Rebuilding Self-Identity After Addiction

Rebuilding Self-Identity After Addiction

Individuals often feel the need to rebuild their self-identity after substance use disorder. In some cases, people who experience a substance relapse also often feel a stronger need to rebuild their identities.

For a successful recovery journey, mental health professionals may express the need for individuals to find their identities. People may find the process demanding, but it can help self-discovery and provide a suitable life structure. Keep reading for more helpful details about self-identity and addiction.   

How Do You Lose Your Identity?

This condition entails various changes or transitions, including the loss of life valuables. Examples include loss of job or profession or a specific role due to substance use disorder. In most individuals experiencing substance abuse, the losses are typically due to the substance’s effects on their mental health. 


Self-labeling plays a role in losing self-identity due to addiction. Most young adults conceptualize their conditions inappropriately. In some instances, they also face challenges due to how others in society classify them.

Researchers studied the extent to which professionals in drug addiction treatment use psychiatric terms to describe individual mental health conditions. These researchers also observed the relationships between self-labeling in young adults and indicators of psychological health.

From the study, the scientists predicted a high percentage of the 54 US adolescents would not self-label. They also predicted the “self-labelers” demonstrating poorer psychological health. The study proved a low percentage of individuals self-labeled, while most conceptualized their condition in non-pathological terms. 1

Other outcomes of the study showed individuals who self-labeled reported higher levels of self-stigma and depression. There was an evident trend towards a reduced sense of mastery in those individuals.    


Self-concept describes the way an individual perceives themselves. For better comprehension, it defines the image an individual has for him or herself. Alternatively, self-concept also describes how individuals perceive their behavior, characteristics, or unique abilities. Examples of self-concept include the belief of being a good friend or kind person.

In young adults, self-concept is typically more malleable due to the process of self-discovery. Since recovery involves self-rediscovery and identity formation, self-concept becomes highly applicable. According to humanist psychologist Carl Rogers, self-concept is in three different parts.

  • Self-image: As the name suggests, self-image defines the way an individual sees themselves. It also involves considering factors like personality traits, social roles, and other characteristics.
  • Self-esteem: Self-esteem describes the degree of value or acceptance individuals attribute to themselves. 
  • Ideal self: Your ideal self is the person that an individual wants to be, including how they want to live. 

Social Behavior

Various studies prove that addiction has visible effects on an individual’s social behavior. Substances of various pharmacological classes cause significant changes in an individual’s social behavior. Note that the changes may differ, depending on certain factors like environmental conditions or individual differences. Certain drugs like psychostimulants may cause changes in social behavior like aggression. 2   

Steps to Sobriety

Identifying the need for sobriety may show significant progress in an individual experiencing substance use disorder or alcohol addiction. For this reason, it is imperative to understand the necessary steps to take to sobriety in an addiction center.  


Alcoholics Anonymous established helpful guidelines to help individuals overcome addiction and compulsive behaviors in and out of an addiction center. Experts believe there’s no wrong way to approach the 12-Steps program since recovery can be a long process, even in recovery groups. These mental health professionals believe steps one, two, and three are the foundations and individuals should practice every day. 3   

Seeking Help from Professionals

Finding help from professionals like licensed therapists is a significant method of starting a sobriety journey. Mental health professionals like counselors in a drug recovery center provide the necessary support system for individuals recovering from substance abuse. In the process of rebuilding your identity as an individual, finding help from mental health professionals is an imperative step to consider. 4      

Forming New Self Identity

When forming a new self-identity, there are certain influencing factors to note. Here are some of the different aspects that influences forming a new self-identity:  

Positive Attitude

It’s important to stay positive. Smile often, build resilience by adapting to adverse circumstances, and practice reframing negative conditions to positive ones.  


When forming a new identity, avoid self-labeling negatively due to relapse. Maintaining a healthy relationship with friends, family, and other loved ones is also crucial.  


Developing a positive work attitude is helpful when forming a new self-identity. Individuals need to manage stress appropriately, develop work plans, and eliminate distractions for better productivity. 


Discover what you love and value during addiction rehab. Reconnect with your old passions or develop new healthy hobbies. For most individuals, a hobby is typically helpful in relieving stress. 


Volunteering helps individuals develop a sense of purpose and belonging. Addiction typically makes individuals feel distant from family and loved ones. Hence, volunteering may also help get reacclimated into a community.


The practice of affirmation influences the subconscious mind to access new beliefs. It also helps individuals develop a positive feeling of themselves, which is important after a relapse.  


Many individuals discover the need to rebuild their identities during recovery in an addiction center. It’s never too late to form a new self-identity when it appears lost. Speak to a mental health professional to get help today.  



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