You’ve likely heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” before but how often do you apply this to your life? The only way to be at peace with yourself is by embracing the numerous responsibilities and taking some time to focus on what is essential. This includes self-care and recovery.
If you think you’ve been hearing more about self-care now, you’re right. One indicator: According to Google Trends, the number of searches for “self-care” has more than doubled since 2015. Although prioritizing self-care may sound like common sense, especially if you’re considering longevity, it’s often the first thing to go when we find ourselves in challenging situations, whether because of bad health, a financial crisis, job loss, divorce, or, in our current situation, the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why it is important to keep it top of mind and not an after-thought, especially when we find ourselves in challenging times during recovery.
Although most treatment programs provide aftercare services, such as referrals to community resources, individuals in recovery are ultimately responsible for their own lives. Support is important, but self-care is essential. In the end, we are responsible for our own happiness and sobriety. Today we will take a closer look at self-care and recovery, and what you can do to cultivate a self-care practice that works best for YOU!
Why is Self-Care Important?
Addiction negatively affects your mood, motivation, self-perception, and sense of well-being. Most people initially abuse drugs or alcohol to reduce stress, cope with negative emotions, escape boredom, or reward themselves. Once an addiction develops, stress, negative emotions, and boredom become major triggers for using. Burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, comes with significant consequences, which may include but are not limited to burnout, depression, anxiety, resentment, and a whole host of other negative implications.
On the other hand, a high level of self-care helps you maintain a stable mood, and it leads to more energy and motivation and better-coping abilities. Just one small act of self-care can snowball, leading to other healthy decisions that give you self-confidence and improve your sense of health and well-being.
H.A.L.T for Self-Care and Recovery
The very definition of halt means to stop. This halt acronym is often used in recovery to serve as a reminder to stop, take a minute and evaluate what you are feeling that could be triggering a craving or urge to use substances. Understanding your thoughts and emotions will help you to counteract an urge when it arises. Ask yourself, are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (H.A.L.T)?
The feelings of hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness are often common triggers that could lead to relapse. These are oftentimes the best places to start when considering how to provide yourself with the self-care you need during recovery. It seems simple enough, but we are susceptible to self-destructive behaviors when these basic needs are not met, including relapse. Fortunately, hunger, anger, loneliness, and tiredness are easy to address and serve as a warning system before things reach a breaking point.
Using “H.A.L.T.” in everyday life is one way everyone, recovering addicts and those who have never touched a drug, can get along better. By checking ourselves when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, we can step outside of ourselves for a moment and realize what we need to do to get ourselves into a positive frame of mind.
Granted, “H.A.L.T.” isn’t the answer to all of life’s situations, but you might be surprised to find out how well it works in your own life. It’s simple, but that’s OK — sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that keep addicts clean and all of us sane, just for today.
How to Create a Self-Care and Recovery Practice
Recovery is about so much more than just getting sober. Once we put down the drugs or alcohol, we must find a new way to live. We are undergoing a profound transformational process – one that largely centers on self-care. Also, taking care of your health helps to prevent a reoccurrence or relapse. One of the primary objectives of recovery is to celebrate ongoing, continuous abstinence from drugs and alcohol. You will greatly increase your chances of sobriety when you practice self-care.
Get Up and Get Moving
You don’t have to weight train or run a marathon. A simple walk to the store or an occasional bicycle ride will create “feel-good” endorphins and relieve stress. And remember, exercise and fun are not mutually exclusive. Join a recreational sports league or try surfing. The possibilities are endless.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep affects our mood and how we view each day. You’re much more inclined to keep a positive attitude during the day after a full night of restful sleep. Although life happens, even after 11 p.m., keeping a regular sleep pattern can be very beneficial, physically and emotionally.
Proper Eating Habits
In recovery, it may be tempting to swap old bad habits with new ones, such as eating junk food. However, eating well will give you more energy and promote a positive outlook on life.
You hear a lot about mindfulness in recovery, but what does being mindful really mean? Mindfulness is the practice is being aware of physical and mental sensations. Staying in the present moment can be difficult, and even uncomfortable at times. Sticking with the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing in the moment gives you a chance to get in touch with what’s really going on inside you, and allows you to explore emotions and thoughts that you avoided when you were in active addiction.
Practice Compassionate Self-Care and Recovery
When developing compassion, it’s typically easiest to start with yourself. Even if you don’t like yourself very much, at least you genuinely desire your own happiness. Many people struggle with guilt and shame as they try to recover from addiction and developing self-compassion will definitely help with that.
As you work to correct your wrongs, be gentle on yourself, and try to do good for others whom you may have hurt in the past. Sometimes all you have to do is ask for forgiveness. If you can speak with those who you hurt when actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, ask if they can forgive you. Be careful of your actions and only speak to those who would not be hurt more by your presence or communication.You should also continue to work on forgiving yourself – remember you are still learning and that patience is very important in the recovery journey. Be patient with yourself, allow yourself grace and forgiveness as you heal.
Emotional and Social Self-Care
Relationships are important and social self-care means taking time to nurture the relationships you have. You may practice social self-care by spending quality time with individuals who uplift and support you. These people can be your friends, family or even your sponsor. If you’re trying to escape negative social circles that don’t support your sobriety and recovery, social self-care might mean looking outwards to create new, meaningful friendships and connections. A few ways to do this may be to join a 12 step recovery group, volunteer at special events or sign up for new activities.
Emotional self-care is important for both your internal and external health. You can take care of your emotional well-being by processing and verbalizing feelings with trusted confidants. You can also release negative emotions through an expressive art form, such as listening to music, singing, drawing or dancing. It also helps to avoid situations and people that cause you undue emotional distress, practice setting boundaries, and learn to be in touch with your thoughts and feelings. Release your emotions rather than bottling them in. You can move through painful experiences that may otherwise cause you to suffer.
Self Care and recovery Boundaries
Before getting sober, you probably had a group of people you spent a lot of time with that either encouraged your drug and alcohol use or used with you. When you make the decision to get sober, it can affect the relationships you have with those people. As difficult as it is, cutting off communication with these people is going to help you resist the temptation to go back to using your drug of choice. Self-care is about protecting yourself and your sobriety.
Being open about the fact that you’re living a sober lifestyle is important because it lets people around you know that you aren’t going to be drinking or using drugs with them anymore. Setting boundaries regarding who you spend time with, where you go, and what you do will help you avoid situations that could set you up for a relapse. In sobriety, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to form new relationships with people who are also in recovery!
We Are in This Together – Self-Care and Recovery
Addiction is isolating, but you are not alone. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Recovery is a lifelong process, and there will be challenges throughout your recovery. Take the first step toward freeing yourself from the chains of addiction, and contact us at Harmony Recovery Center.