Self-esteem refers to an individual’s overall subjective feelings of personal value and self-worth. It can affect many areas of life, including substance use and recovery. It’s important to understand, however, that in many cases, there is not necessarily a direct connection between low self-esteem and addiction. There can be many other factors that play a role in drug abuse causes, such as family history, other mental or behavioral disorders, and more.
Low self-esteem has been linked to the onset of drug use. Research has also shown a connection between low self-esteem and behavioral addictions, including internet addiction, eating problems, and compulsive buying. While alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors can initially mask insecurities and even make people feel more confident, these feelings are short-lived.
Over time, grappling with the effect of low self-esteem and addiction can harm a person and make recovery more complex. Whether you’re contemplating doing something about your addiction or you’re already on the road to recovery, the tips here can help rebuild your self-esteem and improve your well-being and outlook in life. The addiction itself affects self-esteem because a substance use disorder is a uniquely dehumanizing condition by itself. The addict ends up doing things they would have considered unimaginable and that are contrary to their core values.
How Low Self-Esteem Can Lead To Substance Abuse & Relapse
Often, substance abuse is tied to a person’s mental state, and without mental health treatment, that person may turn to drugs and alcohol. While poor mental health can mean a variety of things, one common factor is frequently low self-esteem.
Addicts typically have lower self-esteem than the average person. When someone is insecure or lacks confidence, they may struggle with negative thoughts about themselves. To escape this constant negativity or drown their sorrows, some people will turn to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, this coping creates an unhealthy pattern that can lead to addiction and reinforce low self-esteem.
In recovery, addicts try to find healthier ways of coping with their low self-esteem, but old habits die hard. New coping strategies alone may not be enough, and low self-esteem could still lead to relapse. The best way to avoid deterioration from this problem is to focus on the root cause, address them, and improve self-esteem in addiction recovery.
Risk Factors Of Low Self-Esteem And Addiction
Often, people wonder what makes people want to make that choice to use and abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place? The answer to this can be complex, as addictive behaviors vary from person to person, but mainly because various factors increase the likelihood of developing an addiction.
The common reasons why people turn to the use of substances include but are not limited to:
- It’s a choice that results in consequences
- Family history of substance abuse (Genetics)
- Co-occurring mental illness
- Coping mechanism (Self-Medication)
- Environmental factors and peer pressure
Addiction is a chronic disease that severely affects the brain and body. While this is true, neurological functions are not the sole cause of substance use disorders (SUD). Many different components play a role in the grounds of addiction.
In other words, drug and alcohol addiction is not just the result of one factor in a user’s life. Instead, it is a combination of them that exposes people to this destructive path. There are three main areas of risk factors that contribute to dependency and addiction. They are as follows:
- Biological Predispositions: Drug and alcohol addiction is 50 percent attributed to genetics. In addition, research has shown that children who are the product of addicts are approximately eight times more likely to become one themselves. Not everyone who has a family history of substance abuse will be an addict, but the probability and susceptibility of becoming addicted are high. Males are more likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than women.
- Environmental Factors and Influences: The environment that you are in has a significant effect and influence on people’s behaviors. For example, being at home or school is very influential on the possible development of substance use disorders. As mentioned before, having a family history of drug use and alcoholism increases the chances of someone else having the same genetic predisposition for addiction. At work, peer pressure and fitting in is a huge risk factor for addiction and stress. Feelings of stress and anxiety in these environments are normal but often result in the gravitation towards substances, as people believe it will help them cope or forget what they are feeling at the time. Instead, however, it just exacerbates the situation, resulting in many health problems, physically, mentally, and socially.
- Drug Choice and Methods of Use: The likelihood of addiction depends on the drug or alcoholic beverage of choice. Especially with drugs, the potency of certain drugs leads to dependency and addiction. With one use of a drug, that is usually all it takes, which commonly leads to polysubstance abuse, meaning the use of one or more substances. The way medication is accepted is if it was snorted, injected, or in pill form. Drugs that are smoked or injected have a much faster euphoric or high effect on the body.
Tips For Building Self-Esteem After Addiction
While co-occurring disorder treatment could help you address some of these issues in rehab, improvements will not happen magically overnight. Therefore, it is essential to continue to focus on building your confidence after addiction and learning to love yourself in recovery after your program ends. Fortunately, you can take steps to move this process along and give yourself a better chance of long-term success in recovery.
Some Of The Best Ways Of Increasing Self-Esteem In Recovery Include:
- Forgiving your past mistakes
- Focusing on the positive
- Practicing self-care
- Continuing treatment
- Practicing positive affirmations
- Building a positive support system
Forgiving Past Mistakes
You will never boost your self-esteem in recovery if you don’t let go of the past. Many people do things they are not proud of when they are inactive addiction, but other than making amends, there is likely not a lot you can do about it now. So forgive yourself and look toward a bright future.
Focusing On The Positive
Although you may still have a long way to go before you get to where you want to be, it is essential to focus on the positives and the progress you already made. Getting sober is a huge step; acknowledge it. When you focus on your growth and the good in your life, instead of getting bogged down by negative thoughts, building self-esteem after addiction will come naturally.
It is hard to feel good about yourself when you aren’t taking care of yourself. Increasing self-esteem in recovery may be as simple as putting time aside for more self-care. Exercising, eating healthy, and following a good sleep routine can help you feel better physically and mentally, consequently boosting self-esteem in sobriety. Similarly, self-care could help you repair the damage left behind from addiction to your physical appearances, such as sores, track marks, or dental health problems. When you look good, you feel good.
Your care shouldn’t end when you leave an inpatient drug rehab. Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey, and to continue to see progress and growth, you likely need continued care. In addition, continuing therapy at home and becoming involved in the recovery community can help you continue to improve self-esteem after addiction.
Practicing Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations can go a long way in improving self-esteem and self-love in recovery. Whether you choose to say them aloud or write them down in a place you will see regularly, take time each day to practice positive affirmations. It may feel awkward at first, and you may not even fully believe them, but eventually, that will change.
Building A Positive Support System
Besides going through this journey on your own, another way to boost self-esteem in recovery is to find a positive support group. Now is the time to not only break away from people with who you used to drink or do drugs but also those who are unsupportive. Instead, focus on creating healthy relationships with people who build you up, not tear you down. When those around you support and speak positively of you, it is easier to love yourself.
A good support system can make you feel valuable. Also, knowing that other people believe in you can help you believe in yourself. Improving self-esteem and addiction recovery is just part of the battle.
At We Level Up, we help prepare patients for all of the ups and downs that they are likely to face long after their time with us is through. So, if you or a loved one is looking for treatment for a substance abuse disorder that will lead to lasting sobriety, Let us step in. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.
Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
- NCBI – The Role of Self-esteem in Tendency towards Drugs, Theft, and Prostitution