Experiencing low self esteem and general feelings of diminished self worth and sadness is quite common for many people who have just begun recovery. There's no avoiding the fact that it's going to take some time before you start feeling normal again.
If drugs or alcohol have been abused for years or even decades, the only way to undo all the damage they've done to a mind or body is with patience, persistence, and hard work. The good news in all of this is that it is possible to heal. Recovery brings another chance at living a more healthy, balanced life to anyone willing to commit themselves to doing the work.
If you're new to recovery, have just completed a rehab treatment program, or are just hitting a rough spot in your journey, the following tips can help you deal with low feelings of self esteem and doubts about your progress. Don't be ashamed about having these feelings, because everyone experiences at one time or another in recovery.
1. Give yourself a break.
All too often we are too hard on ourselves about making big changes in our lives. Take a step back and look at some of the thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors that may be a result of putting too much pressure on yourself to make changes too fast.
Take the time to acknowledge your accomplishments, identify your strengths, and feel good about the things that are good about you. Just admitting you have a drinking or drug problem and getting help is an accomplishment in itself. So acknowledge that and move forward at the pace that's right for you.
2. Remind yourself that it's normal.
Feeling sad, lonely, and doubtful about yourself is normal and very common for someone in your position. So don't put yourself down for experiencing these feelings. They are a sign that you're making progress. It's also a good idea to stay connected with others in recovery to hear their stories and share experiences with having these same kind of feelings.
3. Build self esteem from within.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that true self esteem comes from within ourselves. This means taking the time to acknowledge our own strengths, accomplishments, and good qualities instead of looking to others to acknowledge them. Of course when a compliment comes your way, it can feel very nice. Be grateful and humble when others take notice.
4. Take small steps.
Another common approach people take in early recovery that can damage self esteem is trying to take on too much at once. Try to avoid an all or nothing approach to recovery, and take mistakes and setbacks in good stride. Recovery is a long journey that will inevitably present challenges, so keep that in mind while being realistic about goals and kind to yourself about your progress.
5. Get real about negative thinking.
It's all too easy to get caught up in destructive patterns of self criticism or negative thinking in recovery. These kinds of thoughts are unproductive, damaging to our self esteem, and can stand in the way of making true progress. Learn how to identify these thoughts or patterns of negativity when they arise, and then take a step back. See them as what they are: passing thoughts and not the reality of your situation.
6. Forgive yourself.
When we've done things that have hurt others or caused shame, it's easy to dwell on those mistakes to the point where they drive us crazy and get in the way of healing. Forgiving yourself is something that should be done early on in recovery, so that we can acknowledge what happened, make amends, and then move forward. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that doesn't make us bad or unworthy of having a second chance.