Defining Self-Determination


In life, we each get to make decisions for ourselves. That is our right to self-determination. Sometimes when we are struggling with mental health concerns, we lose decision-making capacity. Our loved ones step in and start making decisions for us. One day, however, when we are feeling better and in a more stable place, we get to reclaim that right to self-determination. We get to use our better judgment again and lean into the process of discernment.

What is Self-Determination?

Self-determination is our right to make choices for ourselves. We get to gather evidence and then decide where to apply our energy. Our decisions may be avoidant, impulsive, or rational, but regardless of their nature – they are our decisions to make. This safeguards our right to free will. It is core to our identity formation. We define ourselves based on the decisions we make.

What Happens When We Lose Our Judgement?

Sometimes when we are struggling with severe mental duress or a substance use disorder, other people step in to say we should not have a right to self-determination. Based on their assessment, they decide we do not have sound judgment. They say “you’re not making healthy decisions for yourself so someone else needs to make decisions for you.” When we lose that level of agency, it can be hard to build ourselves back up when we are healthy again.

How Do We Reclaim Self-Determination?

After a struggle with addiction or co-occurring mental health disorder that results in someone else making decisions for us, it can be hard to rebuild trust in ourselves. We may have trouble making decisions even after we are given back that ability. The thought of “how can I judge anyone or anything else when I’ve done something so regrettable?” may cross our minds.

At this stage, it is crucial to acknowledge that we each have a right to self-determination and that we are dynamic individuals. We can forgive ourselves for decisions we made in the past and simultaneously forge decisions into the future. Discernment is always there, we just have to tap into it.

How do you reclaim self-determination after losing decision-making capacity? This takes time and it is a constant reminder that you are a dynamic individual. Past choices do not reflect your current ability to decide what’s best for you. You can reclaim your right to self-determination and we are here to help you accomplish just that. At Valiant Living, we structure our treatment around your free will. We want to empower you to make the best decisions for yourself in recovery. At our men’s only facility in Denver, Colorado, we support those struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental illness. Our expert staff offers both inpatient and outpatient services. To learn more about what we can do for you, reach out to us at (303) 952-5035.