Addiction and Self-Love
Addiction can bring with it unhelpful patterns of shame and self-hatred. It can leave you thinking that you’re worthless or somehow a bad person for suffering from an addiction. You can even end up blaming yourself for the problems you’re facing.
What’s the result of all of this toxic shame and negativity? Essentially, you can become estranged from yourself. Building back a loving and kind relationship with yourself is, therefore, a vital part of recovery. You can learn to be kind to yourself again!
Overcoming Toxic Shame
Unfortunately, toxic shame is a common part of many of our addiction stories. Toxic shame is a feeling that you aren’t worth anything. Unlike guilt, it’s not about a specific action and its effects – it’s a bad feeling about who you are as a person.
Negative messages from parental figures and media outlets about what it means to be addicted can leave you feeling ashamed, not only about your behavior but the very core of your being. This damages your relationship with yourself, which can drive you further into addiction.
A common misconception about addressing toxic shame is that you have to go back and confront the people who made you feel this way in the first place. However, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is healing the damage your addiction has done to your relationship with yourself.
Healing Estrangement from Yourself
Addiction often occurs as a coping mechanism for stress. We can distract ourselves from difficult feelings and thoughts by abusing drugs, alcohol, or even particularly rewarding behaviors such as gambling or sex. Although this can feel like it’s helping in the moment, it eventually leads us to become estranged from our own thoughts and feelings.
An important step in recovery is feeling safe enough to come back to ourselves and experience our own thoughts and feelings again, without the need to distract. It’s now time to heal that relationship. Therefore, building up a positive relationship with yourself is a vital part of your recovery process.
How to Be Kind to Yourself
Here are some core ways to build up your self-kindness and heal your relationship with yourself:
1. Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Many of us have toxic ideas about perfection, and a lot of us don’t know how to acknowledge when we’ve messed up. Learning to acknowledge yourself and others when you’ve made a mistake can help you realize that everything will be okay. Try honest journaling to build this skill.
2. Reward Your Own Progress
You don’t have to wait for other people to recognize and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Try scheduling regular treats for yourself to celebrate your own progress. Make sure they’re small – you shouldn’t have to make it one year sober before you congratulate yourself!
For example, you could schedule a movie night with a friend to celebrate being two weeks sober. You could treat yourself to some ice cream when you overcome a stressful moment at work without going back to harmful coping mechanisms. Or you could go on a fun solo weekend adventure to a nearby city to celebrate overcoming a particular recovery hurdle in therapy.
3. Celebrate Your Strengths
None of us are perfect, but we all have strengths and the capacity to do good in the world. Think of someone you love – don’t they have so many amazing qualities? Rebuilding your relationship with yourself means learning to be able to recognize these good things in yourself as well.
To get started, you could try to list a few good things about yourself on a piece of paper and carry it around with you in your cell phone case. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be as small as:
- I am loving
- I am committed to helping others
- I listen well
- I try and learn from others
- I’m resilient
- I’ve got a lot to teach the world
- I fight to make the world a better place
You don’t have to become best friends with yourself overnight – build up your relationship with yourself slowly with little acts of kindness, and the kindness will become easier as you progress through your recovery journey.