What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is a sense of confidence, self-respect, and satisfaction with oneself. It is important to your recovery because it reflects your thoughts and feelings about your sense of self-worth. If you usually have positive thoughts about yourself, your self-esteem is likely high. But if you focus on negative thoughts about yourself, it is probably low.
How can self-esteem affect your recovery?
Accepting that you’re addicted to alcohol or other drugs can be hard on your self-esteem. Your idea of an alcoholic or other addict may be partially based on social prejudices, cultural beliefs, or movie and television characters, which often portray an inaccurate picture. You may see addicted people as losers or failures, or as people in the gutter of life—which is certainly not the way you want people to see you.
Don’t buy into these stereotypes and myths about addiction. People who’ve never encountered the true nature of addiction can’t conceive of what you’re going through. They’ve never experienced the inability to stop using substances.
You may have problems with self-esteem if you
- dwell on the things you do wrong
- have trouble seeing the good in yourself
- avoid problems rather than face them and do your best
- lack confidence in and respect for yourself
- feel embarrassed because you feel unworthy or that you don’t fit in
You may see your addiction as unfair and wonder, “How did I end up this way?” You may see addiction as a curse in which you had no say. It will help you let go of guilt and shame and develop greater self-esteem when you understand the biochemistry of addiction. Research has shown that addiction is not a matter of an individual’s strength, moral character, willpower, or weakness. Instead it can be attributed to the way an individual’s brain is “wired.”
As a person suffering from the disease of addiction, you can’t stop using, even when you are faced with losing everything: your job, your family, even your life.
This is because you can’t control the addicted way your mind and body react to alcohol or other drugs. This is powerlessness.
Step One will help you let go of guilt and shame and begin to build the positive self-esteem necessary for your spiritual development.
“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Success in working a Twelve Step program begins by forgiving yourself. If you choose to do that, you remove the underpinnings of shame and guilt. You aren’t telling yourself that what you did is okay. But you are allowing room for weakness and error. Self-forgiveness lifts the tremendous weight that was crushing your self-esteem and confidence.