“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the most important gift I’ve been given.” – Parker Palmer
Being in recovery—whether early on (e.g., in treatment for alcohol or drug abuse) or with many years “clean and sober”—we’re often reminded of the importance of regularly practicing self-care (i.e., daily self-care).
Why is self-care so essential to our ongoing recovery? Well, for starters, nurturing ourselves in body, mind and spirit gives us an increasingly strong foundation for dealing with feelings and emotions we used to try to numb or escape from. When challenging situations arise, our regular practice of self-care provides us with greater ability to face “life on life’s terms” and greater assurance we’ll choose to avoid behaviors—as well as people, places and things—that could lead us to relapse.
For those of you in recovery from addiction looking for a quick refresher about the fundamentals of self-care, here are a few of the basics:
- Get sufficient rest. Facing the world and making wise decisions is always more challenging if you’re tired, fatigued or exhausted. But when you’ve had a good night’s sleep and feel rested and fresh, more often than not you’re able to navigate your way through life more effectively.
- Eat healthy food and avoid overeating or not eating enough. Clearly, feeling satisfied and energized by the food you eat will contribute to your overall sense of well-being… which in turn adds strength to your relapse-prevention mindset.
- Exercise and getting outdoors each day help maintain your physical strength and flexibility, boosts your immune system and helps ward off depression.
- Actively engaging in the study of addiction, including how it has affected you and how you can recover from addiction, can redirect your attention in valuable ways and build new, healthy habits of thinking and feeling.
- Reflective writing about your journey through addiction and into recovery can bring about important life-changing insights, as well as a sense of self-care.
- Sharing with others—e.g., supportive people in your recovery network, treatment center staff or therapists, your 12 Steps sponsor—and being open-minded about considering new points of view may increase your sense of being understood and decrease any feelings of being overwhelmed, as well as prove invaluable for developing or strengthening your foundation of recovery.
- Daily meditation and/or prayer may seem foreign or strange to many of us upon our first coming into recovery. Ultimately though, after having struggled in vain for months or years to stop drinking or using drugs, we’ve often found that once we have learned or reconnected with some form of these spiritual self-care practices, they’ve provided us with an avenue to have conscious contact with “a power greater than ourselves.” And this “higher power,” we’ve come to realize, can be a key ingredient in our finding freedom from active addiction (one day at a time).
- Sharing in the fellowship of recovery with others who’re seeking, practicing and living a new way of life, one day at a time, offers another dimension of spiritual self-care, due to our feeling—perhaps for the first time in our lives—part of, rather than apart from, a community we truly feel a sense of belonging.
A daily regimen of self-care is clearly a multi-faceted tool of recovery, in that it includes actively nourishing and nurturing your body, mind and spirit. Indeed, because of its wide-ranging positive influence and effects, self-care can be considered one of your best allies for maintaining a daily program of recovery to avoid relapse and enjoy a new life of freedom from active addiction.