Photo by country_boy_shane
A useful idea here, and one that I think perfectly describes a lot of addict behavior, both in and out of recovery.
When I was using drugs and alcohol, it was fun at first. Then it became a routine, a habit, and then it became something that I had to do. I was self medicating myself in a perpetual cycle. But what was I medicating? Why was I compelled to continuously abuse drugs and alcohol in order to escape reality? What was I really running from?
Why self esteem is always part of recovery
I can look back now at my time in active addiction and see that I was running from myself. I was sick of myself, I did not like myself, and I wanted to escape from my own life. So I medicated. I used drugs and alcohol and preferred oblivion to reality.
Recovery is clearly the opposite of this mindset. When you get clean and sober, reality smacks you in the face, and there is no more escaping things or medicating your feelings away. You have to face everything head-on and confront reality without the fog of drugs or booze.
For anyone who suffered from low self esteem as an addict or alcoholic, the question then becomes: “How can I live with myself sober? How can I be OK with myself while existing in my own skin?”
The answer to such a question is not going to pop out at you during your first week of sobriety. It is going to take a bit of time to start living a solution that works for you. That is one reason that I am such a strong advocate of long term treatment–because it gave me the structure needed to keep me clean and sober while I discovered a new healthy self esteem for myself. I was not ready to conquer the world at one week sober. I was not loving myself and happy with my life at one week sober. These things took time to arrive at. More importantly, these things took a long series of action on my part.
I did not build up a healthy self esteem in my life by sitting around in recovery and thinking. I wish thoughts were more powerful but I don’t think they can cure poor self esteem. No, the secret to feeling good about yourself is to take action and start actively creating a new life for yourself. The amazing thing is that you can force yourself to do this and the self esteem will start to naturally follow. You can trick yourself into feeling better about yourself, simply by putting one foot in front of the other a few times and making something happen.
I experienced this boost of self esteem in a number of ways, on a number of different occasions. For example, here are some actions I took:
1) Checked into long term treatment.
2) Started working with other recovering addicts and alcoholics on a daily basis.
3) Started exercising on a regular basis and stuck with it.
4) Quit smoking.
5) Went back to college.
And so on. Those are all actions, not sit-on-the-couch-and-think-about-it kind of things.
Recovery is about re-discovering yourself. You can accelerate this process by trying different things and taking lots of action in your life. Some stuff will fizzle out on you….that’s OK. If you get busy and stay active and keep trying things then you will find and create a life for yourself that is worth living. This is how to discover yourself again in recovery and build a healthy self esteem that can keep you sober for the long haul.