Addicts suffer from low self-esteem.
This low self-worth is due to the many losses they experience during their addiction - loss of health, relationships, losses in career and education, loss of opportunities and reputation.
Moreover, alcoholics and addicts indulge in so many behaviors that make them feel guilt and shame. This further reinforces their sense of low self-worth.
How alcoholics compensate for their low self-worth
To compensate for this low self-esteem, addicts tend to be grandiose and critical of others. They project that they are more successful than they may be, that they have big plans for huge projects. They also criticize others - family members, bosses, managements, government. They do this so that they bring others down to their own level and thus feel good.
Building self-worth in addiction recovery
Building self-worth is one of the goals of addiction recovery. This is done in many ways.
Initially, the alcoholic reacts with anger, resentments and criticism when he first encounters a therapist in a rehab. Slowly, when he begins to feel 'accepted' by the counselor and his peers (who are similar), he gets a little comfortable.
During therapy, he is shown not only his shortcomings, but also the assets in his personality (everybody has some).
Sobriety adds to healthy sense of self
As time goes by, he feels good about himself. Now he realizes that he is able to sleep without chemicals, that he is enjoying the taste of food, that he is able to conduct normal, meaningful conversations with others without being under the influence, his self-worth begins to recover.
Members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) celebrate their 'sober' birthdays. They believe that being clean and sober is their new life. As they continue to log years of sobriety, they experience a healthy sense of achievement. As part of the fellowships, they also help other still suffering addicts. Service and achievement of sober time helps in building their self-worth.
As they continue to live sober lives, they are bound to be successful in other areas too. They are able to get and retain employment. They have rebuilt broken relationships. Others begin to trust them. They are helping in the community. They are now self-sufficient. All this contributes to rebuilding a healthy sense of self.