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Self- Esteem in Recovery is Important

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For people in recovery for Substance Use Disorder (SUD), it’s easy to allow periods of low self-esteem creep into your feelings. Maybe they are feeling a lack of stability in your job or in a relationship. Maybe they are feeling embarrassment or that they are being judged by their friends and loved ones. Maybe they are having feelings of guilt because of how they had hurt friends and loved ones while they were using.

This is not uncommon, especially in the early stages of recovery when emotions are high. That’s why staying focused on building one’s self worth and maintaining a healthy self-esteem is a powerful means of maintaining one’s recovery process. It can make a big difference.


Some signs of low self-esteem include:

  • Negative perspectives
  • Lack of confidence
  • Trouble accepting criticism
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Fear of failure

Some traits of high self-esteem include

  • Confidence (not arrogance)
  • Expressing needs and wants
  • Accepting imperfection
  • Not afraid of failure
  • The ability to say no
  • The ability to accept constructive criticism
  • Positive attitude
  • Productivity

Symetria Recovery Counselor Jeffrey Lange, MA, CADC, COPD1, CCTP, works with individuals who lack self-esteem. "The number one ingredient in being attractive to yourself as well as others is confidence," states Lange. Of course, there is no one-size-fits all approach, but here are some general things you can do to build and maintain a high self-esteem.


  • Think positively
    • Of course, it’s easier said than done, but there is power in having a positive attitude. Think laterally to turn a perceived negative situation into a positive one.
  • Stay active
    • If it’s okay with your doctor, get some regular exercise, take up a new hobby, volunteer. There are ways you can do to fill idle time with positive activities to ward off negative thoughts.
  • Forgive yourself
    • You must take responsibility for your actions, but don’t beat yourself up about it. The fact that you are in recovery and fighting to conquer SUD is something to feel good about.
  • Stay in contact with your support group
    • Maintaining the healthy relationships with people around you can help make it all easier. Call them, see them if you can… often. Don’t be afraid to talk about how you are feeling. That’s why they are there.

The good news is that Medication Assisted Treatment programs are available. They are designed to provide conditions conducive to maintaining a heathy positive perspective throughout your recovery.

Dale Willenbrink
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