Whether you’re recently out of rehab or have been clean or sober for some time, you will likely spend a considerable amount of time struggling with your self-esteem. Substance use and abuse is often detrimental to your sense of identity and self, while social pressure and stigma can make you feel bad or like a failure for having been addicted.
While the process of going into recovery should include cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling to help you recover your self-esteem, you may need additional help. These tips to help improve your self-esteem after rehab will put you on the right track. However, the most important thing to remember is that if you are in recovery, you are actively working to improve yourself, you have a reason to not only be proud of yourself but also to respect the decisions you are making to make your life better.
How Substance use Affects Self Esteem
Substance abuse affects men and women differently. You will also likely have a different experience depending on how you became addicted, the circumstances of your addiction, the reactions of your friends and family, and even your own choices while under the influence of substance dependence.
For example, women with families often allow addiction to replace the sense of self, depleting the ego to the point where they no longer respect or stand up for themselves. Men often allow substance abuse to inflate the ego, which then becomes deflated and problematic by recovery.
You may also be affected by the strong sense of social stigma surrounding substance abuse. Feeling shame about substance abuse, especially that forced on you by friends and family, will make you feel dehumanized, weak, and will often greatly decrease your own opinion of yourself. In some cases, others in your life may also treat you in this way. If this is the case, it’s important to work to cut them out of your life, simply because it is harmful and hurtful to your own mental health.
While some people attempt to encourage having problems with self-esteem because they are afraid that overconfidence will result in a relapse (it can), a healthy amount of self-esteem is crucial to long-term success. For example, low self-esteem can make you feel helpless, which may drive you to a relapse. Why? If you don’t believe that you are capable of fixing, improving, or handling anything, you don’t believe you’re capable of staying clean or sober, and therefore you won’t.
While it’s well understood that substance abuse can and does negatively affect the ego and self-esteem, you can work to get it back. You can also it as a way to boost your recovery and improve your long-term recovery
1. Continue to Seek Out Help from Others
While it can be tempting to go out on your own after rehab, only you know how ready you are. In addition, continuing to seek out help and connecting with others will give you both social motivation and accountability. For example, going to 12-step groups like AA or an alternative like SMART Recovery will help you to stay accountable by giving you someone to share with.
Taking steps to consistently get help and make sure you’re on the right track, whether from a counselor, a halfway house, or weekly + meetings with a recovery group will consistently remind you you’re making the right choices, will help you keep track of your progress, and will help you to build your self-esteem over time by keeping you on track of how much you’re doing to improve.
2. Take Care of Your Health
Taking care of your mental and physical health will do two things that boost your self-esteem. First, it will improve your mental and physical health and therefore your general energy and happiness. Second, it will stabilize and boost natural serotonin and dopamine production in the brain, which can be badly damaged by long-term substance abuse of any kind.
Working out and eating well also require a great deal of dedication and discipline, which will allow you to build habits that help you to be proud of yourself. In fact, exercise actively works to boost your self-esteem and happiness, reducing depression and anxiety and even reducing suicidal ideation. This is especially true when sports and exercise initiatives include social interaction and teamwork, which can greatly help you to build self-esteem and happiness when done in a healthy environment. Similarly, eating well and making good food choices will boost your overall happiness and fight depression, tying into low self-esteem, while reinforcing the idea that you are doing the right thing and working to improve your own health.
Volunteering and working to help other people is one of the easiest ways to give yourself a mental boost. Multiple studies have linked the act of volunteering and consciously working to help others to positive self-esteem, increases in happiness, and even increases in overall well-being. While your own mental and physical health come first, and you obviously shouldn’t spend time volunteering if you still have to put a lot of work into your own health, you may find that even giving back in small ways is greatly beneficial to how you feel about yourself.
What counts? Nearly any instance of volunteering, even in animal shelters, will help a lot. However, you should beware of volunteering in a capacity to help current addicts into recovery, largely because you are likely still in a vulnerable stage yourself. If you do want to volunteer in a counseling or helping role, consider talking to your own counselor and with your AA or self-help group before doing so.
4. Learn to Cope with Stress and Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, accidents happen, and everyone has ‘flaws’. Coping with them is part of living, it doesn’t necessarily say you’re worse at things or flawed yourself. Unfortunately, long-term substance abuse can greatly decrease the self-esteem so that many people feel that even normal problems are something to be ashamed of.
Learning to cope with stress and with mistakes is one important way to boost your self-esteem so that you can start to heal. This generally starts in cognitive behavioral therapy at rehab, but you can follow up with tools like learning mindfulness and meditation. For example, research suggests that mindfulness works to decrease self-esteem issues by helping you to avoid comparison with others, helping you to accept things as they are, and working proactively rather than worrying.
It will also help you to stop focusing on the negatives, because practicing it requires that you focus on the here and now rather than on problems or concerns.
5. Consistently Work to Achieve Your Goals
You can’t always be perfect, but you can ensure that you always try. If you’re in recovery and have gone to rehab, you are already in that state. You formed a goal to get clean or sober and followed through on it, no matter what the external or internal motivation for that decision was.
Consistently working to create and follow through on goals will help you to improve your self-esteem by allowing you to succeed, to achieve, and to grow your skills and knowledge. However, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm yourself. You can’t do everything at once and you can’t try. Instead, set reasonable and achievable goals where you can do something small every day to add towards your goal. For example, saving 20% of your income every day to pay off a debt, going for a run every day, spending an hour a day learning a new hobby or studying, etc.
While the goal is up to you, it’s the process of dedicating yourself to achieving it and consistently working to get there that will help you. Over time, you will achieve a lot, and you will change and be prouder of yourself as you go.
Self-esteem is often heavily related to our mental pictures of ourselves. Going to rehab and working on your sobriety is the first step to improving yours but taking steps to do things that make you feel as though you are positively impacting yourself and your environment will help as well. If you need further help, your rehabilitation facility will likely offer additional behavioral therapy and counseling to help you on your way.
If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.