A person’s social identity is tied to how they view themselves as an individual in society, where they fit in, and through what actions and behaviors they are accepted most. Everyone has a social identity, but when battling substance abuse and addiction that identity can become skewed and end up far from being the true identity of the user. Drugs take control over all aspects of life, and addiction takes on an identity of its own.
How Identity and Addiction Interact
Drug users will turn to substances to cope with difficult situations. They are unable to handle setbacks or achievements in a healthy manner and may see themselves as unable to handle life without a drug.
Many users find themselves covering up or making excuses for their use through lies. They may have defined themselves as a trustworthy or honest person before addiction, but drug use will change this identity. Friends and family will no longer be able to trust their addicted loved one, and the change in their perception will also change how a user views him or herself.
Users who have a strong substance abuse problem commonly distrust law enforcement officials, medical professionals or therapists, and counselors. The fear of ending drug use causes once-respectful individuals to put down what professionals can do for them or for others.
Recreating Identity after Addiction
Through appropriate treatment, a user can create an identity outside of addiction. The following steps can help recovering users restore their identity and escape from the one addiction created for them:
- Build self-esteem. Many drug users struggle with self-esteem issues that may have stemmed from or resulted in addiction. Therapists help to recover users discover their skills, positive qualities, and what they like about themselves. Helping others during and after rehab can also boost self-esteem.
- Develop stronger coping mechanisms. Recovering users can find appropriate ways to express anger, frustration, happiness, achievement, and other emotions. This allows users to reconnect with others and feel confident in their ability to manage any stumbling blocks life may produce.
- Practice honesty. Honesty helps to recover users restore trust in themselves and in others.
Developing a new social identity or restoring the one previously had before the use of drugs is part of achieving and maintaining sobriety. These steps, plus many more, are crucial in the success of finding a social identity outside of addiction. Through positive self-esteem, better coping mechanisms, and living honestly a recovering user can find who he or she is and like the person he or she has become.