Self-esteem refers to an individual’s confidence in their own abilities as well as their sense of self-worth.  Low self-esteem can affect every aspect of a person’s life, from their relationships to their professional success.  Research has proven a connection between low self-esteem and substance abuse, which may be better described as a cycle.  Those who suffer from low self-esteem are more likely to succumb to peer pressure, which can lead to early experimentation with drugs and alcohol.  Additionally, drug and alcohol use can lead to worsening self-esteem, which in turn perpetuates this cyclical relationship. When someone with an addiction decides to seek professional help and begins their recovery journey, it is important to take a close look at issues regarding self-esteem and find ways to foster a return to confidence.  

Identify Underlying Issues

Poor self-esteem can occur for a variety of reasons including mental illness and trauma.  People who experience difficult childhoods in which they were neglected or abused may have a hard time developing healthy self-esteem, while even those with happy childhoods can suffer from self-esteem issues due to anxiety or depression.  Additionally, our society is not always conducive to healthy self-esteem, especially for women. People who struggle with body image and eating disorders are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem. When you perceive your body and appearance to be problematic or undesirable, those feelings can easily permeate your sense of self-worth.

Improving severely low self-esteem may require a mental health assessment as well as trauma-informed therapy techniques.  When battling addiction, it is important to seek treatment from experts capable of providing a dual diagnosis and to take a holistic approach to help you rebuild your confidence.  This might mean working through childhood trauma with cognitive behavioral therapy and treating mental illness with prescription medication. Everyone requires a different balance of treatment options to achieve wellness after years of substance abuse, but improving self-esteem through professional treatment is always necessary for a successful recovery.

Discover Who You Are

One of the most significant ways substance abuse and addiction contribute to low self-esteem is by preventing you from accessing the aspects of yourself that define who you are.  Substance abuse often gets in the way of maintaining meaningful relationships, discovering passions, learning new skills, and experiencing emotional growth. All of these deeply human experiences change the way you see yourself and others and let you know what you are capable of.  Without these experiences, it may start to feel as if you aren’t good at anything but drinking or using drugs, and life can feel dull and unsatisfying.

During recovery, exploring new interests and meeting new people while living a sober lifestyle can open your world in a way that enhances self-esteem and forces you to evolve.  People who forge positive connections, develop specialized skills, and regularly participate in creative activities are far more likely to feel good about themselves and what they can accomplish.  Regardless of how long you spent absorbed in active addiction, sobriety is always a fresh opportunity to seek out the characteristics and talents you didn’t know you had and put them to good use by bonding with other like-minded individuals who are doing the same.  Finding a creative or physically active outlet can help you process emotions during recovery, while also reminding you of how truly capable you are.  

Stop Beating Yourself Up

While poor self-esteem may have started as a result of an abusive childhood or a traumatic experience, it is often perpetuated by our own minds.  Many people struggle with constant negative self-talk. This may take the form of an internal dialogue that tells you aren’t good enough, smart enough, strong enough, or deserving enough to ask for what you want in life.  Low self-esteem will have you believe that you deserve every miserable moment that comes your way. The truth is that we are all flawed, and you will never learn to make better choices until you find a way to forgive yourself for bad ones.  

In addition to lowering your self-esteem, studies have found that excess guilt and shame can have a negative effect on addiction recovery.  It can sometimes feel like wallowing in guilt is a part of making amends for your wrongdoings while in active addiction, but beating yourself up in this way is counterproductive and increases your chance of relapse.  To find success in recovery, it is important to believe in your ability to overcome obstacles and persevere should you encounter setbacks. The first step in believing in yourself is to stop dwelling on all that you have done wrong and focus on what you are doing right by getting the help you need to overcome addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental illness, now is the time to seek help.  At Burning Tree Ranch, we specialize in long-term care that produces real results, especially for those who have experienced relapse.  Here you will find a team of qualified and compassionate professionals, ready to help each client through a customized treatment program that addresses all aspects of addiction, including the identification of co-occurring disorders.  We know that the journey towards recovery doesn’t end with the conclusion of an inpatient program, and therefore we provide extensive aftercare programs to best support our clients during their transition into lasting sobriety. We also know that addiction affects the whole family, and therefore loved ones are encouraged to participate in the recovery process and take advantage of all our support resources.  For more information, call us today at 512-285-5900