I came to recovery broken. I came to recovery having lost all sense of self. I had a huge sense of what I had needed; another drink, another line, another pill – anything- I just needed something!  Until I didn’t. Until I had only one thing left to lose: my being. The day after I had taken my last drink, and NO, I didn’t know at the time it would be my last, but that day, that morning I woke up, sitting on the edge of the bed – looking out at nothing. I felt lost and doomed. I felt that if I did this one more time, if I drank and drugged just one more time, I would walk out on what was left of my life. I would walk out of my dingy infested room, out the front door and turn my back on the last bits of a normal life. I would walk away from my children, my friends, myself.

self esteem a
picture courtesy of Self-Esteem-Insight.com

My first act of self-esteem, and the one I would hold onto for months before I found another, was to get clean and sober. I put alcohol down that day. (I relapsed on and off for over a year on drugs before I left them behind as well.) My first act of self-esteem was to stop drinking.

After that, though, I had no sense of self-worth. Even practicing all the tools of recovery, I had no sense of self confidence or self-respect. I was still embroiled in a deep and pervasive sense of worthlessness that manifested in having no boundaries, wanting to please others, having no sense of personal preferences or choice.  Well, not completely – I still had rage and hysteria and sadness, but no way to vocalize or communicate issues before they became emotional emergencies. I lacked any further development of self-esteem.

Self esteem – it is a part of the pathway to a full and satisfying life.  I learned in the rooms of recovery “you build self-esteem by doing esteemable acts.” And this is true. It is a useful tip on how to build some self-respect.  Contribute to the good of the group, be of service, find a way to be useful. So my first esteemable acts were setting up chairs, emptying ashtrays, setting out the coffee, being the literature person and so on. My self-esteem was developed by doing service.  This is good, but it can be a trick.

If my self-esteem is only based on what I do for others it can be a trick- an illusion.  Self-esteem is an inside job; so doing for others is a way to demonstrate my value of service and not the other way around. The same action: setting up chairs say, can demonstrate my ethic of being useful, but if that is reversed; if my goodness is based on the fact that I set up chairs I become trapped.  If I cannot set up chairs, am I still good?  Are my ethics still intact? Am I a fraud? Is doing good a trap; defining my self-esteem?

So further down the path to recovery I have had to use the TIPS I learned in the rooms, (be of service to the group and to others in recovery) turning this inward in a healthy way, and finding dignity in self-care.  I also learned about the TRICKS of practicing kindness towards others to learn to practice kindness towards myself.  Later I have fine tuned these lessons and in doing so have avoided the TRAP of believing that only OUTWARD action will lead to self-esteem. Inward care is self-regard; a true source of an enduring sense of self-esteem. There are times I need to step back from service to others, to nurture myself.

In this process I may be practicing the greatest act of self-esteem of all: self-care through self- respect.





Kyczy Hawk; author and E-RYT 500 Kyczy has been teaching recovery focused yoga classes since 2008. She is also an author having published several books combining the philosophy of yoga with recovery principles. Her most recent books are “Yogic Tools For Recovery; A Guide To Working The Steps” and its companion workbook. She is also the author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path” , “Life in Bite-Sized Morsels” , and “From Burnout to Balance” as well as five recovery oriented word puzzle books.You can also join Kyczy and a host of other people in recovery every Sunday morning at 8am PT (11 am ET) on In The Rooms at the Yoga Recovery meeting. She currently holds online Y12SR meetings combining a full 45 minutes of all paths recovery meeting and 45 minutes of all levels yoga.It meets Sundays 4pm PDT (register at wllowglenyoga.com .) Kyczy is very proud of her family; husband, kids, and grandkids, all who amaze her in unique and wonderful ways. Join her mailing list for other information and links to free classes at www.yogarecovery.com.


  1. Kathleen Russell Reply

    Hey there Kyczy,

    Thanks so much for your incite here. I reflected back to the coffee cups and ashtray back in the day 🙂
    I also liked the food for thought about our motives behind what we do. If I am looking for only accolades than I am missing the experience of self esteem within me. That was me in the early days, as I was one lost broken girl.
    Nice to meet you in Washington What an amazing day!

    • It was so good to meet you, and what a fantastic experience! I obviously have a bit of a dance with self esteem, where it comes from and how I nurture it. But I wouldn’t miss this journey for the world! Be well

  2. Thanks for sharing its a great piece i also struggle with low self esteem hopefully not much longer I am working with Dr Darren and life line and learning a lot its a slow go i tend to procrastanate alot more than i want to admit and the self sabotaging and pushing people away is a big one

    • June, I know well the mind tricks of self sabotage, procrastination, and keeping people at a distance. It sounds like you are on your way, though. Keep re-aligning yourself with this important journey. Be well

  3. Sober Yogini Reply

    Thank you, Kyczy! I couldn’t agree more with your article: it wasn’t until I actually Loved myself that I could put down the drink & my other addictions for good. Before it was, like, “You’re just a worthless drunk…why not just drink some more.” But when I came to treasure myself for the unique woman I am, & got out of my own damn way & quit doing all the addictive things that were holding me back, my life opened up! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sober Yogini, thank you for your comments. It is a that first step of self care, moving into sobriety, that opens up your life! That is for sure.

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