As human beings, the unique identifiers we place on ourselves are some of the most important aspects of our existence. We define ourselves even without realizing it, by our jobs, education, hobbies, likes, dislikes, and intersectionalities.
These concepts combine to form our singular sense of self. They define us in every interaction. Our identifiers provide us with our self-perception, the way we see ourselves in the world. They also play a large role in the person we portray to others and the actualization of ourselves that others perceive.
In Freudian psychology, the self is also divided into three categories: the id, ego, and superego. The id is the desire and pleasure center of the mind, the superego is the moral compass, and the ego acts as the agent of reality. For people who become embroiled in addiction, the id becomes the primary driver of the self, suppressing the ego and superego under its will.
When a person becomes embroiled in substance use, the sense of self begins to crumble. All of the other abstract concepts that we use to identify our uniqueness fade away as our existence becomes about seeking the next high.
The person we once were is lost in the past. Now, it is time to begin to assemble a new identity.
Addiction and the Loss of Identity
From statistical and biological perspectives, women become addicted to controlled substances at faster rates than men. However, it is also true that women typically accept treatment and recover easier than men. That is because women tend to seek out relationships and stability, which allows for a more successful process.
Women are also often more naturally open to growth and change than their male counterparts. Recovery is, after all, a process of change and growth with positive socialization and interaction with community stakeholders acting as the catalyst.
Some have suggested that a good way to promote recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) is in the formation of prosocial networks in which the recovering client can grow. This is based on social identity theory, which suggests that we derive our identities from what other people think of us.
While identity can be a growth and change catalyst, it can also be one of the barriers women face in receiving treatment. Women face criticism when they do not fulfill a preconceived societal role, such as motherhood. When a woman seeks treatment, she may be viewed as a bad wife, a bad woman, or a bad mother.
These social standards present a barrier to both treatment and recovery. Facing stigma and being attacked based on identity can strip away the identifiers that we use. Therefore, it becomes imperative for women to rebuild identities in recovery.
Who We Are in Recovery
In 2015, tennis player Serena Williams beat three of tennis’s top players at Wimbledon. Then, in the finals, she faced Spanish tennis player Garbine Maguruza, who handed Williams a humiliating defeat in 2014. Williams prevailed, though, finishing in two sets with a victory.
Redemption stories are powerful narratives when we hear them. They are stories of underdogs who rise up to meet the challenges of the day and claim victory. Finding treatment and recovery after SUD can be a redemption story all your own.
If the loss of identity due to substance use represents a fall from grace, then the reformation of that identity in recovery constitutes a redemption story. Finding a new self-concept after freeing yourself from addiction is a powerful feeling–one that can inspire others to new heights of greatness.
Learning Something New, Building Yourself Up
One of the most important aspects of building your identity is by embracing the things you love about yourself. There is no better way to do that than by learning how to express yourself through a creative outlet.
Finding a new hobby in recovery can be a great way for you to learn how to both build your identity and create something unique that can only come from new skills, like learning woodworking. Whether you choose to return to an old hobby or explore a new hobby in your recovery program, picking up skills can always benefit recovery.
You can also express yourself by embracing new ideas. Practicing mindfulness through meditation and yoga is one way you can adopt a new, healthy habit. Learning to take time for yourself and your well-being can improve your self-image. Others will see that new confidence and likely begin to build a new image in their minds of your unique self.
Five Ways to Find Identity
- Don’t judge yourself based on other people. While it may be true that our self-image is shaped by social identity, you cannot compare yourself to others. You are as unique as they are, and you are the best you that you can possibly be. There is no comparison.
- You do you. If you like a certain food or activity, that is good enough. Do not let the standards of others influence your decisions. Do what makes you happy.
- If you want something, get it. Do not wait for the universe to hand it to you. You are a strong, independent person who can achieve your goals. Get to it.
- Engage in affirming self-talk. Negative self-talk is the old you. The new you knows how awesome you are, and is not afraid to say so.
- Define yourself. Maybe other people form images of you in their minds, but you have the power to shape what they perceive. No matter what they think, do not let other people define you. Only you get to say who you really are. Use that power.
In society, we are constantly assailed by imagery of who we should be. Everyone and everything is trying to shape our identities. Only you have the power to truly become the person you want to be, though. After treatment for substance use, you may feel like you don’t know who you are anymore. The person you were before addiction is gone, and the person you are now is a blank slate. Do not be afraid to fill that blank slate with the positive energy and great affirmations you deserve. It can be hard to keep yourself from being bogged down with the past. Learning new hobbies can help us to rise above negative self-talk and begin the journey to healing. At Spero Recovery, our caring professionals offer a wide range of treatment options. Call us today at (303) 351-7888 and let us discover together the person you want to be.