The concept of self-care has changed a lot for most people over the years - for me, certainly.
Self-care used to be solely about getting my hands on a bottle of liquor, and, if I was lucky, a gram or two of coke to go with it. Not that the coke did much for me, to be honest - it was just there to perk me up, and allow me to drink a little longer. Maybe long enough that I’d be looking for the next bottle that came after. That was my idea of “self-care” in the proverbial nutshell.
Fortunately, however, other things tend to change over the years, too, like your face, your dreams (if you had any in the first place), and, again if luck plays a part, your direction.
For many years, my direction was anywhere that led to that next bottle, and, over time, it slowly dawned on me (forgive me, but I wasn’t in a particularly “intellectual space” back then) that whatever direction I ended up taking, every one of them was headed down, a little round and around, too, yes, but mostly down, down, and down.
Until, one day, my self-care suddenly became another’s responsibility - a close friend who’d had enough of seeing me drunk 24/7, arrogant, alone, and always, always angry, and who chose to do something practical about it. Along with her father, they drove me into the next state, to an alcohol rehab in Colorado that pretty much took my direction at that time in a complete 180-degree turn.
“Reinvent yourself over and over and over and over and over until you find home. There is no timeline for the soul.”
- Malebo Sephodi (Lioness), South African award-winning author
That’s why I’m sitting here, writing this. If it wasn’t for my friend, I doubt I’d be here - period.
Alcohol rehab taught me many things, including how to write what I feel down in a journal every single day - a practice I still continue now, and a significant part of my own ongoing self-care. One of our many topics of discussion during rehab was how to look after ourselves and our own self-interests, ie. our continued recovery - self-care and me-time being essential elements of this.
If you are new to a life in addiction recovery, do not fear. Life is far, far improved (removed, even) a million times over from your days of scratching around for the money to your next bottle or your next fix, and, if you had no money, begging, borrowing, or just plain stealing to get your hands on it.
Life stays improved as long, of course, that you look after and care for yourself - self-care. To assist you in this brave new world you’ve now become a part of is this: Your “4 Ways to Ensure Your Self-Care & Me-Time in Recovery”:
So, to begin, what exactly is self-care?...
Self-care, in essence, is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you and your physical, mental and spiritual health, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you.
Put that definition into the context of addiction recovery, and, if you are actively engaged in self-care, you are providing yourself with the coping mechanisms and tools you need to not only stay sober, but to maintain a happy, full, and healthy way of life.
You can do this many ways, but here are 4 particular choices that are particularly useful and, as an added bonus, enjoyable:
1. Stay Mindful & Live Right Now
You may have already heard about mindfulness if you’re in addiction recovery. Mindfulness is the practice of “living in the moment” - being focused on your physical and mental state, your sensations and your feelings. Staying in the moment can be difficult, but it gives you a chance to get in touch with yourself, and how you really are. Furthermore, it can allow you to explore and understand those emotions and thoughts that you were always self-medicating against in active addiction.
2. Life Balance: The Only Equation
When you first begin your recovery, it can be easy to keep yourself constantly distracted, avoiding the cravings to use drugs or alcohol once again. Some do it by throwing themselves into their work, or going to every 12-Step meeting under the sun. Yes, it might keep you sober, but it won’t keep you sane. Life is an equation that has to balance. Finding your own healthy balance between work, social life, and recovery activities may feel hard at first, but it is possible.
An intrinsic part of this is setting yourself boundaries. For example, self-care is about protecting you and your recovery. Being open about the fact that you’re living a substance-free lifestyle is vital because it lets people around you know what your boundaries are. You need boundaries for who you spend time with, where you go, and what you do to ensure you don’t open up the possibility of a relapse.
3. Connect with Others in Recovery
As the coronavirus has shown us clearly, isolation and solitude is not good for our mental health. Addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can all thrive, and become far worse, if you live a solitary life. So, it’s highly important to find friends, family, groups, such as 12-Step fellowships, and even your personal therapist or counselor, that will help you up in your recovery - these individuals are your necessary support network.
4. Spend Time with You
However, being around people 100% all the time is not going to help you in the long-term. While connecting with other people is important, it’s equally as important to take time to just be with yourself - your essential me-time. At first, it can be challenging to be alone, but it is this time alone that will eventually become time that you really value.
It’s a time for important reflection, to write in a journal about your feelings and thoughts, to engage in your hobbies, to listen to music, to express yourself through art, to practice your mindfulness or other relation technique, or anything else that makes your me-time quintessentially yours.
Best wishes for your continued recovery.