What if Self-Hate Leads to Substance Abuse?
If you have feelings of self-hatred, the first question you need to ask yourself is why. Self-hatred can come from a number of sources, from your circumstances to your behavior to your mental health. Maybe all at once! Regardless of the source, it’s incredibly common for a person struggling with self-hatred to turn to substance abuse for a sense of comfort, relief, or even control. If your self-hating tendencies have led you to substance abuse of any kind, please don’t be ashamed. You’re not alone, and there are ways of understanding your dependence and learning to cope in ways that aren’t destructive.
What Is Self-Hatred?
Self-hatred, or self-loathing, is the feeling of intensely disliking one’s self, or not feeling deserving of love, care, health, attention, or other good things. While it’s not a mental health condition on its own, it’s often a leading symptom of other mental health problems, like depression, which is one reason why it is so often accompanied by struggles with substance abuse. If you are struggling with self-hatred, it’s a good idea to talk to a counselor or mental health professional. If you’re diagnosed with a mental health condition and a substance abuse condition, this is often called “dual diagnosis.” Knowing exactly what problems you’re trying to address will be key in determining your treatment and recovery.
That said, struggling with substance abuse isn’t a guarantee that you will be diagnosed with a mental illness. There are a number of other reasons you could be turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Studies show that stress at school or at home, poor access to affordable healthcare, lack of a healthy support system, and even the increased amount of isolation we all experienced due to the pandemic are factors that can influence you to resort to destructive behaviors. Your next challenge will be to figure out the severity of your substance abuse and how you want to pursue treatment.
You’ve already taken an important step by typing whatever you typed into your web browser that led you to this article. And the fact that you’ve read (or just scrolled) this far, is another great sign that you’re open to getting better. A doable next step would be to take this moment to reach out to TheHopeLine through one of our email mentors or HopeCoaches. They’ll happily talk to you about how you’re feeling and walk you through this tough moment until you can identify more permanent solutions.
A good place to start once you’ve spoken to a HopeCoach is to find a permanent counselor and a support group in your area. You’re probably familiar with 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. We even partner with a wonderful 12-step group called Celebrate Recovery. Depending on the severity of your abuse, a local meeting near you could be an excellent place to start. But how do you judge the severity of your substance abuse problem? There are a few indicators that can help you determine the severity, but you should make sure to seek professional advice to confirm.
Your substance abuse may be severe and or may have reached the point of a disorder if your use of alcohol or drugs are causing you to:
- Find yourself in physically dangerous situations
- Get into physical altercations
- Have accidents
- Have legal problems
- Experience a decline in attendance or performance at school, work, or home
- Experience a change in appetite or sleep cycle
- Experience mood swings
- Exhibit anger, irritability, hyperactivity, agitation, or emotional outbursts
- Have a lack of motivation
- Feel paranoia or fearfulness
- Have a sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Exhibit a decline in physical appearance and or personal hygiene
- Have tremors
- Experience impaired physical coordination
- Have money or financial problems
If more than a couple items on the above list sound familiar, your misuse of substances has likely become destructive and abusive, and it is time to seek the help you started looking for when you opened the link to this article. Talk to a trusted adult in your life, seek counseling and support in your community, and don’t give up hope. From finding a mentor to enrolling in a rehabilitation program, there are multiple avenues for you to pursue a healthier standard of living.
Recovery and Self-Love
If your abuse of substances is rooted in self-hatred, an important part of your recovery will be learning to love yourself. Sorry if that sounds cheesy, but it’s true! Developing self-love, self-worth, self-esteem, etc. is crucial to a) getting your mental health back under control and b) maintaining your mental health when you’re tempted to reach for your old coping mechanisms.
It may sound simple, but some of the best ways to care for your mental health are by caring for your physical health. Your brain is a physical organ, and when your body lacks the resources it needs to supply healthy brain function, you may find it more difficult to cope without using substances. Get plenty of sleep and exercise. Make sure you’re staying hydrated and eating healthily. Be careful about how much screen time you’re getting, and make sure not to completely isolate yourself from other people. You deserve to be well provided for, and these basic care tasks can be a powerful way of reinforcing our own value to ourselves.
At the risk of sounding cheesy again, one of our favorite ways of learning to love and accept ourselves is by studying and reflecting on just how much we are already loved by Jesus. His love covers everything you may hate about yourself, including your substance abuse, to the point that when He looks at you, all He sees is His Father’s divine creation… not an addict, not a substance abuser, not a victim of poor mental health… He sees you for everything that is inherently wonderful within. Clinging to the image of you that Jesus sees can be a sweet relief in times when we are struggling to love ourselves. If you’re looking to grow in self-love, don’t hesitate to reach out to TheHopeLine today.
Many people struggle with this negative thought, “I hate myself.” Here are 5 things to think and do when you hate yourself.
Always Believe in Yourself,