7 Tips for Improving Your Self-image in Addiction Recovery

Addiction is hard on your self-image. Many people who develop substance use issues are intelligent, sensitive, and capable. However, after years of addiction, they may not even recognize the people they’ve become. Addiction can damage your health, relationships, career, and even your values. Once substance use becomes your overriding drive, you may engage in behaviors you would have previously considered unethical or beneath you. Perhaps worst of all, you feel like you have no control over your own behavior. As a result, many people enter treatment with a pretty low opinion of themselves. They may feel full of guilt, shame, and regret. People often decide to get treatment for addiction at the lowest point in their lives, so if you’re feeling bad about yourself, you’re not alone. However, with persistent effort, it’s possible to once again see yourself in a better light. Here are some tips for improving your self-image in addiction recovery.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Nothing will make you feel worse about yourself than comparing yourself to others. There’s always someone who seems to have it better- a classmate who didn’t get sidetracked by addiction, someone else in your treatment program who seems to be progressing much faster, an Instagram celebrity who always looks perfect, and so on. However, comparison is always a trap. First, everyone starts in a different place, has different advantages, and faces different setbacks. Someone who seems to be doing better than you may not have had as many challenges to overcome.

Second, you never really know what someone else is going through. You only know what they show you. Someone can appear to have her life together but feel like she’s falling apart. This is especially true of the carefully curated lives people show you on social media. In fact, one study found that comparing your life to people on social media makes you feel worse, even if you feel superior to others. The mere act of comparison seems to make you feel worse about yourself. Let go of comparisons, and instead focus on making each day a little better than the one before.

Realize that you have inherent value.

It’s easy to get the mistaken impression that your value as a human being depends on external things. In other words, many people feel like they have to earn their value. How we feel obligated to earn that value varies for each of us. Some feel they have to get a high-paying job or an impressive title, some feel like they have to be extremely intelligent or talented, and others feel like they have to take care of everyone. We also feel our mistakes detract from our value, like the more mistakes we make, the lesser people we are. However, all this kind of thinking is grossly distorted. You have inherent value as a person, as does everyone. No one does anything perfectly and mistakes are inevitable. Your value does not depend on your performance in some areas of life.

Connect with loved ones.

To better understand your own inherent value, spend more time with people who love you and accept you with all your flaws. More importantly, accept that these people care about you and don’t expect you to be perfect. When you are tempted to criticize yourself, ask whether you would say the same thing to your best friend. Try showing the same compassion to yourself that you would show to the people you care about. The more you spend time with people who love and support you, the easier this becomes.

Set achievable goals.

Setting achievable goals is an important part of recovery and it can also boost your self-esteem. It is especially good for increasing your feelings of self-efficacy. Every time you set a clear goal and achieve it, you have a little more confidence that you can influence the direction of your life. These don’t have to be big goals. In fact, it’s a good idea to start out small. For example, you might set a goal to exercise for 20 minutes every day for the next week, no matter what. Or you might set a goal to apply for one job every day until you get hired. These may seem small, but they establish your ability to follow through on something important to you. You can make the goals more challenging as you gain confidence.

Volunteer.

Volunteering is a great way to improve your self-image. Many people in recovery are burdened by the feeling that they have been taking from the people who care about them. It’s not always possible to give back what you took during active addiction, but you can give of your time and expertise. Volunteering has been shown to make people feel happier, more grateful, and more socially connected. It can also change your image of yourself from a taker to a giver.

Use your strengths.

None of us have the exact same strengths. Some are good athletes, some are good artists, some are good with people, and some are caretakers. However, the demands of our daily lives, and especially of our jobs, may or may not have anything to do with our strengths. As a result, you may not feel like you’re particularly engaged or competent most of the time. You can correct for this by making it a point to use your strengths as much as possible, even if only for fun. The more you use your strengths, the more capable you feel, the more engaged you are, and the more fulfilled you feel in general.

Improve your weaknesses.

Just as we all have unique strengths, we all have weaknesses. Most people won’t be able to turn their weaknesses into strengths, but they can make their weaknesses less of a liability. For most things, good enough is good enough. With consistent effort, you can improve your weaknesses consistently so they don’t prevent you from doing what you want in life.

 

Burning Tree Lodge is a 90-day addiction treatment program that specializes in helping clients who have tried multiple times to recovery from substance use disorders. We offer an individualized treatment approach and a continuum of care to help clients successfully transition from residential treatment to leading healthy, substance-free lives. Contact us today for more information.

How to Build The Best Therapeutic Relationship With Your Therapist

The progress we make in therapy depends largely on the dynamic we have with our therapist – and as a patient, we are empowered to lead the way regarding how the professional relationship will work. If you’ve never been in therapy before – or even if you have – you will find that each therapist is different. The journey to recovery is full of ups and downs, and you want to make sure that you get the most out of therapy so that you can heal in the areas you desire most – but it will take time, and you need to make sure that you’re doing what you can to move therapy forward in the best ways possible.

The Stigma Behind Therapy

In 2018, writer Sarah Kathleen Peck shared her personal story with attending therapy to The Mission on Medium. She stated,

“The stigma usually comes around ‘having something wrong with you’ or the pride of not wanting to get help, or being seen as weak around your friends or family. Oftentimes this stigma is more pronounced for men, who have been harmed by…what ‘masculinity’ should look like.”

A 2017 study conducted by researchers in Brazil assessed the results of 272 students who completed a survey on their views of therapy; they found that many students held stigma behind therapy because of the following:

  •   Symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety made it hard for them to seek help
  •   Feelings of shame, inadequacy and inhibition
  •   Perceptions on what benefits therapy can bring
  •   Self stigma as well as stigma by others

There is so much fear behind therapy, because our culture has established therapy as being only for people who are “crazy” or something similar; the reality is that therapy can not only help us work through very real events of our lives that have impacted us in significant ways, but it can also be preventative in helping us develop a stronger mental health base for managing issues in the future as well.

Making the Most of Therapy

  1.     Establish your expectations. If you decide to pursue therapy, you want to make sure that you know a bit of what you’d like to work on. What are your goals for therapy? Are you hoping to learn how to effectively grieve and heal from traumatic events in your life? Are you wanting to have a person who can support you in learning how to create boundaries in healthy relationships? Identifying some of the struggles you experience can help you ensure that you get what you need out of therapy.
  2.     Be open about what you’re thinking/how you’re feeling. A study published in the journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry collected personal stories from those in addiction recovery, and while each person’s story is different, there tend to be commonalities in some of the struggles that everyone goes through. Pain, depression, grief, anxiety, stress, anger – these are all very real, intense emotions that everyone experiences, and therapy can help us process some of these emotions if we open up to our therapist and become honest about our thoughts and experiences.
  3. Find what works for you. There are many approaches that can be used in therapy – a publication titled, “A Meaning-Based Intervention for Addiction” explained that narrative therapy, mindfulness approaches, motivational therapy and more can be used to help a person work through certain issues in their lives, but ultimately it’s up to the client to determine what’s working for them and what isn’t. If you don’t feel that a certain approach is working, you need to let your therapist know – that way they can work with you to find something else.
  4. Remember that your therapist is human, too. As with any relationship, it’s going to take some time for you to get to know who you’re working with – and even then, your therapist may not “get it right” all the time. They only know what you tell them – so you have to remember that they’re trying the best they can, and that you need to provide whatever information you feel is necessary for them to understand what you’re going through.

Don’t Give Up

Therapy can be gut-wrenching at times. With many intense feelings and difficult memories to work through, you may encounter moments when you want to quit. Don’t give up – because even if it doesn’t feel like it, you’re one step closer towards healing in recovery. Majid Kazmi, author of the book, The First Dancer: How to Be the First Among Equals and Attract Unlimited Opportunities, once stated,

“It may sound paradoxical, but strength comes from vulnerability. You have to ask the question to get the answer, even though asking the question means you didn’t know.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to seek help.

 

Burning Tree Lodge is a 90-day addiction treatment program that specializes in helping clients who have tried multiple times to recovery from substance use disorders. We offer an individualized treatment approach and a continuum of care to help clients successfully transition from residential treatment to leading healthy, substance-free lives. Contact us today for more information.

tips for supporting a family member or loved one in recovery

Recovery is an individual journey, but not one a person must trek alone. The support of family members and loved ones can make all the difference in a recovering individual’s motivation to remain sober. If you have a loved one who recently joined a treatment or rehabilitation program, there are things you can do to facilitate long-term recovery. While you must let your loved one forge his or her own path, you can offer support from the sidelines with a few proven tips. Try these seven techniques to support your loved one during addiction recovery.

Voice Your Support

Don’t assume your loved one knows he or she has your support. Recovery is a difficult journey that involves a lot of self-reflection, analysis of past mistakes, and asking forgiveness from people the addiction hurt. Your loved one might not know that you’re willing or able to help or may be too embarrassed or afraid to ask. Make your views known by voicing your support and desire to help during recovery. Make the first move. Say: “I’m here to help in any way I can,” and see what comes next.

Assist With Independence

Learn the difference between support and enablement. Enabling refers to a loved one encouraging a drug or alcohol dependency, usually unintentionally, through acts such as giving the recovering individual money, food, or shelter. Show your loved one you care about his or her recovery but encourage independence. For example, help your loved one get a job instead of just giving him or her money. Visit a support group for friends and family members of addicts for tips on how to avoid enabling.

Plan for the Future

Give your loved one something to look forward to by helping him or her create a plan. This plan can include finding a job, getting housing, taking up hobbies, and building or repairing relationships. Your loved one’s treatment or rehab center should have given him or her ideas and tips for an aftercare plan. If they didn’t, however, create the plan yourself with help from a counselor.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Encourage the sober individual’s physical and mental well-being if possible. Cook healthy meals, encourage exercise, stress the importance of good sleep, schedule doctor appointments, and help with social interactions as much as possible (without becoming codependent or telling the individual what to do). The line between guiding and ordering can be a difficult one to walk but do your best to support without commandeering the person’s recovery journey. All choices must be the individual’s own, but you can promote healthy choices with gentle pushes in the right direction.

Attend Al-Anon Meetings

Meetings with professionals aren’t just for the person struggling with addiction. Al-Anon is an organization that hosts meetings around the world for people just like you – friends and family members of people with addictions. Becoming a member can give you the support and tools you need to better facilitate long-term recovery for your loved one. Al-Anon meetings can help you feel less alone with your own personal struggles and feelings. It can also lend proven tips for helping someone close to you achieve long-term remission.

Get Help

If you believe your loved one is on the verge of relapse, get help. Urge your loved one to return to treatment or at least speak to a counselor. If this isn’t your loved one’s first relapse, consider a program that specializes in helping chronic relapsers, such as Burning Tree Lodge. Our 90-day treatment program helps people with multiple relapses obtain permanent remission. Contact us today for a confidential discussion.

Sources:
https://www.hazeldenbettyford.org/articles/healthy-ways-to-support
https://luxury.rehabs.com/family-member-support-guide/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-recovery-coach/201706/dozen-ways-you-can-support-someone-in-recovery