How to Improve Self-Efficacy in Addiction Recovery

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The Role of Self-Efficacy in Addiction Recovery

In recovery and sober living, you will experience a wealth of personal growth. You learn how to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression in a productive way. You learn how to manage your finances responsibly and live independently. And most importantly, you learn how to make good decisions that will positively impact your life.

This personal growth and change is not always easy and may not come naturally at first, but with time and repeated practice, you will begin to develop important beliefs and perceptions about yourself and your surroundings that will help you maintain not just a life of sobriety, but a life that is fulfilling and rewarding. One example of this is self-efficacy.

What Is Self-Efficacy?

The American Psychological Association defines self-efficacy as “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments.”1 Your self-efficacy is a reflection of your confidence in your ability to control your own motivation, behavior, and responses to your environment.

People with high self-efficacy approach obstacles in life as challenges they can master, instead of situations to be avoided. They set challenging goals for themselves, are committed to those goals, and work very hard to achieve them, even in the face of failure. If they are unable to achieve their initial goal, they recognize this as a lack of skills or knowledge, which they can acquire, and then they try again. This approach to life challenges increases personal growth and decreases negative emotions associated with failure.

On the other hand, people with low self-efficacy view life obstacles as threats, and instead of focusing on how to overcome them, they will focus on their own deficiencies, how difficult it will be to achieve success, and all the possible negative outcomes of failure. They rarely set goals for themselves and when they do, they do not remain committed to them. When they face difficult situations, they give up quickly and attribute failure to their own personal deficiencies and are easily overcome by stress, anxiety, and depression as a result.2

According to Albert Bandura, a psychologist who is well-known for his social learning theory, there are four different sources of self-efficacy:3

  1. Successful experiences – Bandura refers to these experiences as “mastery experiences,” which simply refers to an occasion where an individual achieves success. An example of a mastery experience in a sober living environment could be a friend or acquaintance offering you a drug or an alcoholic beverage. By saying, “No, thank you” and walking away, this experience would bolster your confidence in your ability to resist temptation and maintain your sobriety.
  2. Observations of others’ success – Bandura proposed that watching others, such as peers, achieve success increased people’s belief that they too could achieve success. For example, a man in recovery who is surrounded by his peers in a transitional living program is more likely to maintain his abstinence on a reach those milestones in their own sobriety is encouraging and empowering in his own life as well.
  3. Verbal persuasion – Verbal encouragement from influential people such as sober coaches, mentors, peers, and counselors can also increase self-efficacy by simply telling a person that they have the abilities, the drive, and the skills necessary to achieve a certain goal, such as sobriety.
  4. Emotional and psychological state – Positive emotions, even in the face of stress and anxiety, can increase a person’s belief that he or she can still achieve his or her goal. In transitional living programs, individuals are encouraged to use positive coping strategies to deal with stress, depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions to overcome obstacles. As a result, their confidence in their ability to handle similar circumstances will grow.

Each of these sources plays a primary role in developing a person’s beliefs about what he or she is capable of doing.

Why Is Self-Efficacy Important in Recovery?

Self-efficacy is an extremely important aspect of addiction recovery because individuals with high self-efficacy are more likely to manage high-risk situations without giving into temptation.

According to one study published in the Addictive Behaviors journal, individuals in recovery who have the necessary skills and coping strategies are much less likely to relapse, and if they do, they are more likely to view the slip as a temporary setback instead of a complete failure. Conversely, if an individual lacks self-efficacy and relapses, he or she is much more likely to fall into a series of harmful decisions and a full-blown relapse.4

Many studies have also found that self-efficacy is a predictor of treatment outcome and that as a person continually maintains their abstinence, their self-efficacy grows.

7 Common Obstacles to Recovery from Addiction

There are several different obstacles that can get in the way of your recovery and developing your self-efficacy. Here are some of the most common obstacles to recovery from addiction:

  • Lack of motivation: It’s easy to lose motivation, especially during challenging times in your recovery. However, a formal aftercare program or transitional housing program can help ensure that you stay motivated, encouraged, and guided by peers in recovery. Being surrounded by other individuals with similar goals and watching them succeed can help you stay motivated to achieve your own sobriety goals.
  • Financial difficulties: Financial difficulties can be challenging to overcome, but as you gain and practice new life skills like budgeting and responsible spending and saving, you’ll gradually gain more confidence in that area of your life and become financially stable and independent. It’s easy to let money problems ruin your success and keep you down but learning how to cope with financial stress is an important skill to master for lasting sobriety.
  • Lack of honesty: If you are not honest with yourself and others, you are much more likely to relapse. It’s okay to struggle with your sobriety and many days will be difficult but maintaining honesty and transparency in your relationships is an essential part of living life in recovery.
  • Lack of participation: Not going to recovery support meetings, skipping meetings with your sober coach, and isolating yourself from friends and family will only drive you further away from your recovery goals and increase your risk of relapse. You may not always feel like going to that meeting or speaking up when it’s your turn to share, but when you continue to do things despite, how you feel about them, you’ll develop the discipline you need to stay committed to your recovery regardless of the season of life you’re in.
  • Complacency: Complacency can be very dangerous, especially in sobriety. While it’s great to feel confident and proud of what you’ve achieved so far, letting your accomplishments and a false sense of security take over is extremely risky. Once you become complacent, you stop evaluating yourself and your actions because you believe you don’t need to work anymore to get better. In reality, the work never ends. A sober life revolves around the objective analysis of your life and establishing goals and routines to continually improve and grow as a person. When you stop growing, you face the real risk of relapse.
  • Lack of communication skills: People in recovery often lack communication skills because they’re accustomed to using drugs and alcohol to cope with difficult emotions and circumstances. Often, strong emotions like anger, grief, or anxiousness can lead to a relapse because you simply can’t communicate how you feel to others. Developing healthy communication skills comes with practice but talking to a counselor, sober coach, or friend when you’re struggling is a great first step.
  • Lack of commitment: Living a sober life in recovery is a daily commitment that will require hard work. If you’re serious about your recovery, you’ll need to be willing to say goodbye to old friends who are still using, put down the TV remote and get to your recovery meeting, and stick to a healthy routine that will fortify your long-term sobriety. A lack of commitment can destroy a sober lifestyle but staying committed will help you get through the hardest times, including relapse.

Overcoming these obstacles to recovery from addiction will not only help you develop your self-efficacy, but it will also give you the skills and tools you need to stay sober for life.

How to Improve Your Self Efficacy in Addiction Recovery

There are many ways that a transitional housing program can help you increase and develop your self-efficacy in recovery.

  • Overcome obstacles in recovery. It’s no secret that the first few weeks, months, and even years of recovery come with some very difficult challenges. Although you will be faced with situations that may seem impossible to overcome, you are not alone in your struggle. Sober living programs, such as those offered by Eudaimonia Recovery Homes, are designed to provide recovery support in a variety of ways to help you overcome those obstacles. As you achieve your recovery goals and overcome challenges one by one, you’ll soon find that your confidence in your ability to remain sober will increase. You’ll eventually become more capable and confident in your ability to handle those situations on your own.
  • Maintain relationships with peers in recovery. Sober living houses and programs are also designed to help clients establish and develop relationships with their peers in recovery. This is an essential aspect of recovery because it provides opportunities to see others succeeding in long-term and even lifelong sobriety. While watching your peers reach their sobriety goals and maintain their abstinence for weeks, months, and years is motivating on its own and will help increase your self-efficacy, these individuals can also provide valuable insight and encouragement in times when you are struggling. Peers in recovery can also provide valuable verbal encouragement in group meetings, one-on-one meetings, and all throughout your everyday activities, especially while living in transitional housing together.
  • Prioritize your emotional and psychological wellness. Practice daily meditation, do an activity or hobby you enjoy, meet with your therapist regularly, open up to your peers at your local 12-step meetings … these are all great ways to maintain your emotional and psychological wellness and continually thrive in a positive state of mind. Prioritizing your emotional well-being is key to developing self-efficacy and continually achieving success in your sobriety.

Start Improving Your Self-Efficacy Now: Enroll in Sober Living

Enrolling in a sober living program is a great way to continue enhancing and developing your self-efficacy as you face challenges in your newfound sobriety. If you’ve recently completed a drug and alcohol rehab program and you’re ready to move on to the next phase in your recovery, contact Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today to find out how our transitional housing programs can help.


  1. http://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/education/self-efficacy.aspx
  2. https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/BanEncy.html
  3. https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/Bandura1994EHB.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3179802/

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