Self-Esteem and Addiction: How to Build it Up During Recovery

self-esteem and addiction

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Recovery from addiction is a long, tough journey, and it can feel overwhelming at times. But one of the most important aspects of recovery is learning to build up your self-esteem. Self-esteem is a key component of your overall mental health and will help support you on your journey to recovery.

So, what exactly is self-esteem? Why does it matter when it comes to addiction and recovery? Let Jaywalker in Carbondale, Colorado, answer these questions for you! We’ll explore the relationship between self-esteem and addiction, how low self-esteem can contribute to addiction, and some tips on how you can build up your confidence as you go through the recovery process. Let’s get started!

What Is Self-Esteem, and Why Does It Matter?

addiction and self-esteemSelf-esteem can be defined as the value or level of respect you have for yourself. It is an overall view of the way you feel about yourself, whether it is positive or negative. Your life is greatly affected by your sense of self-worth. It affects how you think and behave, as well as how confident and secure you feel in all areas of your life.

Having positive self-esteem can help boost your self-confidence, give you the courage to stand up for yourself, and make it easier to cope with difficult times. Conversely, low self-esteem can lead to feelings of uncertainty and doubt, making it hard to take risks, bounce back from setbacks, or even properly address addiction issues. This is why it is so important to understand how self-esteem works during recovery and how you can begin building your backup if needed.

Signs of Self-Esteem

Self-esteem can range from healthy to low, and various signs may indicate one’s level of self-esteem.

Healthy self-esteem

Healthy self-esteem means having an overall balanced and positive view of yourself as opposed to an overly critical one. Some of the healthy signs include:

  • Being genuine. Staying true to who you are and what you think is right
  • Being able to take criticism with grace
  • Feeling secure in a relationship
  • Being able to take risks without being afraid of failing
  • Being less concerned with what others may think
  • Being able to take care of oneself by attending to one’s own needs instead of trying to please others
  • Maintaining appropriate boundaries with other people
  • Being kind to oneself and respectful
  • Speaking out for oneself, and acting assertively. The guts to refuse to do something you don’t want to.
  • Being able to focus on your life without needing to compare it to others
  • Being able to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of others
  • Being able to spend time alone
  • Taking accountability for your thoughts, feelings, and actions rather than placing blame on others or your environment

Having a positive sense of self-esteem makes you feel more resilient in the face of life’s challenges and gives you the strength to persevere even when times are difficult. Self-esteem is the key to addiction recovery because it helps you stay grounded, allowing you to make more informed decisions when there may be a potential to relapse. People with healthy self-esteem are more likely to stay sober than those who don’t feel as connected to their sense of worthiness.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

While there are clear signs of healthy self-esteem, there are also warning signals for low self-esteem, which are as follows:

  • The belief in loving yourself and prioritizing your needs is selfish.
  • Putting other people’s actions or inactions at fault for your current situation or your history
  • Having a victim mindset; thinking or acting like a victim
  • Being unwilling to adapt and unable to leave your comfort zone
  • Avoidance of the truth and denial of hard topics

It’s possible that you may not recognize these warning signs, so it’s important to be truthful with yourself. Seeking support and finding the appropriate treatment, can be helpful if necessary. Remember, acknowledging the things we need to change is the first step, and refusing to face reality can be a hindrance.

Factors that Influence Self-Esteem

Self-esteem grows throughout a lifetime. It starts to take shape while you’re a young child and may be impacted by a variety of things, including:

  1. Childhood experiences: Early experiences, such as positive reinforcement or criticism, can shape an individual’s self-esteem.
  2. Relationships: The quality of relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners can affect self-esteem, as positive feedback and support can boost it, while criticism and rejection can lower it.
  3. Social comparison: Comparing oneself to others can impact self-esteem, especially if the comparison leads to feelings of inferiority.
  4. Body image: A positive or negative perception of one’s physical appearance can affect self-esteem.
  5. Accomplishments: Success in various areas, such as academics, careers, or hobbies, can boost self-esteem, while failure or a lack of achievement can lower it.
  6. Media messages: Messages from the media, such as advertising, can influence self-esteem, as they often promote certain ideals of beauty and success that may not be realistic or achievable.
  7. Cultural and societal values: Cultural and societal values can impact self-esteem, as some cultures may place greater emphasis on certain traits or accomplishments that can affect an individual’s sense of self-worth.

How Low Self-Esteem Contributes to Addiction

It’s no secret that low self-esteem and addiction often go hand in hand. Low self-esteem is one of the main factors that can contribute to addiction. Those who fall victim to drugs or alcohol often tend to think negatively about themselves and the world around them.

When someone has low self-esteem, they may mistakenly perceive using drugs as a way to “fill the void” in their lives. This false sense of gratification provides them with temporary comfort and an escape from their negative thoughts. Unfortunately, this leads to an addictive cycle of binging and binging until they finally hit rock bottom.

At its core, addiction is a form of self-sabotage caused by our feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. Because addiction is so closely linked with low self-esteem, it’s important for those recovering from addiction to focus on building their confidence throughout recovery. Doing so can help them break free from the relentless cycle of negative thinking that contributes to their addictive behavior.

Importance of Self-Esteem in Addiction Recovery

Self-esteem plays a crucial role in addiction recovery. Building and improving it during the recovery process can significantly increase the chances of a successful outcome and long-term sobriety. Here are a few other important aspects of self-esteem in addiction recovery:

  1. Motivation in recovery: A healthy level of self-esteem can motivate to make positive changes and stick to recovery goals
  2. Resilience: Self-esteem can help individuals bounce back from setbacks and challenges, which are common in recovery.
  3. Self-worth: Recovery can be challenging, and individuals need to believe that they’re worthy of a better life and a healthy future.
  4. Positive self-image: Improved self-esteem can lead to a more positive self-image, which can help individuals feel better about themselves and more confident in their abilities.
  5. Coping skills: A strong sense of self-worth can help individuals develop healthy coping skills to deal with triggers and stressful situations.
  6. Improved relationships: When individuals feel better about themselves, they’re more likely to form healthy relationships with others.
  7. Better quality of life: Improved self-esteem can lead to a more fulfilling life with greater purpose and meaning.

How to Improve Low Self-Esteem in Addiction Recovery

self-esteem benefits to addiction recovery

People with low self-esteem frequently experience a greater sense of helplessness, which can feed a vicious cycle of substance abuse and unsound mental health. This suggests that building self-esteem is a necessary part of addiction recovery. So how do you do that? Luckily, it’s not as hard as you might think. Here are some steps for improving your self-esteem during addiction recovery:

Practice Positive Self-talk

Speak kindly to yourself and encouragingly speak about yourself every day. Treat yourself with compassion and kindness, as you would a good friend. Accept things that you can’t control. Keep in mind that everyone has faults and makes mistakes, and that’s all right.

Make Connections

Your relationships with family, friends, and other sober individuals who understand your situation are invaluable in building self-confidence. Having a support system that is positive and encouraging can make all the difference in developing positive feelings about yourself.

Focus on Achievements

You’ve done amazing things while overcoming addiction, so now is the time to focus on those accomplishments! No matter how small they may seem, acknowledge and appreciate your accomplishments. Make sure to give yourself credit for any milestones you reach in your recovery journey.

Set Goals

A great way to build up self-confidence is by setting attainable goals for yourself. This will help you become more motivated and focused, ultimately enabling you to achieve more of your objectives—whether it’s staying sober for a certain time or building better communication skills with others.

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of your body should be part of any addiction recovery plan, as it helps boost self-confidence and strengthen both the mind and body. Eating healthy meals regularly, exercising daily, and getting enough rest are all essential steps toward improving overall mental health.

With these tips, you’ll be well on your way towards building up a healthy level of self-esteem during addiction recovery —and feeling confident about achieving long-term sobriety!

Jaywalker Can Help Build Your Self-Esteem During Addiction Recovery

Self-esteem is an important factor in addiction recovery and should be addressed as soon as possible. Low self-esteem can often lead to a decreased sense of worth, which can lead to substance abuse to cope with feelings of worthlessness.

Building self-esteem is not a quick and easy process, but with dedication and focus, it can be achieved. Through a combination of therapeutic approaches, addiction programs, and daily practices, you can reclaim your self-esteem and ultimately live a healthier and happier life. Jaywalker can help improve your self-esteem and break the cycle of addiction in your life. Receive the help you need and contact us right away!


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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