Study after study on the nature of addiction has shown that there is a strong connection between low self esteem and addiction. This is just one of many character traits that are associated with developing alcoholism and addiction. Low self esteem is linked with high risk behaviors like drug use and heavy drinking because the less a person values themself, the more likely they will engage in these behaviors. This is one reason why it’s so important for a person in recovery to address issues with low self esteem in order to make more progress in their journey.
What exactly is self esteem? It can be described as a sense of self worth, or the value a person places upon themself. This means if someone highly values themself and strongly believes in their own confidence and ability, then they can be said to have high self esteem. Not believing in yourself, feeling little confidence, or doubting your own abilities all point to a low sense of self esteem.
So why is having self esteem so important? It’s because the amount of self esteem a person has is directly correlated to their lifelong patterns of thinking and behavior. This also means self esteem will have an impact on a person’s quality of life and general sense of well being.
For example, a person with low self esteem won’t have high expectations of themselves and what they can do in life and will tend to settle for a more mediocre life experience. Their low sense of self esteem will keep them from succeeding in life because deep down they don’t feel that they can handle or even deserve good things in life. Not only does their low motivation stand in the way of success, a person with low self esteem will also tend to self sabotage any chances they get at advancement, change, or improvement.
Self esteem levels have a direct relationship with addiction because a pessimistic attitude, lack of belief in oneself, and low hopes for a better future all contribute to a stronger tendency toward drug use. Often a person with low self esteem will turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with depression, anxiety, apathy, and other unpleasant emotions. Drinking or using drugs may make it easier to get through life at first. The problem with this approach however, is that a person is not really coping with their problems. They are simply masking their pain with drugs and alcohol.
This doesn’t mean that people with high self esteem are immune from developing an addiction. Many will experiment with drugs and find themselves pulled into addiction because of genetic or other factors.
Low self esteem does trap people in addiction. This is because they likely already didn’t believe that they deserved much in life. It is difficult for the person to imagine their life getting any better. They give up hope and continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. In order to make a change and begin recovery, a person with low self esteem has to find some kind of motivation to take that first step. Once they begin recovery however, it will be necessary to address issues with low self worth and take steps to build confidence. Some ways to begin doing that include:
-Setting small goals and taking steps to achieve them.
-Making sure to celebrate each success, no matter how small they may be.
-Working with a therapist on underlying issues that contribute to low self esteem.
-Helping others in need to build self worth and encourage humility.
-Changing negative self talk with techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and others.