Self Esteem and addiction go hand in hand. Low self esteem is considered the number one factor for causing a drug and alcohol addiction!
There is a concept in my profession referred to as co-occurring disorders indicating a connection between substance abuse problems and mental health conditions. It is my opinion that both of these disorders exist with the addict and alcoholic. I believe that all individuals who suffer from a substance abuse or dependency problems have a mental health condition. I believe further that the mental health condition is the primary or fundamental problem for the addict or alcoholic.
It is also my belief that both of these conditions have to be treated, the substance abuse issue and the mental health problem. Many people in the drug treatment industry minimize or deny the existence of a mental health condition. What happens when this is done is that the client will become abstinent from drugs and alcohol only to relapse quickly after treatment because the underlying mental health condition was not adequately dealt with and treated. The treatment of the mental health problem is something that is absolutely necessary for the well being and recovery of the addict and alcoholic.
While many addicts and alcoholics experience a great deal of anxiety and the underlying emotion of fear, I believe that depression and dysthymia are the primary mental health conditions and diagnoses that form the cornerstone of their drug and alcohol problem. One of the symptoms of major depression and dysthymia is poor self esteem. It is my opinion that poor self esteem is the root of the substance abuse and dependency disorder. It is also one of the symptoms that is not given a great deal of importance or even acknowledged in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.
It is also my opinion that until we recognize, acknowledge and begin to treat the problem of poor self esteem that addicts and alcoholics will continue to relapse and in many cases even die. At the basis of the addict and alcoholic's poor self esteem is a negative self image, negative thoughts and beliefs about their worth and value as a human being. It has been my experience that every addict or alcoholic that I have worked with have serious issues with their self image even if in the beginning of their treatment they deny its existence.
It is my recommendation that if you are looking for a treatment program for someone who has a substance abuse and dependency problem that you insist that there are master's level, licensed and trained therapists on staff to adequately counsel and treat mental health problems. This particular requirement is crucial to the addict and alcoholic receiving appropriate care and treatment. When researching a potential residential or outpatient treatment center simply ask the administration of the center for the qualifications of the therapists and counselors that provide all of the counseling services to addicts and alcoholics.
Dr. Harry Henshaw