Welcome to Day 7 of our lent coverage on addiction and recovery. Today, we will be discussing the importance of self-care in addiction recovery which will also touch on strategies for maintaining physical and emotional health.
Addiction can be characterised by the term “self-will run riot” AA Big Book, Basic Text, referring to a situation where an individual’s self-will gets out of control, leading to destructive behaviour and this takes a toll on both physical and emotional health.
It’s essential therefore to prioritise self-care in Recovery, so let’s look at some of the strategies you can use to maintain (or establish) self-care.
1. Establish healthy habits:
In recovery, it’s important to establish healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. These habits can help you feel better physically and mentally and can support your recovery journey. Remember the benefits of a short walk (15 minutes is a good place to start) in a green space we mentioned on day 4.
2. Practice stress management:
Stress can be a trigger for addictive behaviour, so it’s important to have healthy strategies for managing stress. Notice I didn’t say eliminating stress as there will always be some stress to deal with and some stress may be a positive thing in helping to build resilience. However, activities such as yoga, prayer and meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature can help you manage stress and maintain emotional balance.
3. Seek social support:
A strong support network is crucial in recovery, and it’s important to seek out positive relationships and interactions with others. This can include joining a support group or recovery community, spending time with family and friends who are supportive of recovery, and building new relationships with others in recovery.
4. Engage in activities that bring joy:
In recovery, it’s important to engage in activities that bring joy and fulfilment. This can include hobbies, creative pursuits, or activities that promote relaxation and self-care such as reading, taking a bath, going for a walk, or getting a massage.
5. Practice self-compassion:
Recovery can be a challenging journey, and it’s important to practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. This includes being kind to oneself, accepting imperfections, and treating oneself with the same compassion and understanding one would offer to a friend.
Personally I find this last one, self-compassion to be the most difficult because when you’re told (for instance when you are growing up by people that are significant to you) that you don’t matter or are constantly put down or let down we start to believe we are not worth caring for and this becomes part of an adopted “life script”. Therefore, when faced with a choice to meet someone else’s needs or our own, we often abandon ourselves and tend to the needs of others, “they’re more important” according to the adopted “life script”. So, self-care requires additional awareness and maybe some help to change our relationship with our past, and to adopt new life scripts that are kinder to ourselves.
It also doesn’t have to be either/or, (meeting my needs or meeting someone else’s needs). It’s more a question of prioritising or sequencing need. We can do both, but the starting point must be that we are important too.
I’ve never been in a plane where oxygen masks are needed but if we’ve been on a plane at all then we’ve heard the safety talk about oxygen masks where is the instruction is clear, put your own mask on first before you try to help anyone else. If you don’t then you’ll run out of oxygen, and you won’t be able to help others. Similarly, in Recovery, self-care is like putting on your oxygen mask. It ensures you are ok and then allows you to be there for others.