Repairing Self Esteem
Posted: December 5, 2013, 2:38 PM

Posts: 286
Joined: October 20, 2007

Hi folks,
I was just wondering how you managed to repair your self esteem after coming out of active addiction. When I was new in recovery I found it very difficult to find anything good about myself because I was filled with such guilt, shame and self loathing. I even found it very hard to look people in the eye because I was so sure they would figure me out. I live in a small city where everyone knows everyone and each time I went in to do some shopping I would be wondering if anyone had seen me drunk and would feel dreadful anxiety. I had a couple of bad experiences where some people (strangers) actually laughed into my face because they had seen me in some humiliating state. I'm almost six years without a drink and I still suffer from poor self esteem. So if anyone has any tips on how to move past the ghosts of drinking past and learn to be kind to ourselves again then PLEASE share..........

This post has been edited by Ruth__ on December 5, 2013, 2:39 PM
Posted: December 5, 2013, 5:10 PM

Posts: 1905
Joined: October 23, 2011

Hi Ruth:

Continuing to do esteem-able things (working my program) keeps building my self-esteem.

6 yrs is great and you are well on your way. I can only tell you my story as we are all different.

I will be 25 yrs sober in July and the last couple of years have been the best. It just keeps getting better.

Probably the best thing that I have done for my recovery (other than not drinking and going to meetings) is sponsoring newcomers. I get more than I give away.

You go out of your way to encourage and help the newcomers to find self-esteem and more self-esteem than you can imagine will come to you in God's time.

Keep working, keep the faith. The AA Promises will come true.

All the best.

Bob R

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Free copy of AA's Big Book on-line:

Free copy of NA's Big Book on-line:
Copy & Paste

Copy & paste



--- driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity.

---there are those too who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

... I need AA more than it needs me.

--- I fight recovery tooth and nail....
I'm not used to being sane, it just doesn't seem natural.

...... According to the great spiritual teachers, ignorance does not result from what we don’t know; ignorance results from what we think we do know.

---Some think that 2+2=5 and believe it.
Some know that 2+2=4 and can't stand it.

--- I didn't have a very happy childhood
but I sure am having a long one !

---Dry since 1989
working daily on getting/staying SOBER.

---If you want to drink, that's your business
...If you want to quit, that's AA's business.

... Tell me, I'll forget;
... Show me, I'll remember;
... Engage me, I'll understand.

---Most problems are psychological.
Most solutions are spiritual .

"If we try to change our ego with the help of our ego, we only have a better-disguised ego."
--Richard Rohr

WWBWD (What Would Bill W. Do)
Posted: December 5, 2013, 7:06 PM

Posts: 4144
Joined: July 18, 2006

Hi, Ruth.
I've been reading, "Codependent No More," by Melody Beattie. It's a beautiful look at the other side of obsession and control that alcoholics rarely acknowledge: Responsibility for ourselves.

In her Eighth Step, she starts by saying, "The Eighth Step does not read 'Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to feel guilty about it.'" This is our chance to take care of our earned guilt. I had to be reminded that, while I may not have harmed a ton of people, I had harmed myself immensely. I had tried to please others at the expense of myself; I had done distasteful things to make others laugh; I had disregarded my own conscience and convictions; I had let myself down--time and time again.

I can only tell you what has worked (and not worked) for me, but Bob's post above sent shivers down my spine. Esteemable things to me meant something magnanimous and worthy of respect, and I spent my entire life doing for others--my brother, my father, my teachers, my mother, my wife, my children, "friends," business relationships, etc. I am the poster child for the Reverse Pride they speak about in AA meetings. The absolute LAST thing I needed to do was helping others before helping myself.

I needed to forgive myself, and that took understanding what forgiveness really means. I read a bunch of books on the Holocaust to get different perspectives on forgiveness and acceptance, and I started learning about redemption and grace. I devoured information about forgiveness and love, trying to get to the core of what the Eighth Step really meant. And I continue to learn as my relationship with God in Christ continues to grow, but that's been a hard lesson, because not all of the AA program fit my problem: Me.

It wasn't until I started doing small things for others without telling anyone, and without getting caught, that I began to understand what Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God, and the Spiritual Maxims," 2006 (1895 [1661]))" meant by doing things for God and not for man. When I did things without expectation of notice, not letting the right hand know what the left hand was doing, as it were, I began to build some self-esteem that wasn't dependent on others' opinions for the first time.

I know what AA says about service. I extend it to mean, "Service to God as I understand Him," by making myself available to do the next right thing without concern of the outcome. That way I KNOW I am doing the next right thing--and while other peoples' opinions are none of my business, I prefer to take them out of the conversation entirely. I spent my life searching for approval: that got me a life of addictions and disappointment--even as an over-achiever.

AA's Twelve Steps are a guide to the answers, not the answers themselves. I needed to own The Principles that the Foreword of the Twelve and Twelve articulates as, "A.A.'s Twelve Steps are a group of principles, spiritual in their nature, which, if practiced as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to become happily and usefully whole." That frustrates some long-timers who want to quote pages and cite AA versions, but this is MY life and MY recovery and it's HP-Direct Drive.

Start doing the things you can't take credit for: Putting shopping carts back that aren't even yours; hold a door; leave an over-sized tip; pick up litter on your way to the post; smile more; do stuff without getting caught that helps others without drawing attention to yourself. Be a friend. Keep your word. Show up. It doesn't always have to be a crippled woman that you save from sure disaster by dragging her out of the road before the lumbering bus just misses her, too. Try simply being kind because HP loves you. ;)


Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.
Posted: December 5, 2013, 7:34 PM

Posts: 430
Joined: May 5, 2012

Hi Ruth, Do you believe in God? I do, and it was only when I truly surrendered my burdens to Him my healing began. For me that entails prayer, not just once or twice a day, but all day (during the day at work it is quietly, in my mind) and it means to read the Bible and follow the commandments Jesus taught and rest in His promise. My problem was not low self-esteem though. It was that I thought too highly of myself. What I needed was humility! Whatever course you choose, do it with all your heart. You are loved Ruth. I love you. Your posts are so thoughtful and heartfelt. You are genuine, the real deal. If your acquaintances can not see that, it's their problem. If you need to make amends to anyone just do it. It's way scarier thinking about it and dreading it than doing it. Hope you find the answers you seek, and never give up.:)
Posted: December 6, 2013, 6:10 AM

Posts: 5917
Joined: January 5, 2008

Hi Ruth..I did a self esteem course.. I also learned that a lot of what I did when drinking was not me but my disease..I was a sick person then and though I take responsibility for my actions at the time I was not in my right mind so we have to forgive ourselves... I done things I am ashamed of but if I continue to dwell on them then my disease is still running my life...we cannot change the past but we can live in a way that we should not let yesterday take up too much of today.. we have already given our time to that so why continue to live in the misery of the past when the present is here for us to have another chance at doing things right.If you had a tumor and you had it removed , there may be damage left from when it was alive and growing in you and scars from having it removed but the pain of having it inside would be gone and you would not be dwelling on the pain that it caused like it was when it was there, you would be living life free from that pain and grateful for a second chance at life... well Ruth you have a second chance at life.. you can either live it with gratitude and build on it or you can continue to dwell on the tumor and negatives of the past.. our disease will try to get us one way or another and dwelling on the past and feeling bad about ourselves is one of them.... every day write down something positive and good about yourself, and believe it..put it where you will see it.. .you are a worthy person and never ever compare yourself to others, you have no idea of what they have done or are living with. we are all humans, we all make mistakes, but we can all learn from them... sending hugs and love from across the miles

This post has been edited by pirate on December 6, 2013, 10:36 AM

Thank God for what you have. Trust God for what you need
Posted: December 7, 2013, 5:45 PM

Posts: 286
Joined: October 20, 2007

Thanks everyone for the feedback. It's by reading your thoughtful posts that I can see how everyone is growing so much in recovery which in turn helps me grow too :)
The past is past and nothing can erase a line of it. Learn the lessons and move forwards and try to hep someone else along the way.
Have a good weekend.
Posted: December 9, 2013, 4:17 PM

Posts: 574
Joined: February 25, 2009

I read The Gifts of Imperfection a few months ago and it really helped me feel better about myself. I highly recommend it!
Posted: December 18, 2013, 5:14 AM

Posts: 2186
Joined: March 23, 2006

great, thoughtful posts.

I think for me its about self-forgiveness. I have to forgive myself for all the mistakes of the past. Only then can I not only move forward, but free myself from the burden of other people's opinions.

Actually, the degree to which I am worrying about what others think (and I can often trace my fears back to this), is a good indication for me of how much I am hanging on to things I need to hand over.

This is something I have to practice on a regular basis. the good news is that now I'm much better at identifying that a fear is around my perception of what others may think - and then handing it over and pushing through the fear and doing whatever it is. Each time I have a success, however small my self-esteem grows.

Here's an example of my kooky irrational alcoholic fears. About 2.5 years ago when I first finished my studies as a massage therapist and wanted to start getting clients I had some flyers printed. I wanted to letter box the flyers around my neighbourhood. Well for some reason I was terrified of doing this and those flyers sat on my bookshelf for weeks.

when I finally got the courage to start letterboxing I simply couldn't put them in my street or the couple of small streets surrounding mine, I was too scared. I slowly got the courage to put them out a few more blocks away from where I lived. I was so afraid that one of my neighbours might see my putting out those flyers and think badly of me. I was terrified of now identifying myself as a massage therapist. I thought my neighbours would judge me somehow for this or just look at me and think "she wouldn't be a very good massage therapist". This was all nothing but crushingly low self-esteem.

Now I am so proud to tell people of my career choice and my vocation (all thanks to my sobriety BTW). I am confident and comfortable in what I do and who I am. But I just had to keep pushing through those irrational fears and handing over and giving myself small successes. and over time I have come to be a lot more comfortable with many aspects of myself and it doesn't matter quite so much what other people may or may not think about me.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27

May the Force be with you.

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should just get used to the idea....Robert Heinlein.

You can spend the next 24 hours reaching your true potential or sliding down into your own particular hell. the choice is always yours.
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