey started, we’re here for you. At Jaywalker Lodge, we can help you find the best ways to love yourself and finally live the happy, healthy life you deserve. We’ve been in your shoes and know how to help you move forward. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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