Does alcohol free mean low self esteem?

Low self esteem is a chicken and egg issue

Low self-esteem is something of a chicken and egg issue when it comes to drinking. Do we start drinking in order to disguise low self-esteem, or does poor self-esteem gradually emerge over the years that we spend abusing our bodies and minds with alcohol? Most likely, and for most people, the answer lies in a combination of both.

An extraordinarily difficult element of becoming alcohol free for me was the fact that when I embarked on my new sober life, I had a very low self-opinion. I’d never been particularly kind to myself.


I did n’t believe I deserved to be kind to myself

Therefore, when I finally quit drinking, I had zero reserves in confidence and feelings of self-worth. This was problematic, in that I didn’t truly believe I deserved to be this kind to myself. I realised fairly quickly that for me, alcohol had regularly been consumed as a means of self-harming – it was far more than merely a social prop or a method of accelerated mental unwinding.


I believed I was rotten to the core, a bad egg

Sober living was diametrically opposed to this tenacious habit I had developed of hurting myself. Becoming alcohol free equated to self-compassion, prioritising my health, believing that I was worth more than living as a drunken bum who made bad decisions and thought increasingly dark thoughts. But I didn’t immediately buy into the idea that I was worth fighting for, so accustomed was I in believing that I was rotten to the core, a bad egg.


My body was alcohol free and screaming at me

On every occasion when I felt the urge to drink in those first eighteen months, I felt as though my body was screaming at me to fill it with alcohol. Drinking was such a go-to solution to all my problems – and something I felt compelled to do in response to every emotion, good or bad. But, very slowly, it became normal to treat my mind and body with kindness, and I learnt that to do so was a self-fulfilling prophecy, in that the more I demonstrated self-compassion, the better my self-esteem; the better my self-esteem, the more I felt obliged to treat myself with dignity and love.


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase

Martin Luther King once said,

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”.

This is so true of the early phase of alcohol free living, when your self-esteem remains on the floor and so to continue the old merry-go-round of self-destruction is the innate response to life – good and bad. To engineer an alternative outcome demands reacting to situations in a new way. It will feel inordinately uncomfortable to feel emotions at first, to just sit with them, fidgety and desperate to escape one’s own skin.


Fake  the self love until you feel it

But, with perseverance and a commitment to not drinking, the metaphorical staircase will appear, and with increased self-esteem it will become easier to turn to different coping strategies when the going gets tough. If at first you don’t feel the (self) love, fake it – remember that things will change over time, and eventually, you will be bursting at the seams with Soberista self-belief.”

This post was written by Lucy Rocca

Lucy is the founder of Soberistas. She launched the website in November 2012 after closing the door on a 20-year-long stint of binge drinking. She is Soberistas’ editor, and has written four books on the subject of women and alcohol (The Sober Revolution, Your 6 Week Plan (co-authored with Sarah Turner), Glass Half Full and How to Lead a Happier, Healthier and Alcohol-Free Life). Lucy lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

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