Recovery and Self Esteem

Recovery and Self Esteem


One of the biggest ideas in the creative theory is that by following the 3 strategies, an addict’s self esteem will start to rise.

Why is this important?

Self esteem is critical for maintaining long term sobriety. It is a strong defense against the threat of relapse. The reason is simple: the more you value yourself, the less likely you are to jeopardize yourself.

Addicts and alcoholics have a tendency towards self-sabotage. We seem to be hard wired for self destruction. Getting over this tendency requires deliberate effort in recovery. That’s where the 3 creative strategies come in. Each one of them boosts your self esteem in some way.

Caring for self

Caring for your self is a product of self esteem, not necessarily the cause. However, it can still be used as a tool to generate healthy self esteem in recovery. How so?

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By faking it. By having faith in the process of recovery and taking some action and just starting to take better care of yourself. By doing so you will start a positive feedback loop in which your self esteem will eventually rise.

How do we care for ourselves? In every way possible. Abstinence from chemicals is the baseline and we stop putting drugs and alcohol into our bodies. But we can start making better decisions in other areas of our lives – for example, by seeking emotional balance, or by abandoning an unhealthy relationship. As we continue to stay sober, we can seek health in other areas as well, such as through diet and nutrition.

Our long term approach to caring for ourselves is holistic. At first we just want to get off the drugs. In the long run we consider other options towards better health. All part of the growth process. And this process continuously feeds a rise in our self esteem.

Personal growth

Want to feel better about yourself? Accomplish something.

That is the basic idea behind the push for personal growth. There is probably a place out there for affirmations and the power that they have in recovery, but this approach is more objective and it’s on the other end of the spectrum. The idea here is about tangible results. Set a goal for yourself and achieve it.

How do we pursue personal growth? Holistically, of course. That means we look at any and all areas of our life. Education, fitness, spirituality, relationships, and so on. Do not fall into the trap of only pursuing growth in one area of your life.

For example, most would do well to start exercising in early recovery, if they are not already in the habit of doing so. The benefits of it can be huge – something that most initially overlook.

The idea is to push yourself to grow. When we push ourselves, this generates real self esteem, because we are setting a goal that challenges us in some way. If we set easy goals that we would have accomplished anyway (such as “go to a meeting today”) then this does not really boost our self esteem. We have to push ourselves in order to build something real.

Affirmations are powerful tools for some people but their ability to produce real self esteem is up for debate. When you push yourself to grow and eventually meet a goal, you increase the value of your “self,” and thus real self esteem has been created.

Networking with others

When we build healthy relationships in recovery, we increase the value of our “self” because we feel good about the positive connections in our life.

In recovery, we help each other to stay clean and sober, especially in the beginning. That’s why networking is so important in early recovery. Others help us to stay clean and we benefit from that. In turn, we help others to stay clean and this benefits us as well because it reinforces our recovery.

Later on, as we progress in recovery, we find ways to reach out and help others – many times these “others” will be in recovery as well. This is a direct boost to our self esteem, because we inherently know the value of helping others to recover. In other words, we know it is helpful because someone once helped us.

So keep the 3 strategies in mind and understand that they all work together to boost self esteem. In all 3 cases, it is not so important that you understand them but only that you start doing them. This is because each strategy creates a positive feedback loop which gives rise to greater self esteem. In other words, when we feel better about ourselves, we tend to take better care of ourselves. When we feel good about meeting a goal, we tend to raise the bar for ourselves and pursue an even greater vision. Success breeds success.


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