Addiction and low self esteem

Evaluate your self esteem after addiction with this simple exercise. Then, start to build your low self esteem by being honest. More on self esteem and addiction here.

minute read

Self respect = Self esteem

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with you a little bit about the meaning of RESPECT. Ultimately, in the addiction world, we have to add SELF into the equation. How important is self respect/self esteem and have I got it?

I have had the opportunity to interface with multiple thousands of people who have addiction issues or have been directly impacted by addiction. I have worked individually with hundreds. Let me make a bold statement:  “I have never met an active addicted person who has good self esteem (or self respect)”.

Chew on that one.

Self esteem exercise

Go to the mirror, look the person you see straight in the eye, and see what your immediate reaction is.

If it’s less than very positive, you have a self esteem issue – no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it. What you chose to do about it is strictly up to you; but this person says you’d better get help and not self help. If you could fix things yourself, you would have already done it! Don’t kid yourself.

Mental and emotional damage of the inner child

A quote from Gertrude Stein, “We are always the same age inside”.

Most people were born mentally healthy and then they began to experience life. At an early age, we either felt good about who or what we are, or, through our environment and experiences, began to get mentally and emotionally damaged.

I don’t like to talk to those of you who might be macho about “the Inner Child”, but if you have low self esteem today, when did the seeds get planted? Again, if you are honest with yourself, things probably started as a child and you have never felt 100% about you; this has caused emotional pain. What temporarily gets rid of emotional pain better than finding escape- booze, drugs, sex shopping, eating, gambling – the list goes on?

Emotional healing after addiction

As Stein says, we are always the same age inside. I’ll take it one step farther, while we always have that child inside, IF WE take action the inner child can heal.

The road to healing begins with getting honest with our self and accepting our low self image as a start point, then having the courage to take action to change and heal. Recovery from addiction begins with making our inner child a happy center that is alive, free and full of joy.

It can be called, “finding respect for self” and “esteem for self”. They go hand in hand. If I love and respect me, would I do the abusive things to myself that I did in active addiction? Would I do the things I put myself through to people I care about? Would I wish my self abuse on anyone?

So what is today’s message?

From this person’s perspective, if you want to be free of addictions or other self-destructive behavior, the place you have to start at is taking the hard actions needed to create a YOU who You respect and hold in reasonable esteem.

Wonder how? Fire some questions; let us know you’re alive!

About the author
I am a Master Life Coach who is ICF certified and a certified addictions coach. I consider myself recovered from the effects of addiction (16 years) but still in recovery mode as it relates to personal growth. Professionally, I am university educated, a former corporate CEO and have been in the consulting business for over two decades. I'm a husband, father, grandfather, friend, uncle son, a trusted confidant and many other things but bottom line, I'm Keith. I hope that I can help SOME out there with ideas that will make you think deeply.


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  1. Your article hit the nail on the head with me. Self esteem has been pretty much non existent with me, having instead taken on a sort of narcissism with role playing and imitating others. Alcohol and sex have been my drugs of choice over the years. While promiscuous as a youth, now being 50, I indulge in pornography use. The dual addiction of alcohol and sex/porn have me at my lowest point yet. The fact my mother has terminal brain cancer has triggered intense emotional feelings of being a failure as a man and a son. My wife is pleading with me to enter therapy. I am familiar with the inner child approach to therapy and it totally makes sense that the seeds of self destruction were planted in my adolescent years which was a time that I never felt safe but alone, depressed and scared. Apparently, these feelings never left me but became part of my psyche masked by addiction.
    Thanks for the article.

    1. Hi Brain. Thanks for your feedback and we’re glad you were able to find valuable information.

  2. Hello Tim. You are not alone. As you’re developing a network and community of like minded people, it can also help to address the underlying psycho-emotional issues with the help of a psychotherapist trained in addictions or compulsive behaviors like sex addiction. I’d suggest that you work with a therapist in both individual and group therapy for at least a year so that you can address thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors…and make a long term recovery from a distorted youth. You can find a therapist here:

  3. As far back as I can remember as young child I have had low self worth or self esteem. Where my esteem came from I can only guess: my parents, my mother who had little ability to show love or my step dad the sex and alcoholic addict. I have strong feelings towards women: I have always had desires to be with girls when younger and women now. Maybe to fill the void of little love from my mother. My low self esteem has lead to sex addiction since I was 19, I am 50 and have a hard time finding a girlfriend after 23 years of marriage. I use my addiction to soothe my deep feeling of loneliness and low esteem. I am in SAA which helps and therapy. All I know is I am searching for something or someone to fill the emptiness.

  4. Hi Debra. I totally agree with you. Addicts are in need of coming into a balanced view of where we are in the order of the universe. Right sized-ness, I think I remember it being called.

    Thanks for sharing here.

  5. If we didn’t have a self esteem problem we wouldn’t have been looking for happiness in illicit substances, we would have found in from a happy lifestyle. When you work on your self you will find your way back from Addiction & then find what works for the rest of your life.

  6. An interesting article, thankyou.

    As a recovering compulsive addict to playing games of chance, I struggle with allowing myself to feel good. I don’t feel I deserve peace of mind and happiness after the things I’ve done.

    The article makes a lot of sense and has made me feel a bit better about the whole thing

    kind regards

  7. Jason: thanks for your comment! I wish I had you as my MD. Most Docs I’ve met have no real idea of how the addictive mind works, and can’t give the simple true diredtion you have here!
    Keith Bray

  8. Great article and to the point. First initial reaction in the mirror is a handy guide to what a person’s impression of himself is. Spot on.

    In my experience, changing behavior is the royal road to feeling better about oneself. As the old saying goes, you can’t think your way into a new behavior but you can act yourself into a new way of thinking. Perform esteemable acts and soon you will have self esteem.

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