What is this nonsense about how addicts already feel bad enough about themselves and so we should adulate them to instill self-esteem as opposed to pointing out and educating them on their character defects? If you want REAL self-esteem, you have to do the opposite of blow smoke up an addict's ass. Active and newly sober addicts should be torn apart because you don't want them believing in, validating, and giving worth to a false, caricature, addict self. We want to shed this old self and then develop true self-esteem in a new and sane self. And yes, this can be done carefully and with love.
Sorry, but the soft, new-age, 'everybody gets a trophy' status quo is totally wrong on this one. Addicts are the last people on earth that should be coddled. Watch Stossel's new piece 'Parenting' for some entertaining illumination on the disturbing trends developing out of our macro swing towards collectivism.
It is perfectly acceptable to rip ourselves apart so that we see the error in our ways and the damage we have done to others, so long as we do not devolve into a pity-pot, as self-pity is a form of selfishness. But if we never get tough on ourselves, we don't know what the hell we're getting better from, let alone how to really change. Plus, we haven't yet learned how to process sincere love and praise in the proper way. Instead, we use it solely to our advantage or even against the person offering.
Real self-esteem comes from self-honesty. False self-esteem comes from frothy emotional appeal and smoke blowing. When you are talking to someone who is insane and causing harm to both self and others, you don't shower them with praise and compliments! Active addicts and untreated sober addicts who are recognized for certain qualities they may or may not possess have been done a total disservice, for in our minds the praise means you still accept us the way we presently are. More importantly, it also means that we can effectively keep you off our backs a bit longer and continue to manipulate you, which means more drinking and using unabated. None of these things is acceptable.
So the message to all of you parents and spouses is, don't shoot yourself in the foot. While our brains are still warped beyond comprehension, you must act counter-instinctually. No you don't have to rip us a new asshole every chance you get, but don't lie to an addict, which is simply returning the favor, even though it doesn't feel that way. Telling us what smart, loving, wonderful people we are is a lie. We are not smart, loving or wonderful at all. Given our present construct, the reality is quite the opposite. Is it smart and loving and wonderful to use drugs, hurt others and cower from fear and discomfort? Uh, nope.
Real self-esteem can only be cultivated through rigorous honesty and healthy self-criticism. If we never identify the false and destructive ways in which we think, speak and act, the self-esteem you try to instill will be empty and worthless. When we begin to think clearly about what is right and what is wrong, then we can stand with our feet on the ground and begin to feel proud in the REAL way for being a normal, upright person. What makes us feel good about ourselves is being strong, courageous, kind, tolerant, helpful and humble. What makes us feel good about ourselves is every time we take right action and do something that is productive or healthy.
This is why the Big Book so astutely asserts that frothy emotional appeal seldom suffices. It's okay to scrutinize and identify our character defects, and this can be done in a loving way and with a loving intention. The intention is to free ourselves within. It may seem backwards, but this is actually how we rid ourselves from guilt and shame. Having some sanity and some clarity about what's right and wrong is what strengthens and empowers addicts and alcoholics.
So let us have it. Let yourself have it. Bullshit is no answer. Never has been, never will be.