“Caring for your body, mind and spirit is your greatest responsibility. It’s about listening to the needs of your soul and then honoring them.” – Kristi Ling Spencer, Bestselling Author
If you happen to be in addiction treatment of any sort (e.g., an inpatient or outpatient program at a treatment center, an impaired professionals program, etc.), here’s a thought-provoking, potentially recovery-boosting question to ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you were to use drugs or alcohol again?”
Alright, after you’ve reflected some on that question—and of course there’s no right or wrong answer, since literally everyone will have their own unique experience of ‘what happens when they use’ to consider—here’s the perfect follow-up question for you: “How do you plan on caring for yourself to prevent a relapse?”
Obviously, “self-care” means different things to different people. It may be wise, however, to take a look at some of the ways people with long-term sobriety take care of themselves—in action—to ensure they remain free of drug or alcohol use, one day at a time.
Here are a few time-tested suggestions for increasing your level of self-care:
1) Surround yourself with positive influences. There’s an often-used saying in the 12 Step fellowships: ‘Winners stick with the winners.’ In other words, if you want to create the strongest foundation for your ongoing recovery—whether you’re in treatment or have returned from rehab to “normal” life in society—then purposely spend more time with those who you see and feel radiate positivity. By consciously choosing to put yourself, as often as possible, in a beneficial, uplifting atmosphere, in the company of those who exude genuine kindness, respect, care and support, you’re more likely to see your recovery thrive.
“If you are surrounded by people who not only don’t believe in your goals and your positive outlook on life, but who also continually try to tear you down, it will be extremely challenging for you to hold firmly in mind that you will succeed and you can be happy.” – Chris Prentiss, Zen and the Art of Happiness
2) Make connections with others a priority, even if at first it’s really uncomfortable. The fact is, seclusion and isolation are not only common behaviors pf those who’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, but isolating yourself is also an indicator a relapse may be starting. Early in our recovery, if we don’t have any real outlets, we can easily become overwhelmed by our emotions. Therefore, it’s essential to develop connections with people, especially seeking out those with whom we feel sufficiently safe to share ourselves authentically (and that may include on-staff addiction specialists, counselors, etc.). We’re practicing self-care when we share openly with someone what’s really going on with us, talking about what’s bothering us — because ultimately, this can help relieve us of anxiety or feeling alone.
3) Regular exercise, sufficient sleep and a healthy diet can significantly improve your sense of well-being. Giving our minds and bodies what they need to function properly is especially vital when we’re in the initial stages of recovering from addiction. After years of having our bodies and minds subjected to the ravages of drug or alcohol abuse, it takes time and plenty of self-care to heal the damage done. Committing to these three simple “daily routines” can improve your mood, lower stress levels, enhance your mental clarity and make problem-solving easier.
By following through on the suggestions made above, your “self-care quotient” will rise and the foundation of your recovery will broaden and deepen – thereby strengthening the likelihood that relapse will not be a part of your “recovery story” going forward, one day at a time.