Recovering from an addiction is a long process that requires personal changes and sacrifices to help you get to a mental state where you can stay clean or sober. However, while a good rehab facility can give you the tools to fight cravings, manage triggers, and stay away from drugs or alcohol, their long-term success often depends on you.
Substance dependence affects our self-image in several ways, most of which are very bad. For example, in women, addictions typically replace the ego or the primary sense of self so that without it, you are left feeling alone or lost. In men, addictions often do the opposite, building the ego up to a point where it cannot sustain itself.
In most cases, there is also a certain sense of social stigma, guilt, and shame surrounding addiction. This can cause you to have a reduced opinion of yourself, picture yourself as weak, or can cause the people around you to dehumanize you and treat you with aggression or anger because of your past behavior.
Each of these can dramatically affect your own mental picture of yourself, deflating your ego, and increasing your self esteem. However, full recovery from an addiction means recovering your full mental health, building your self esteem to the point where you know that you can trust and rely on yourself not to use, and being happy. Building your self-esteem is crucial to all of this.
Overconfidence is often touted as one of the most common triggers of relapse, and it can trigger relapse, but it is less likely to than the feeling of helplessness associated with low self esteem. It is more important to believe in yourself and to work towards improving yourself, than to be afraid of overconfidence, because feeling like you can’t stop something will often cause you to do it anyway. However, it is always a good idea to manage overconfidence at the same time. The ideal is to recognize that you can manage triggers and stress, while at the same time realizing that there is a risk and you must work to avoid it.
7 Tips to Avoid Self Esteem After Rehab
There are many ways to improve your self esteem and these will often change based on your own personality. However, these tips will get you on the right track towards a healthy lifestyle that will make you feel better and feel better about yourself.
1. Exercise – Exercise can help you to improve your self esteem while reducing stress, boosting your mood, and helping you to stay healthy. While many of us hate to exercise, even 30 minutes of walking can greatly improve your trust in yourself and your body. Participating in any type of sport can help to boost your self confidence by building trust in yourself and moving your focus away from yourself and your body and towards what you can do. In one study, sports participation was shown to actively improve self esteem and happiness, leading to reduced negative emotions. However, you do not have to spend every day at the gym. An hour of yoga, swimming, or cycling will provide a quality workout, will boost your mood and your energy levels, and will help you to reduce stress and cravings, while boosting your self esteem.
2. Social Participation – Social participation or positive social interactions with others can greatly boost your self esteem over time, however it is important not to rely on compliments. Instead, work to be helpful, polite, and valued in each social situation you are in. Many recovering addicts find it helpful to participate in volunteer programs which allow you to interact positively with people on a regular basis, while providing value to that situation. In most cases, volunteering, helping others, and even being polite and helpful at a party will cause your brain to ‘reward’ you with dopamine, helping you to feel better and happier about yourself. You should also discuss your need for positive interactions with your friends and family, request non-judgemental interactions, and working out issues as quickly as possible so that you can get back to your life.
3. Work to Improve – No one is perfect, and you are likely your own biggest critic. However, you can work to improve yourself slowly over time so that you can be proud of who you are. Most of us are fully aware of our own ‘flaws’ and often more so than others. You can take steps to fix it and if you are just out of rehab, you already have. Try creating positive goals that will help you to get where you want to be in life, or spend time deciding who and where you want to be. Many of us are concerned about our careers, education, family, friends, or social life, while others may be concerned about weight, traveling, culture, or any of a number of other influences. Set a goal, create small steps that you can follow, and work your way towards that goal at a pace you can manage easily.
4. Work out Negatives – Many people with low self esteem criticize themselves internally. If you do this, it’s important to stop and think about it. Insulting yourself or tearing yourself down for a failure is often the worst way to approach that failure, and it will make you feel worse. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop yourself and actively think of things that you have done well in that situation.
5. Start Small and Work Your Way Up – Breaking large tasks down into smaller ones allows you to achieve them more readily without worrying about failure. For example, in diet situations, many people decide that they will eat well every day without fail, and then when they do fail, they decide that they’ve failed anyway and might as well quit. By breaking large goals down into small steps, like eat clean one day at a time, you can risk ‘failure’ at one small task without failing the entire goal. This concept was ideated in a study comparing goal orientation with task interest and task difficulty, and it showed that by creating small steps you can focus on and finish quickly, you can achieve small goals and remain motivated towards your bigger one. How does this help with self esteem? Achievement, and consistently achieving your goals gives you something to be proud of so that you can build your self esteem around the things you have accomplished. Set big goals, break them down into small steps, and work to achieve them. If you fail a few times along the way it doesn’t matter because you can always repeat it.
6. Make Good Choices – Making good choices works in a very similar way to achieving tasks and helping others. It allows you to feel good about yourself, to recognize that you are trying, and to improve your self esteem through trial and error. Good choices can be visiting your parents, helping friends move, not getting fast food on your way home, walking away from an argument, or going for a run every morning before work. Your goal should be to make the best decision for your life in every situation.
7. Learn to Handle Mistakes – Mistakes happen. Everyone messes up, does the wrong thing, says the wrong thing, or gets stressed. In your case, you may even relapse. If it does, pick yourself up, ask for help, and forgive yourself. If you need help, group therapy and Mindfulness Based Stress Management (MBSR) can help you to manage stress and failure by giving you someone to talk to and by giving you an outlet. If your rehabilitation did not include cognitive behavioral therapy, you can also seek it out.
Remember, self esteem wont happen overnight. You will have to work hard, you will feel helpless, and you will have times when you want to give up. Over time you will learn to trust yourself, will be proud of yourself, and will improve your self esteem. And, it’s important to remember that as someone who has gone through rehab, you are already working to improve yourself.
If you need help, it’s important to reach out and ask for it. There are numerous self-help groups in nearly every area where you can join to talk with people who share your experiences, your former addiction, and who will understand how you feel.
If you or your loved one is suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol addiction, it’s crucial that you seek professional help. Please call us at Lighthouse Treatment Center today. At any time we are happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced treatment advisors. Contact us today to discuss your situation in confidence.