From Addiction to Self Esteem

From Addiction to self esteemNathaniel Branden once described self esteem as the reputation you have with yourself. If you know someone who frequently lies to you, you usually think less of the person. If someone takes something from you by deceit, you don’t trust them. If someone’s always negative, you don’t like being around them. What if that “someone” is you? After a while you think less of yourself, you don’t trust yourself, you don’t even like your own company. When you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin, something’s terribly wrong. Moving from addiction to self esteem takes action, persistence, understanding and time.

A person living with addiction begins lying to defend against the consequences of constant drug use. People who become addicted sometimes steal, and this is not just common theft — executives in large companies might skim from their employer to cover the high cost of addiction. Addiction almost always negatively affects self esteem. The addicted person becomes undependable, and the idea of being a screw-up seeps in and is reinforced over and over.

I’ve heard clients in treatment say they don’t like themselves, don’t trust themselves and many don’t believe they can change. If a person’s trying to recover from addiction and doesn’t improve their self-esteem, they might grow restless and discontent in their own company because of bad memories and their poor self image. Recovery has a lot to do with forgiving ourselves for the past and making a plan to do differently in the future, changing things we messed up, if possible.

Once the recovering person begins taking action, changing the way they relate to others, making an effort to be honest, apologizing immediately for mistakes, repairing the past, but realizing no one is perfect, things begin to change – the person begins to realize they can achieve goals — they can follow through — they can become dependable and trustworthy. Self esteem improves recovery and makes a person want to continue in the journey from addiction to self esteem as confidence and self-respect grow.

Symptoms of addiction

signs and symptomsOne question I often get is how does a person know if they’re addicted, especially in the early stages of addiction. In the beginning, the symptoms of addiction are behavioral and psychological more than physical. When a person begins to drink or do drugs at inappropriate times, or when a person sets out to drink just a few drinks, or take just a little cocaine, then winds up drinking more or doing more drugs than they intended, it might be a sign of early addiction. Since it’s easier to write about one drug, we’ll use addiction to alcohol as the example.

Alcoholism has been called controlled and uncontrolled drinking. One would think that if a person can control their drinking they don’t have a problem, but this not necessarily true. Social drinkers don’t “control” their drinking in the real sense of control. The social drinker can take it or leave. Just like I don’t control drinking orange juice — sometimes I’ll drink orange juice and sometimes I won’t — orange juice is not something I obsess over and actively attempt to control. The alcoholic begins to lose control at times in the early stages, so they begin exerting great effort to control the amounts they drink. The early stage alcoholic can control their drinking at times, but then at other times they lose control and drink way more than they intended.

Another sign of early stage alcoholism is tolerance. Social drinkers don’t usually build up a tolerance, but alcoholics build up a tolerance to alcohol and can out-drink most people. The tolerance reduces in late stage alcoholism when the liver no longer functions properly, but, in the beginning, the early to middle stage alcoholic might brag that he/she can drink a lot of alcohol without getting drunk. This is not an accomplishment — it’s a sign of alcoholism and it can do great damage to the body.

In the later stages of addiction, there’s withdrawal when the person stops drinking, and these withdrawals become more severe as time goes on, including Delirium Tremens, what they call DTs, and seizures. At this late stage of alcoholism there’s little doubt, but early stage alcoholism is difficult to detect. If a person is showing signs and symptoms of drug addiction, they should speak with a professional counselor who specializes in addiction treatment. Untreated addiction is dangerous and leads to very bad, often fatal, consequences — it’s not something a person wants to ignore or deny. There should be no shame in seeking help — addiction happens to about 1 in 10 who drink or do other potentially addictive drugs. If you’re worried about your, or someone else’s, drinking or drug use, because you’ve noticed the symptoms of addiction, ask for help.

Addiction Recovery and Relationships

addiction and relationships

Relationships in recovery

At NewDay Counseling we counsel clients regarding relationship issues. Addiction recovery and relationships are intertwined in several ways. If the client is married, or if the client lives with parents, or if the client has any long term relationship with a significant other, truth is always a casualty. In addiction, relationships are damaged because trust is damaged. The person addicted lies, intentionally and unintentionally, to cover up bad behavior or because they can’t keep promises. The addict might be serious when she tells her spouse that her last cocaine binge is the last one, but then she starts having cravings and can’t resist the terrible urge to use cocaine, thus the spouse loses more trust, or all trust.

Communication breaks down during the insanity of addiction. Most communication is harsh and angry and only serves to deepen the divide and increase the confusion. So, in recovery, these relationship issues must be addressed to make recovery complete and solid. If the significant other is not involved in recovery, communication can suffer even when the recovering person is no longer drinking alcohol or using some other drug. Just because the drug is removed doesn’t mean the damage caused in active addiction is automatically healed. Relationships are complicated, as are our emotions, and we don’t turn off years of emotional trauma just because the drug is removed.

There are stages of addiction recovery and relationship issues — these stages can fill a book, so I’ll simply talk about the process in broad terms. Going to an Alanon meeting can help a spouse concentrate on their recovery from the trauma of addiction. Seeking marriage counseling is helpful, but this type of counseling is more effective once the addicted person is firmly in recovery. Recovery management entails dealing with all areas of life, and relationships are important to all of us. If an addicted person in early recovery doesn’t have a spouse or significant other, there’s the tendency to quickly find a romantic relationship as a way to generate excitement, but these relationships usually don’t work and end badly. The recovering person should take time to recover from addiction and gain some emotional stability before jumping into a relationship that can be emotionally tumultuous.

The key is to make sure that recovery is grounded and real before dealing intensely with relationships. There’s time to heal all wounds. The more that everyone involved understands addiction and the process of recovery the easier it will be to find the right timing to deal with relationship issues. This is from alcoholrehab.com:

When people leave rehab they usually feel proud and positive about the future. They have just put a lot of effort into getting their life back on track and are looking forward to the rewards of this. When they return home they may expected to be greeted like the conquering hero. The reality is that many complain that the response they received was not quite as effusive as they had been expecting. People at home may have congratulated the newly sober person warmly on their achievement, but there might also have been a sense of wariness. There may even have been individuals who did not seem happy to see returner at all.

Finding out that there may be a great deal of work needed to rebuild relationships can come as a disappointment to those new to recovery. They may even feel a great deal of resentment because of it. After all, they are now trying their best but family and friends do not seem to appreciate this. Such negative thinking may be used as an excuse to relapse and return to their former destructive behavior. They will usually try to blame their loved ones for this development.

It is vital that people who are new to recovery have realistic expectations about their relationships. Years of hurt and disappointment cannot be put right overnight. The newly sober person has to work to regain any lost trust. The best way they can do this is by staying sober and building a good life in recovery. They need to accept that they have caused pain and be willing to give these people the space and time to heal.

If a relationship is too damaged to repair, the recovering person has to be prepared to deal with the loss without relapsing. In treatment, counselors look at relationship issues realistically, never setting a person up with false expectations. If, though, all involved are willing to work on relationship issues, good things can happen.