Since addiction tends to rob you of your self-worth, building and maintaining some solid self-esteem is a valuable addition to your recovery journey.
“Self-esteem work, either post treatment or during early recovery, is vital to the progress of any newly sober individual,” says Rene Garcia, MS, LCDC, LMFT-A, LPC-Intern, program counselor for the Dallas Intensive Outpatient Program at Memorial Hermann Prevention & Recovery Center.
9 Ways to Develop Good Self-Esteem
For an optimal shot at life-long sobriety, Garcia recommends incorporating these 9 tips into your regular self-esteem practice:
- Develop a habit of recognition.
“Recognition of your daily experiences and the people around you helps to increase awareness,” Garcia explains. “You become more present, which is something drugs and alcohol steal from you.”
- Realize it’s your job to take care of you.
“Your happiness, your sadness, your inability to sleep and your ability to laugh uncontrollably are all in your hands now,” says Garcia. “You know more about you than your sponsor, your therapist, your psychiatrist and your co-workers will ever know. Taking care of you is finally standing up to the biggest bully you’ve ever met – you!”
- Remind yourself of the journey.
Garcia says it helps to remember how far you’ve progressed from your former destructive path. “Honestly ask yourself where you would be if you weren’t clean and sober.”
- Don’t dwell on your mistakes.
“It’s okay to remember; just don’t wallow in guilt. It’s easy to get stuck on what could have or should have happened,” he says. “A famous therapist once said ‘be careful to not should all over yourself.’”
- Pick up an ignored hobby or learn something new.
Get a gym membership, take a class, volunteer or get creative – just do something that both occupies your time and helps you feel good about yourself.
- Set appropriate, attainable goals.
While Garcia says he sees this suggestion a lot, it’s equally important to reinforce your goals. “A great guide is the SMART model – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound,” he says.
- Create baseline points and “brownie points.”
In a two-column list, Garcia suggests writing things that are baseline (essential) for your sobriety – things like meetings, step work and not using substances. Next, write a list that makes those baseline points fun and enjoyable. Call this your “brownie points” list. “You can stay in your room staring at the wall and not use drugs, but going on a sober bowling outing with your home group makes that down time way more enjoyable,” he explains.
- Set aside quality time.
Nothing fancy here. “I’m quoting 100,000 people who have said ‘it doesn’t matter what your higher power is, as long as you remember it’s not you,’” says Garcia.
- Love your recovered self.
“It is my opinion that people in long-term recovery truly love who they are,” Garcia says. “But they didn’t get there immediately. It took a long time of trial and error. But the one thing I believe they all do is practice good self-esteem.”