When you are under the weight of addiction, you develop destructive thoughts and behaviors because you experience intense cravings which fuel your addiction. Soon, you begin to prioritize substances over everything else. When substances have been a part of your life for many years, you might have lost sense of the person you are when sober. You may develop a “hole” where the substances used to exist when you become sober. Without substances, you might feel as though you have no more purpose or that you no longer know who you are. Building self-identity after treatment is essential because understanding that you are not your addiction can lend security and comfort in knowing that you can accomplish being who you want to be. A new identity will help you feel happier and healthier while sustaining recovery. 


Having a Strong Network

Research suggests that the people you surround yourself with play a big part in developing your sense of identity. Therefore, whom you spend time with is crucial when you start recovery. Continuing to spend time with friends or family that use, pressure you to use or remind you of your past are not conducive to your recovery. In such a scenario, consider setting boundaries with what they can say or ask of you, or you might consider cutting ties with them altogether.

In recovery, you should spend time with friends, family and peers who support your sobriety. Such people can help you become motivated, accountable and inspired to redefine your identity. Connecting with peers also helps strengthen who you are because you understand that you are not going through it alone and that others have found success in recovery.


Pursuing a Career

Many find their identity through what they do. Careers help give meaning and a sense of purpose to your life. After treatment, you might not reenter into a dream job scenario; you might not even like what you do initially out of treatment. However, as you begin to rebuild your identity and life after substance use, you can identify with what you like and work toward achieving what you desire. You might inquire about growth opportunities in the place where you already work, or you might attend school to earn a degree in a field more suitable to what you enjoy. Getting the career you want might take time, but setting small goals and working toward it not only lends motivation and meaning to your recovery, but it continues to strengthen your identity and purpose.


Taking Up Hobbies and New Interests

One of the first things you will likely notice right out of treatment is all the free time you have now that you no longer use substances. Not only can boredom lead to isolation and relapse, but it does nothing for your identity. Instead, look for opportunities to try different activities and interests. You might take up playing an instrument or find local events within your community where you can participate in activities. You are free to try various activities before deciding which ones speak to you. Your interests are what make you unique and help you build a new identity. 


Volunteering Locally or Online

Early recovery can come with guilt and shame because you may still judge yourself and have not accepted the past as just that – the past. One way to overcome memories of the mistakes you made is by helping others. Volunteering is a great way to give back and can help you feel better about yourself. Volunteering can also lend an empowering sense of purpose, and soon, you will realize how much good you are capable of doing and that this “you” is who you truly are. You can seek volunteer opportunities through meetings, looking for local opportunities or finding online options. Giving back in any form helps strengthen the identity and resilience of the recovery community and can benefit self-growth.


Practicing Positive Affirmations 

Your identity when you were using might have been negative or even nonexistent. However, your identity in recovery should be positive to help you move forward to sustaining sobriety. Practicing self-care by using positive affirmations and other therapy and treatments helps re-wire negative thinking to view things optimistically. Making it a habit to either write down or say positive things about yourself aloud will condition your mind’s initial response to look for the positive instead of focusing on the negative. You only need a few minutes to do so, and all you have to do is think about are things you are grateful for or that you like about yourself. For example, you might say how grateful you are to accomplish another day of sobriety or how far you have come already.


Recovery is more than just overcoming substance use; it is a journey designed to bring out meaning and purpose in your life. If you are having trouble breaking free from the past and unable to visualize who you want to be, then it is time to get help. At Associated Behavioral Health Care, we help individuals build a strong sense of identity as you transition back into everyday life free of addiction. Find out more by calling ABHC today at (844) 335-7384