Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Self-Esteem Redux

Most addicts bring poor self-esteem into recovery. Nothing causes some of our staff – or clients - more discomfort than a compliment. Very uncomfortable.

One man in group last night remembered his family telling him he was “just like” his alcoholic father. And, indeed, that’s who he became. The message was drummed into him so frequently he knows it was an unconscious influence.

Another man, whose parents were professors, told him he “could do better” so often that he believes to this day he doesn't measure up. That what he does is never quite good enough.

Add to these early influences what an addict does to himself – trashed family relationships, no money, broken health, arrests and so on – he understandably feels worthless.

Yet I’ve seen some in recovery improve self-esteem by doing simple things. They go to meetings. They stay clean and sober. Make their beds. Shave every day. Show up to the job and work hard. Build a wardrobe. Help newcomers. Begin exercising.

The wreckage of our self-destructive addictions may never disappear.  But eventually positive, healthy living will allow self-esteem to flower and spread among the ruins.