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Strengthening Self-Esteem and Building Confidence in Sobriety

Published on December 15, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Being able to perform challenging and demanding tasks, as a first responder, requires confidence in oneself and one’s abilities. It can be dangerous going into a risky situation if you are not prepared and self-assured. Moreover, when people are in need, you need to be assured that the person assisting you is confident in their ability to help. However, for some, finding this inner self-esteem and confidence is not always easy to summon. As a first responder, if this does not come naturally, it can be taxing to constantly feel pressure and need to portray confidence outwardly to others. Because of this pressure, some may turn to substance abuse to give them a sense of confidence, even if it’s false and short-lived. Alcohol tends to give people a certain confidence they usually would not have, but this is because it lowers one’s inhibitions, rather than providing a true sense of confidence and self-esteem. 

Individuals who suffer from substance abuse and low self-esteem may struggle to find happiness and self-worth away from their addiction. When an individual such as this decides to get sober, it is imperative that they also strengthen their self-esteem and build their confidence in healthy and practical ways. This is to help ensure they will not feel the need to turn to substances again to find it. Developing respect for one’s self is vital in anyone’s life, but especially for someone in recovery. 

Experiences that may contribute to low self-esteem:

  • Emotional or physical abuse
  • Being ignored, ridiculed, teased
  • Facing harsh criticism 
  • Being expected to be perfect or to avoid failure

Experiences that may help develop high self-esteem:

  • Being spoken to and treated respectfully
  • Being listened to
  • Having achievements recognized and celebrated
  • Acknowledgment and acceptance of mistakes

Building Confidence and Staying Sober

  1. Practice using positive affirmations – At first, you may find that this feels forced and that you don’t believe your own words. But the more we tell ourselves something, the more we begin to believe it. Choosing one or two positive affirmations, writing them down, or reading them aloud every day can help build confidence. If we say to ourselves every day, “I deserve respect and happiness,” or “I am strong and capable,” we will begin to believe it.   
  2. Recognize and challenge your negative thoughts – Identifying negative thoughts and changing those thought patterns is essential for staying sober. See how your mind naturally gravitates towards specific thoughts and try looking at them from a different, more positive perspective. By changing “I can’t do this” to “I can try my best” or “this may be hard, but I am strong,” we can start to climb out of this negative rut we’ve dug ourselves into. 
  3. Keep a journal – Seeing our thoughts, worries, and wishes on paper can help us view our mind from a more distant—and somewhat more objective—perspective where we can recognize unhealthy patterns and work toward changing them. 
  4. Surround yourself with uplifting people – While confidence and self-esteem must come from within to succeed in staying sober, having supportive people around you is also important. Reach out to people you look up to and respect for support and guidance while also learning to let unhealthy, negative relationships go. Attuning yourself to the good and positive aspects of other people may help you come to see the good in yourself. 
  5. Focus on success instead of failures – It is easy to get tripped up over a failure, and while these are important to learn from, it is unhealthy to lament over them for a long time. If we focus on each small success, we can appreciate them more when they occur. After all, each day of staying sober is a success. 
  6. Take responsibility – Only you can be the one to implement change in your life. Take responsibility for cultivating your self-esteem and happiness, as these are things that come from within. Make an active decision each day to put in the work it takes to become a more confident, self-loving, and sober person until it becomes a natural habit.   

Like many things in recovery, it is important to find the right, healthy balance. This is just as true when it comes to self-esteem and confidence. Once an individual decides to get sober, addressing issues with self-esteem is essential. Having low self-esteem in recovery can affect one’s ability to find happiness. It may lead to attributing this dissatisfaction with sobriety and cause them to go back to using a substance again. 

Reaching sobriety does not mean the end of hard work and effort; often, it is just the start. Some individuals in recovery may also be suffering from low self-esteem and self-confidence. Finding ways to build this within yourself can help prepare you for future occurrences when these attributes are needed. First responders usually need to present themselves as being confident in themselves and their abilities. When this does not come naturally, a person may look to outside, unhealthy sources—such as alcohol or drugs—to fill this need. When this is the case, repeated use can lead to addiction. If you are a first responder struggling with self-esteem and addiction or are finding it difficult to build confidence in recovery, we at First Responders Wellness are here to help. We provide tools and resources for those ready to drop their defenses and do the work of recovery. Call us at (888) 743-0490.