There are clear links between the way we feel about ourselves, our overall emotional wellbeing, and substance use. To highlight this point, a study from the Binghamton University, State University at New York surveyed over 1,000 adults about five life stressors, self-esteem, and indications of opioid use. Researchers found that poor self-esteem was associated with high opioid use and was a significant factor between each life stressors (family, job, health, relationships). A researcher from the study explains, “Past research indicates that individuals who experience social rejection are at increased risk for low self-esteem and depression, with reduced serotonin and dopamine functioning in their brains.” Because drugs like opioids increase the dopamine and serotonin receptors (“feel good” chemicals) in the brain, people often use them to self-medicate in response to daily stressors. “Results from this new study suggest that one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to the particular life stressors that increase an individual’s risk for opioid abuse.”
Additionally, low self-esteem and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, often go hand in hand and have a cyclical effect on one another. A person living with bipolar disorder may develop low self-esteem as a result of the social stigma surrounding mental illness. They may use drugs or alcohol to relieve feelings of sadness and worthlessness. For those suffering from crippling anxiety, drugs and alcohol can temporarily boost feelings of importance, confidence, and help individuals avoid feelings of failure and low self-worth. When the substance wears off for these individuals, those emotions come back with a vengeance. This cycle of abuse eventually leads to addiction and poor self-esteem.
So how can individuals boost their self-esteem during addiction recovery? Healthcare professionals and counselors suggest taking steps such as:
One thing that many people agree on – you can’t go through recovery alone. The key to cultivating self-esteem and finding support is through spending time with family, friends, and recovery groups. Find people who make you feel good about yourself and stick with them. Avoid those who trigger feelings of self-doubt. “The process of recovery needs to be supported through relationships and social networks. This often involves family members who become the champions of their loved one’s recovery. The support of peers and friends is also crucial in engaging and supporting individuals in recovery. Support systems help people with mental and substance use disorders manage their conditions successfully (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).”
During rehab, your self-esteem may have been at an all-time low and maybe you even felt like no one would ever recognize you value again. Now it’s time to start accepting compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable. “One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments, even though that is when we most need them (Ted Ideas, 2015).” As you start accepting compliments, the desire to deny or rebuff them will fade, this shows your self-esteem is beginning to get stronger. When our self-esteem is higher, we become resilient and confident.
However, loving yourself takes time during addiction recovery and you need to be patient. Cultivating a healthy support system filled with family, supportive friends, recovery groups, and community will go a long way in helping to boost your self-esteem during this process. These groups will help you feel less alone, celebrate your goals and achievements, and encourage your sobriety. The Kimberly Center utilizes an evidence based program with a fundamental mission to restore the client to a happier, healthier, and more productive life, free from substance dependence and abuse. The goal is based on the belief that successful recovery encompasses improvements in self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, positive family interaction, vocational productivity, and the establishment and attainment of realistic life goals. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or substance use disorder there is help. Treatment at The Kimberly Center provides each client with an individualized treatment plan and offers several forms of support, such as intensive outpatient therapy, continuing care, sober living and long-term treatment. Take the first step towards sobriety and contact us today at 855-452-3683.