So you have achieved sobriety! Perhaps you recently completed your stay at a drug or alcohol rehab, or maybe you did it on your own. Regardless of how you accomplished it, you have definitely done a lot of hard work to get where you are, and you should be feeling great, right? Unfortunately, however, many people in addiction recovery struggle with low self-esteem which keeps them feeling unhappy, unworthy, and unsatisfied — and also makes staying sober in the long run a challenge.
Addiction and Low Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is our perception of our worth as a person — including our feelings of confidence and satisfaction with our life. People with low self-esteem act and think in ways associated with not feeling like they are a good and worthy person.
Low self-esteem and drug addiction often go hand in hand. People with low self-esteem are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to temporarily feel better about themselves — which leads to a viscous cycle of using substances and experiencing lower and lower self-esteem.
Once in the thralls of addiction, levels of self-esteem plummet while feelings of shame and guilt sky-rocket. Taking part in behaviours such as lying or stealing makes it hard to like ourselves. After getting sober, the damage addiction has caused becomes clear and this can weigh on one’s already low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can make staying sober difficult, especially if deep down you do not believe you deserve success.
Self-esteem and Staying Sober
In order to stay sober you have to have some confidence in your ability to do so. If you struggle with low self-esteem, you probably also lack confidence in your ability to succeed.
Fortunately, self-esteem is not a permanent characteristic. That means we can build it up if it is low. If you currently struggle with low self-esteem and lack confidence, you are not alone, but staying sober may depend on your determination to increase your self-esteem.
If low self-esteem influenced you to use in the first place, then it can also trigger relapse, which is why it is important to consider ways to increase your feelings of self-worth and self-confidence in order to achieve long-term sobriety.
10 Tips for Building Confidence and Increasing Self-Esteem
1. Use positive affirmations
When it comes to positive affirmations, the key here is “fake it ’til you make it.” At first you may find that you do not believe your own words. But the more you say to yourself “I am a good person who deserves respect and happiness,” the more these words will ring true. Choose one or two positive affirmations, write them down, post them on your mirror, and read them out loud every day.
2. Surround yourself with supportive people
While self-esteem ultimately must come from within, we also need the support of others to succeed in staying sober. Reach out to people you look up to, and seek support from a mentor, sponsor, or therapist. Next time someone gives you a compliment accept it with a smile and a thank you. Consciously attune yourself to the good in other people and you will be more likely to see the good in yourself.
3. Stop comparing
Stop comparing yourself to others. You probably do this unconsciously, so take some time to pay attention to your thoughts — and recognise that you are unique and special in your own way. If you catch yourself comparing, mentally say STOP and cut off the thought.
4. Recognise and challenge negative thoughts
Easier said than done, but recognising and changing negative thought patterns is essential for staying sober. Mindfulness meditation is one way you can begin to notice what you tell yourself all day long. If you find yourself saying “I can’t…” a lot, start re-framing this statement to “I can try…” or “I know it’s difficult, but I am strong.”
5. Keep a journal
Journaling daily is another great way to get to know your thinking patterns and start to challenge negative thoughts. More specifically, keeping a gratitude journal daily will help you become more attuned to what is good in your life and help you become more optimistic—people who are optimistic tend to be more confident and also have higher self-esteem.
6. Get to know and accept yourself
A key to staying sober is continuously working on getting to know what makes you a unique and special person without drugs and alcohol, and accepting your strengths as well as imperfections.
7. Focus on success
It is all too easy to focus on failures. We can easily point out our failures each day. We get down on ourselves for little things like not waking up as early as we wanted, or letting the laundry pile up. Instead, focus on each small success. You made it to work on time when you’re chronically 5 minutes late? Success! Each day staying sober is a success, so be sure to acknowledge it!
8. Set small achievable goals
In order to become more confident in ourselves we have to occasionally achieve success. People with low self-esteem tend to have expectations that are unrealistic. If you never run and you make a new goal to run every day for 20 minutes, you are setting yourself up for failure. Focus on setting small achievable goals. If you never run, but want to start it is much more realistic to set a goal such as ‘Today I will run for 10 minutes and walk for 20.‘, or ‘This week, I will walk or run a total of 10km’. Setting and achieving small goals will help increase your confidence.
9. Practise loving kindness meditation
Loving kindness meditation can help free us from self-absorption and in turn fill us with feelings of acceptance. This meditation is simple and can be done by anyone. It consists of sending positive thoughts first to those we love, but also to those we do not know well, to our enemies, and lastly to all living beings.
10. Take responsibility
You and only you can create change in your life. Take responsibility for your own happiness and self-esteem. Make a conscious decision to work towards becoming a more confident and self-loving person. Staying sober takes dedication and ongoing commitment to yourself.
Remember: Change Takes Time
Remember that you will not regain self-esteem overnight, it will not just magically happen without any effort on your part. Working hard to increase you confidence and self-esteem will make staying sober that much easier, and contribute to your overall happiness and well-being.
(This article is the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”; they are its original authors)