Rebuilding Our Self-Worth in Recovery

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, PLEASE call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

As we’re working to recover, we learn that the challenges we face in our recovery journey don’t just pertain to maintaining our sobriety. They are mental and emotional in nature, and they actually determine how well we will be able to stay sober. If we don’t have a strong emotional foundation in our recovery, we will continue to be susceptible to relapsing. Our vulnerability will jeopardize our chances of being able to stay on track with our recovery goals. A major part of the foundation we need for recovery is our sense of self-worth. When we don’t value or respect ourselves, we’re more likely to engage in self-destructive, toxic and self-harming behaviors. We’re not as concerned with our well-being. We put ourselves in harm’s way and aren’t careful with our health and safety. Insecurity is a major catalyst for our addictive behaviors, and we aren’t instantly cured of it when we’re in recovery. It’s something we must continue to work on and heal within ourselves if we want to create meaningful change in our lives and have a successful recovery.

Lack of self-worth fuels our addictions, and our addictions make us even more insecure, causing vicious recurring cycles where the two issues compound, drive and exacerbate each other. When we are insecure, we forget all the wonderful things about ourselves, the things we’re proud of, our positive attributes, all the things people love about us, and the things we love about ourselves. We forget all the reasons we have to appreciate and admire ourselves. We forget all of our successes and accomplishments and focus instead on all of our failures, mistakes and regrets. We only see what we’ve done wrong and totally ignore all the things we’ve done right. We’re our own worst critics, and we mentally and emotionally become our own worst enemy. Our self-deprecation can become physical as well, with many of us engaging in self-harming and even suicidal behaviors. We think so little of ourselves, we feel so down on ourselves, that hurting ourselves, and even ending our own lives, feels like it will provide us with the relief we’re so desperate for.

We develop habits that erode our self-esteem and our confidence. Every time we use our drug of choice, we feel ashamed of ourselves. We are filled with regret and remorse for hurting ourselves and our loved ones. We hate ourselves for disappointing the people who believe in us, who are rooting for us, and who want to be there for us. We feel like we’re always letting them down. We can’t seem to escape our feelings of worthlessness. We are so insecure that we believe all kinds of limiting beliefs about ourselves – that we don’t deserve to be happy, that we aren’t strong enough to recover, that we aren’t good enough.

Our insecurity makes us neglect our goals and our plans for the future. Our self-care gets sacrificed, and we don’t make sure we’re getting adequate rest, good nutrition, exercise or time alone, all the things that help us take care of our mental health. As a result, it’s so easy for our depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses to be exacerbated. We suffer worsened symptoms, including heightened suicidal thoughts and ideation, in part because we hate ourselves so much we think taking our lives is the only way to find any relief from our emotional pain. We’re filled with such deep sadness and shame from our fears of inadequacy and inferiority.

Our lack of self-worth drives us to choose, and stay in, toxic relationships that not only aren’t good for us, they compound our addictions and mental illnesses. We’re suffering in every facet of our lives, and we use our addictions to try to escape our pain, but we’re creating even more suffering for ourselves. We don’t know our worth, as made evident by our choice of partners, who disrespect, hurt and abuse us. Our lives are full of dishonesty, manipulation, control and abusiveness. The more we’re hurt in these relationships, the more our self-worth plummets. Our sense of self is eroded. We create a self-image based on shame and insecurity, rather than seeing ourselves for who we are, rather than embracing the truth of who we are.

How do we rebuild our sense of self and start feeling worthy? It takes conscious, mindful choices on our part. We have to shed the self-destructive habit of talking down about ourselves and thinking of ourselves in such demeaning ways. We have to remove the people from our lives who are contributing to our addictive patterns, the people who are making us feel even worse about ourselves than we already do. We have to eliminate the abuse and the self-abuse from our lives. We have to choose relationships that value and respect us. And we have to show ourselves the same respect, by how we treat ourselves. Self-worth and confidence don’t necessarily come automatically to us once we’ve gotten sober, especially when we’ve spent the majority of our lives hating ourselves. It involves conscious decision-making, every day. It takes prioritizing ourselves and putting ourselves first, after years of neglecting ourselves and thinking we don’t deserve our own attention and energy. The recovery process not only invites us to rebuild our self-worth, it demands it. We can’t heal if we don’t believe in ourselves. We can’t recover if we still hate ourselves.

Riverside Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center offering a full continuum of care for people suffering from addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand the emotional challenges of addiction recovery and are here to support you. Call us today for more information: (800) 871-5440.