Numerous studies have shown a correlation between low self-esteem, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
Self-esteem refers to the innate belief that one is bound to fail at something, so why try at all, while self-confidence is believing you lack the ability to accomplish something without giving it a try.
If you look at yourself in the mirror and your reaction is anything but positive, then you have self-esteem issues.
Normally, people turn to drugs or alcohol to boost their bravado, escape loneliness, or as a pick me up. As such, when one stops using, low self-confidence sets in and since drugs are no longer an option to boost morale, depression hits.
And when this depression hits, it hits hard, playing havoc on one’s recovery and may lead you to seek solace in your snort or drink of choice.
Since low self-esteem and relapses go hand in hand, when you don’t feel confident enough to stand up for yourself or deal with the multitude of challenges hurricane life throws at you, know that you are putting your sobriety/drug-free life at risk.
As in all things, if you want to free yourself from your addiction, you have to take a hard look at yourself and make the necessary changes to create you, one that you are proud of.
Does low self-confidence or self-worth drive a person to addiction or contribute to it?
This is a question that can best be answered, looking at the causes of low self-esteem.
Self- esteem begins at the early stages of childhood when your dad encourages you to get back on the bike even though you’ve fallen three times and grazed both hands. How your parents raise you determines your level of self-esteem. So, what happens when such central pillars of your life constantly tell you “…you are so stupid, why can’t you do anything right?” or “you’ll never amount to anything.” You’ll begin to believe it yourself, right? Their negative criticisms foster feelings of confusion, cynicism, and insecurity- the composite heap for nurturing substance abuse.
Just as your parents play a central role in how you value yourself, your circle of friends also has an impact. If they disrespect you, exclude you from group activities, gossip about you, or pressure you to do things you are uncomfortable with- It damages your self-worth. You feel like something is wrong with you, and at first you may try to please your friends, but eventually, you’ll realize that’s an arduous task. You won’t care anymore. Drowning your sorrows one gulp at a time will seem like the most logical next step.
Issues of body image have led countless people to adopt unhealthy behaviors, from vomiting and skipping meals to drugs and alcoholism- all to feel good about our looks. This is NOT surprising considering how the media has objectified women’s look, making it seem that their bodies exist for others to admire, touch, and use. Men aren’t immune to media beauty propaganda. Covers of popular magazines showcase tall oily men with broad chests and muscles like MMA fighters. This has become the SI unit of measuring masculinity. What happens when you fail to meet the prescribed standard of beauty? That tree of body image issues will bear the fruit of low self-esteem.
How does low self-esteem cause drug or alcohol abuse?
Drugs and alcohol alter the normal functioning of the brain such that if, pre-drug use, one suffered from low esteem, using drugs will only change your feelings momentarily. As you continue to use, your brain acquires a higher taste for dopamine, and the individual will need a higher dose of the happiness-inducing chemical to feel happy.
People who suffer from low self-worth see themselves as inferior to others or lacking in one aspect or another. Such individuals probably have body image issues and find their looks undesirable.
One may doubt the sincerity of their friendships or the love of their parents or significant others because they believe no one can love their perceived flaws. Consequently, you end up feeling stuck in a state of drudgery with little motivation to change your circumstances.
These feelings became a very powerful hook for you to seek out destructive behaviors as a means of escaping to a non-judgmental world. Using drugs or alcohol requires no special ability, and since one is looking for a means of escape, it provides an easy, straightforward solution. Why not go for it? You can take your low self-worth or lack of confidence and drink it away till you pass out or snort or shoot it into a stupor.
What started as a way to improve self-esteem or just to silence the nagging voice in your head, becomes an addiction.
The drugs and alcohol have made a person with low self-confidence or self-worth feel more useful, and sooner rather than later, such a person will develop a tolerance to the substances.
Inevitably, the individual will become dependent on these substances creating a rock and mortar foundation for their addiction.
Are you trapped in your addiction?
One’s addiction is inherently tied to how you feel about yourself. The trouble with having low self-confidence or self-worth is it keeps a person trapped in their addiction. It becomes hard to escape their feeling of low self-esteem and that in turn, makes the person feel they deserve nothing better than being addicted to drugs or alcohol.
For such people, it becomes hard to imagine a life without drugs or alcohol, and it becomes very difficult then to treat them because they will not be motivated into seeking help and a drug-free or alcohol-free life.
Addiction is a stealthy thief that robs one of their sense of self-worth, making it close to impossible to have healthy self-esteem while drinking or using. Some may get into drug use or alcoholism because of low self-esteem, but it is the continued use of drugs that destroys one’s sense of self-worth.
While under the influence of drugs or other substances, an individual feels more confident and self-assured. You are plunged into a world where your problems don’t exist, and there is no judgment. This gives you free rein to do as you please. However, this feeling fades away as soon as the effects of the drugs wear off.
The cycle of addiction starts in the effort to retain the drug-induced state of euphoria, and your self-esteem and self-confidence plummets even further. Once you decide to get clean, it is vital that a recovering addict deals with their self-esteem issues to ensure it does not trigger a relapse. Low self-esteem impairs one’s ability to appreciate the small things in life and is detrimental in the quest of finding happiness. If you do not feel good about who you are, you will be tempted to the numbness your addiction provided.
Living a life without drugs is fulfilling only if you have a healthy sense of self-worth and confidence along with a determination to doing the work.
Cannot come to terms with your addiction?
Even when a person with low self-esteem escapes their addiction or alcoholism, they will still struggle to come to terms with their low self-esteem. Therefore, to treat a person who has turned to alcohol or drugs because of their low self-esteem, it is necessary to make them feel they are worth more than they think they are.
The first step in increasing your self-esteem is coming up with affirmations- positive statements you say to yourself for encouragement. At first, this will strike you as mechanical and lacking ingenuity, but over time, reciting them will change how you feel about yourself.
When you write these affirmations down, it shows a desire to change your beliefs about yourself. You can start with; “I am beautiful.” Say this for a month and watch what happens. One of the hardest things to do is to forgive oneself. The level of difficulty intensifies tenfold when you have low self-worth. To improve one’s self-esteem, you must learn to forgive your past mistakes.
Drugs and alcohol have a way of messing your impulse control such that one says or does things they later regret. But the past is the past; blaming yourself won’t change anything but lower your self-confidence.
Don’t beat yourself up, mistakes happen, and what matters is what you do after. Constantly assigning blame to oneself is the surest way to relapse. It is important to admit to your mistakes, but once you do, make reparations and stop punishing yourself. Don’t let the past define your future. Commit to the recovery process and work on improving your self-esteem.
For most people, accepting compliments is usually hard. They tend to brush off the comments with a self-deprecating remark or ignore the remark altogether. Someone with low self-esteem being unable to simply accept compliments misses an opportunity to build their self-worth.
The next time someone says something good about your looks/talents/achievements resist the inbuilt response to dismiss the statement. Don’t think they didn’t mean it but imagine it’s true and graciously accept the compliment with a thank you.
One way to increase the compliments you receive is by being kind to others. Small gestures such as helping a stranger at the airport with their bags or holding the elevator door to let others in can elicit genuine gratitude. Consequently, if the other person fails to express their appreciation, your self-worth will be bolstered by the joy of helping others.
Do your best to surround yourself with positive energy. Make a list of things you like to do and take some time from work to do them by yourself or with someone who makes you feel good about yourself.
This helps to improve your mood along with your sense of self-worth. Your home should also be a reflection of your personality such that it makes you feel in control, unique, and comfortable.
Remember that your self-esteem will only improve if you commit to the process. Each day, work on loving yourself. Start making positive changes, and if a step in the recovery process seems overwhelming, take a step back and reevaluate. You can break down the change into small manageable changes to ease the transition to improving your self-confidence and self-esteem.
Treatment for Self-Esteem and Self-confidence Issues in Addicts
People who use drugs to mask their self-doubt and low self-worth are self-medicating, and the resulting addiction is simply an outward expression of their issues.
We are not predisposed to having low self-esteem or a lack of confidence; these are learned characteristics from the negative influences of one’s childhood. Furthermore, no one’s is great at everything, we all have different talents.
When you find you can’t do something as good as so and so, don’t let this diminish all the other things you are good. Let the inability be the force that drives you to find something you are good at. And when you do a good job, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Issues of low confidence or low self-worth should not be made secondary in the treatment of drug or alcohol addiction. The treatment should recognize the underlying damaging issues the recovering addict is battling. Otherwise, the chances of addict relapsing are significantly higher.
The initial assessment should consider if one has a low sense of self-worth along with a don’t care attitude. Dealing with self-worth and confidence issues is an invaluable step on the road to a richer healthier life.
The stigma associated with mental health issues can make many addicts reluctant to speak of it. If you or someone you love suffers from drug abuse or alcoholism. It is important to let them know that they are not alone.
Show them love and provide a safe environment for them to speak of their issues. Having a low sense of self-worth or low confidence levels is just one facet of an ever-evolving life in recovery.
Only looking at the addiction is a recipe for relapse, try reaching out to an addiction specialist as the first step to your new life.
If you need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.