Finding Self-Worth: 5 Strategies for Those in Recovery

February 22, 2024

5 mins

Jackie Rosu


Individuals suffering from addiction typically have a significantly lower sense of self-worth and self-esteem than the average population.

The vast majority of individuals suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) also harbor overwhelmingly negative thoughts and feelings about themselves. This compounds and increases the likelihood of relapse while decreasing their odds of sustained sobriety. Recent research published by Johns Hopkins University Press suggests that changing this internal way of thinking, referred to in their research as the “self-narrative,” can be one of the leading predictors of successful long-term recovery.

As such, it has never been more important to focus on building self-worth as a core aspect of recovery and one’s journey toward finding a sense of emotional healing in addiction. This can be started on your own from anywhere in the world, allowing you to begin your road to recovery today.

Today’s article will explore 5 immediately implementable strategies designed to help those suffering from substance use disorder increase their internal sense of self-worth while navigating through the often difficult recovery process.

 How Does Addiction Affect Someone’s Self-Worth?

Individuals suffering from addiction typically have a significantly lower sense of self-worth and self-esteem than the average population. These negative thoughts and feelings continue to worsen as the addiction develops. Significant research has been conducted on the relationship between successful recovery from substance use disorder and self-worth and suggests that it should be a central focus of any long-term rehabilitation plan.

While reframing internal thoughts is far from easy, it is absolutely possible with the help of several key strategies, tools, and mental frameworks. Individual methods and strategies will be better suited for certain people and their unique personalities and strengths. As such, trying out several and seeing what works best for you and your specific needs is generally advisable.

1. Give Yourself a Clean Slate

It is quite common to look back on your previous life while you were under the influence of substances with feelings of deep regret, shame, or fear. While common, it is also important to remember that substance use disorder is a disease like any other condition a person may suffer from.

This does not mean you should not take responsibility for any actions you regret. Making amends, apologizing, and working to rebuild strained relationships are integral aspects of successful long-term recovery from substance use disorder. As you embark on your recovery journey, resist the urge to dwell on these negative emotions and give yourself a clean slate moving forward. It is the best way to start your new, healthy life.

2. Challenge Negative Thinking

It is human nature to occasionally view situations or people, even ourselves, in a negative light. This is completely normal, but should be intentionally challenged in order to prevent these negative thoughts from spreading and impacting your sense of self-worth long-term. A few common examples of negative thinking include:

  • Negative self-talk: Consistently undervaluing or putting yourself down. For example, “I always mess things up, so I didn’t deserve that opportunity anyway.”
  • Conflating facts and feelings: Believing something is factual simply because you feel a certain way. For example, “I feel worthless; therefore, I am worthless.”
  • Turning positives into negatives: Frequently turning positive aspects about yourself or your achievements into negatives or attributing them to luck. For example, “Anyone could have passed that test. It was easy.”
  • Jumping to conclusions: Assuming a negative conclusion without any specific evidence to support it. For example, “The person in line didn’t smile back at me, so they must hate me because I’m a bad person.”

3. Practice Mindfulness

A key point of any successful recovery plan is avoiding relapse. By using research-backed mindfulness strategies such as various meditation styles and intentional breath work, it is possible to become acutely aware of the specific situations and thought patterns that act as triggers and increase the likelihood of relapse. When completed frequently as part of a daily routine, these activities have been shown to significantly increase overall health and wellness. 

Beginning a mindfulness practice doesn’t have to be an intimidating or time-consuming endeavor. In as little as 10 minutes per day, you can begin to become aware of the true nature of your thoughts and regain control of your brain. Take a seat, set a timer for however long you have, and begin to pay close attention to your body and thoughts. As you feel them wander, refocus and focus on your breathing. This will likely feel impossible or even silly at first, but it will get easier as time progresses and you begin to have more internal control.

4. Practice Gratitude

Incorporating activities that actively involve producing positive affirmations and self-talk into your daily life is an excellent strategy to increase your self-worth in recovery. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as keeping a gratitude journal or verbally saying these daily affirmations out loud to yourself to reinforce positive beliefs. The University of California, Berkeley, has collaborated with Greater Good in Action (GGIA) to create an excellent, simple guide on starting a gratitude journey in under an hour each week.

Through this act of repeatedly reinforcing the things you are grateful for, you begin to slowly build core transcendental values (love, truth, hope, forgiveness, etc.) that are often integral to a resilient recovery from substance use disorder. Remember, it won’t happen all at once, but slowly, these small actions will begin to add up and make long-term recovery feel much more attainable. Eventually, these healthy habits will become your life.

5. Adjust Your Internal Beliefs

Making a conscious effort to shift negative and untrue self-thoughts into positive, more accurate thinking is one of the most difficult yet important aspects of finding self-worth while in recovery from substance use disorder. Thankfully, you can use several tools, mental models, and frameworks to help improve low self-esteem. A few useful tips to consider, but are not limited to, include:

  • Experience reframing: Intentionally turning negative experiences into a learning opportunity that helped you grow as an individual.
  • Avoiding harmful binaries: Thoughts involving words such as “should” and “must” often place unnecessary strain and demand on yourself. Rather than thinking that you “must” do something, think of it as something you “want” or “have the opportunity” to do.

Additionally, it is important to remember to always be kind and forgive yourself. Your road to recovery won’t be perfect, but if you keep at it and focus on getting better each day, it is absolutely attainable. Thousands of people find long-lasting sobriety each year.

For additional information on rebuilding an internal sense of self-worth and self-identity while in recovery, read this article explaining the impact of addiction on identity and exploring several key aspects that make up the holistic approach of emotional healing in addiction.

Taking the First Step Toward Recovery With the Never Alone Program

If you or your loved one is struggling to navigate their recovery journey, call us today at 844-365-4445 for a free consultation with one of our dedicated addiction recovery consultants today.

Never Alone Recovery works continuously to provide free drug and alcohol rehab placement services that alleviate the stress of finding high-quality care. Our core mission is to reunite families and rebuild relationships through recovery at no cost whatsoever to those suffering or their loved ones.

Like and follow us on our Facebook page for a wide range of free resources, or join our weekly online support group to connect with others going through similar situations. And no matter where you are in your recovery journey, always remember you’re never alone.

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