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How to Improve Self-Esteem After Drug Rehab

how to improve self-esteem after drug rehabilitationIt’s normal to feel pretty low immediately after drug rehab, but if you’re still struggling to regain your self-esteem and it’s been longer than you thought it would be before you felt somewhat normal again, don’t fret. While it does take time to heal from all the damage that drug and alcohol abuse does to our bodies and minds, the good news is that we do heal.

Still, we may need a little help to get there. Here are some tips that may be effective.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Not everything has to happen immediately, so give yourself a break. You’re probably harder on yourself than anyone else. You also likely expect too much from yourself too soon. Getting clean and sober is a major accomplishment. Be proud of that as you approach your new life of sobriety.

Expect that you’ll feel low for a while.

There’s no set time-table for healing and it varies from one person to the next. Instead of thinking that you should be better by now, concentrate on doing the work of recovery. This focus will help you continue to make progress and become stronger in sobriety.

Understand that self-esteem comes from within.

It isn’t something you get from others. Reaching out to for advice and suggestions is recommended, but when it comes to boosting your self-esteem, this is not something others can give you. However, hearing praise about your accomplishments will help over time so over time as you begin to rebuild your self-esteem.

Take things in small measures.

In early recovery, it’s vitally important to pace yourself. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking which can defeat the progress you’ve made. No one can possibly do everything all the time. Instead of looking at what you didn’t get to or finish, look at what you did well. And congratulate yourself for that accomplishment.

How you feel does not make you a failure.

Some days you’ll feel low, depressed, unfulfilled, stagnant, or uncertain, fearful and stressed. At those times, remember that feelings are not facts. How you feel doesn’t make you a failure.

Turn negatives into positives.

While early recovery can seem difficult, this isn’t a negative. You may struggle with cravings and urges, but everyone in recovery goes through this. How you choose to deal with them matters. Actively pursue coping strategies and listen to what’s worked well for others so you can adapt and use these techniques. Look at obstacles and challenges as opportunities to make progress. The more you adopt a positive outlook in recovery, the stronger your self-esteem will become.

Eliminate distortions and filtering.

When you make a mistake, you may think that everyone knows about it and blames you. You might even believe that others think you’re not up to the job or task. Instead of dwelling on your mistake, take action. Own up to what’s happened and work on a positive solution. This eliminates the self-perpetuating cycle of negativity and helps boost self-esteem.

Focus on hopeful and positive outcomes.

Focus on the positive aspects of achieving short- and long-term goals. Take inventory of your good traits and skills that have served you well before, especially those that helped you overcome difficult challenges. Also think about all the good things in your life, family and loved ones, sponsor and fellow group members in the rooms.

Forgive yourself.

Everyone in recovery has some things they need to forgive themselves for. No one makes much progress in recovery without self-forgiveness. Acknowledge what you’ve done, make amends wherever possible, and give yourself permission to move forward.

Surround yourself with positive people.

You can’t choose your family and some of your friends and acquaintances may not be very positive people, yet you can choose to make new friends and spend time with people who are upbeat and optimistic about life. Positive people lift and encourage by their example and contagious good-will. Like-minded people make you feel better because of shared goals and ideas.

Strive for personal growth.

Create a goal and craft an action plan to achieve it. This includes a list of action items, along with short-term and long-term goals. Every step is one step closer to accomplishment. And accomplishment is personal growth, a key ingredient in self-esteem.

Practice good self-care.

It’s important to take care of your physical and mental health. This may mean getting your body back in good physical health after addiction, ending a self-destructive relationship, moving to a new environment or changing jobs. Creating healthier lifestyle choices and sticking with them is part of the growth process and an integral part of rebuilding self-esteem.


Networking is more than just interacting with your sponsor and 12-step group members. Be on the lookout for individuals whose ideas or whose actions you want to model. These support systems are healthy relationships that help increase your self-esteem because they help you elevate a sense of healthy self. Networking helps you give back as you lend a helping hand to others. The more you help others, the better you feel about yourself.

Stay active and keep involved in healthy interests.

Whether it’s engaging in vigorous physical activity, playing sports or getting involved in recreational activities, active people are generally happier people. When you’re active, you’re naturally boosting endorphins, nature’s own feel-good chemical. When you feel good, your self-esteem tends to rise.

Extend yourself to others.

Do something nice for another person as often as you can. This pays double dividends. Not only does it do something positive for the other person, it also makes you feel good about yourself. This is another win-win situation.

Remember that you own how you live your life. No one can do it for you. Make improving your self-esteem a top priority in your recovery and you will soon notice measurable results.

How to Improve Self-Esteem After Drug Rehab

Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at

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APA Reference
Kane, S. (2018). How to Improve Self-Esteem After Drug Rehab. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 3 Oct 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.