One of the most common symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction is the person’s own sense of low self-esteem. In fact, the relationship between self-esteem and addiction can be especially destructive, as they easily feed off one another: feelings of worthlessness can drive one to attempt to mask that pain through drink or drugs, leading to a sense of guilt or shame that only deepens and reinforces low self-esteem.
Effective treatment means confronting the reality that many of those who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction are also struggling to conceal their own low self-esteem. At Northbound, our Clinical Team has identified three primary symptoms of low self-esteem that significantly affect addictive behaviors. They include:
- Feelings of incompetence: People with low self-esteem often feel incompetent in one or more areas in life. They may feel they’re “not good at anything,” and because of this they may align themselves with anyone who they perceive as being more capable.
- Feelings of immorality: People with low self-esteem sometimes feel unethical or immoral, unlovable, unappreciated and unwanted.
- Instability: People with low self-esteem often experience a lack of stability in their lives and feel that they have no control over their future or their environment.
The Deep Symptoms
For those suffering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, the lack of self-esteem may be accompanied by feelings of anger, loneliness and depression. The person in question may begin to have difficulty communicating, which can lead to social conflicts. The resulting disruption to friendships and family connections can further lower self-esteem, and a deeper reliance on drugs or alcohol as a means to escape their problems. Drugs or alcohol may help to mask those negative feelings, but when abused, the individual eventually develops a tolerance, then dependence, then an addiction.
Individuals with low self-esteem who also suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction often experience problems with relationships. Compounding those difficulties is the fact that many come from abusive or dysfunctional backgrounds. As a result, they may unconsciously decide they are not capable or worthy of creating nurturing and positive relationships. In addition, those with low self-esteem often suffer from self-destructive mood swings which can further damage personal and professional relationships, leaving the individual feeling more alone and more desperate than before.
We Lift Spirits
At Northbound Treatment Services, we understand the connection between self-esteem and substance addiction. This is why an essential part of our treatment includes giving our patients the tools and supportive environment needed to improve their self-esteem. Five methods our experienced therapists use to help clients strengthen their sense of self-esteem include:
- Writing Affirmations: Writing a simple, positive statement about oneself may seem like a hollow exercise at first. However, over time, reciting positive statements about oneself has a strong impact on self-esteem.
- Forgiving Oneself for Past Mistakes: People who struggle with addiction are often plagued by self-blame, which worsens self-esteem. Forgiving oneself for past mistakes has a healing effect and lessens the likelihood of relapse.
- Accept Compliments: It is important to hear and really absorb kind words from others. We encourage our clients to resist the urge to dismiss a compliment.
- Do Something Kind Every Day: Doing kind things for others is rewarding in itself and is more likely to be reciprocated. It does not have to be a grand gesture, but rather something as simple as holding a door open for another person. Spreading kindness in this way sends a positive message both internally and externally, reflecting a better direction for the client and a new way to see his or her place in the world.
- Start Making Changes: Self-determination is a key self-esteem builder. For people with addictions, change often happens in stages. Breaking change down into smaller, more manageable actions is the key to overall (and larger) success. With each small change, we encourage clients to celebrate their success in moving towards their goal.
At Northbound Treatment Services, we seek to bring each client to a healthier sense of self, treating not only the addiction, but also the disorders that foster it. Through our efforts to treat low self-esteem, we hope to help every client live a new, healthy and sober life.