Low self-worth can go hand-in-hand with addiction. Self-esteem issues may have contributed to substance abuse, and the guilt and shame of addiction can perpetuate it. Mending the emotional wounds of drug and alcohol abuse takes time. Learning to love yourself is part of that. It’s about getting to know yourself and the person that was buried by drugs and alcohol and learning to like and accept that person. When you’re constantly focused on your perceived flaws, past mistakes, and a laundry list of items for self-improvement that’s a difficult charge.
Learning to love yourself in addiction recovery and accept your authentic self is often easier said than done. So much of your identity was wrapped up in your addiction. Now that you have found freedom from drugs and alcohol, you’re left with facing all the different parts of yourself — even the ones you perceive as “flawed” or “bad.” Finding self-love is one of the most rewarding and life-changing things you can do; but it doesn’t come without challenges. There are small steps you can take to learn to love yourself in recovery. You can come to terms with who you once were and who you have come to be now.
Here are a few ways to begin to learn to love yourself:
#1 Forgive Yourself
Forgiveness is so important in recovery. People who’ve struggled with addiction often find it hard to forgive themselves for their behaviors around drugs and alcohol. You cannot change your past; you can only learn from it. Be kind and gentle with yourself. When you focus on the past, you rob yourself of who you’ve chosen to be today. Your past can only define you if you let it. Taking responsibility for your mistakes is one thing but continuing to beat yourself up over them will only impede your ability to move forward.
Accept yourself as is. Allow yourself to be flawed and full of imperfections, because the truth is, we all are. Celebrate victories of growth, and practice not beating yourself up over small mistakes. You are your own worst critic. To learn to love yourself and find peace, you need to accept that perfection is unattainable for anyone. Remember, even the people you admire make mistakes. Be kind to yourself and allow room to be human.
#2 Practice Gratitude
It’s easy to make a list of everything you want to change to be happy. Instead, make a list of everything you love about yourself and your life. Research shows that practicing gratitude can:
- Change your brain to make positive thoughts more automatic even when you’re stressed.
- Improve your health.
- Improve your mood.
Set a timer for five minutes. Write down as many things you are grateful for in that time as you can. Include the little things. Next, list the attributes about yourself that are positive and unique to you. Forcing yourself to list the best parts of you will help you realize you’re a better person than you gave yourself credit for.
Try setting aside time to express gratitude every single day. For example, list five things in a gratitude journal every evening that you’re grateful for. Everyone has a light inside themselves that can be clouded by negative self-image, especially if you’ve struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. It just takes a little practice to shine light on all the good in yourself and learn to love yourself.
#3 Set Boundaries
Boundaries are something many people struggle with. Maybe you think if you say no to someone, that makes you selfish. In reality, setting boundaries and saying no to things
or people that can put your recovery in jeopardy and harm you physically, emotionally, or spiritually are the greatest forms of self-love. You are choosing to put your happiness first. You are choosing to let others know that you value yourself and your happiness is just as important as theirs. You are choosing to not participate in things out of your comfort zone that could impact your sobriety. If you’ve been in any form of addiction treatment, you probably learned how critical boundaries can be in preventing relapse.
#4 Surround Yourself With Supportive People
Anyone that makes you feel bad about yourself does not deserve to be in your life. Having toxic people around can destroy your self-worth. Make sure the people in your life are positive and give you encouragement, especially when it comes to recovery. In doing so, you are telling yourself, “I am a great person and I deserve to feel love every day.” Work on your relationship with yourself as well. Make sure that voice in your head is one that’s supportive and loving.
#5 Celebrate Your Wins
Would you only celebrate your 30th birthday? What about your 26th, 27th, 28th, or 29th? Those are all important! It’s the same in recovery. Your second day is just as important as your second year. No victory is too small. Everything that you work for to make happen is a victory and should make you feel great about who you are and what you have accomplished. Celebrate yourself and all that you’ve worked so hard for every chance you get. Treat yourself, do things you enjoy, and share about your accomplishments with people who appreciate you.
#6 Give Back
The act of giving opens up a treasure chest of love and positive emotions that will help you learn to love yourself in a fresh and vibrant way. Volunteer with disadvantaged youth at a local community center or start small by performing small acts of kindness for people at home or work. The love in your heart for others will begin to multiply, leaving almost no room to dislike yourself.
#7 Make Self-Care a Priority
Self-care is an open doorway to our own self-love and acceptance in the human experience. When you learn to love yourself, you take care of yourself. Everything that we consume affects our emotions and energy levels. Exercise and movement can boost your mood and self-confidence. Focusing on yourself and ways you can stay physically and mentally healthy is key to self-love as well as relapse prevention. Make a commitment to eating foods that are natural and packed with nutrients. Incorporate exercise into your days. Get plenty of sleep, spend time with people you like, and participate in things you enjoy. Paying attention to yourself and what is good for you is important. The mind-body connection is real. When you feel good physically and mentally, you will feel a greater love for your entire being.
You Can Do This
It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard, but if you’ve struggled with addiction, you’ve likely encountered a lot of roadblocks in life that made it hard to practice self-love and accept yourself. You can learn to love yourself and live a happier life. It takes practice, persistence, and surrounding yourself with people who reflect your best characteristics back to you, but it is possible, and you deserve it.
Repeat these words out loud: I am fantastic! I am amazing! I am an incredible person and my life is full of opportunities and possibilities. I am worth it. I deserve to surround myself with those who love and appreciate me. And most of all, I deserve to love myself!