5 Things to Remember When Practicing Self-Care Seems Selfish

Self-care — the act of caring for oneself — is a relatively new concept for many people in recovery. In fact, you could argue that addiction was the opposite of self-care, it was self-harm. We spend years enduring the damage of substance use.

In finding recovery, however, you have taken a huge step in practicing self-care.

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Why Self-Care is Important in Recovery

Recovery is a process of awareness about:

  • How addiction has manifested in our lives
  • Ways we’ve lost all control over drug use
  • What we need to do to stay sober

That awareness applies to how we have interacted in our active addiction. Meaning, the harms we’ve caused to others. It can even feel like we should be enduring some kind of pain to make up for the hurt we’ve all caused — a kind of comeuppance.

This is where the amends process comes into play. It allows us to make up for, or put right (an amends) the hurt we’ve caused.

I argue that making amends is an act of practicing self-care because we are repairing relationships. We are putting right the harm we have caused. The amends process is powerful because we are clearing up the wreckage of our addiction.

We’re also caring for ourselves by removing the hurt that causes us to ruminate and get resentful.

5 Things to Remember About Practicing Self-Care

Unfortunately, we can get mixed messages when we talk about practicing self-care. There is an assumption that self-care means luxuriating in spas and yoga retreats while not putting right our wrongs. Many folks, like hurt loved ones who are still raw from the effects of your addiction, might think self-care is selfish.

This is where a little context is helpful.

It is perfectly okay to practice self-care and make up for the harms caused. Recovery isn’t black and white and either/or. Recovery is all about nuance.

Recovery is all about nuance.

It can be “both, and.” Meaning we can make amends and practice self-care. I’d argue taking care of yourself is a living amends to yourself because it makes up for the harm you caused to your body. It helps you to de-stress and maintain recovery.

Here are 5 things to remember when practicing self-care seems selfish:

  1. You can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself: We have to have a solid foundation before we can give ourselves to something else. There is no point caring for others if we are depleted.
  2. Self-care will help you to maintain your recovery: You’ll learn how to de-stress and promote relaxation creating a much healthier environment for your recovery to thrive.
  3. A critical part of long-term recovery is learning to manage stress: If we don’t get a handle on stress, then we are at a major risk of relapse.
  4. Self-care improves your relationship with yourself, and therefore with others: When we take time to care for ourselves, we’re making up for the self-neglect of addiction. We may also better appreciate that in caring for ourselves, we can better care for our relationships with others.
  5. The act of caring for yourself improves self esteem: Self-care is self-love. When we soften towards ourselves and show ourselves that we can take time to promote our well-being, we improve our self-esteem because we’re saying that we are worthy of acts of kindness and compassion.

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Different Ways of Practicing Self-Care

Practicing self-care doesn’t have to mean going to a spa. There are lots of ways to practice self-care that don’t even involve taking time out of your day.

Here are some of the simple (and more involved) ways you can take care of yourself:

    • Setting boundaries: Saying “no” is self-care. You may say no to extra work or responsibilities even though you are tempted to make up for your addiction. Setting strong boundaries is a critical part of long-term sobriety.
    • Break: Taking regular breaks throughout the day is self-care: Just 5 to 10 minutes to walk away from your desk or workstation to go outside is a powerful way to de-stress.
    • Meditate: Take 10 minutes at the beginning of each day to get yourself set up for the day. Use one of the hundreds of mindfulness apps out there. Some options are:
      • Headspace
      • Calm
      • Insight Timer
    • Stretch: Apps like Headspace also have many stretching routines that can loosen up stiff muscles and promote relaxation.
    • Move your body: Going for a walk, hitting the gym, doing an at-home workout with as little as 20 minutes is enough to de-stress and produce those feel-good chemicals. Plus, moving your body is a great way to keep it in shape, boost your mental health, and ward off illness.
    • Go to a meeting: Whether you hit an AA meeting, Refuge Recovery, Recovery Dharma, LifeRing, or SMART, they are all ways to practice self-care. If you haven’t gathered this already: Recovery is self-care.
    • Eat a homemade nutritious meal: Making yourself a healthy meal is a really satisfying process. It also sends a message that you are worthy of taking the time to feed your body. This was something that was sorely lacking in addiction.
    • Ending friendships: Saying goodbye to unhealthy relationships is self-care. Friendships with people who want to take you back to the old days, or people who don’t support your recovery are not worth maintaining. Taking a break from those friendships or moving on are great ways to take care of yourself.
    • Quit bad habits: Folks in recovery that smoke may find themselves conflicted — I know I did — about caring for themselves by getting sober but still engaging in a behavior that causes their body harm, like smoking. Stopping smoking is an incredible act of self-care.

    Other Ways to Practice Self-Care

    There are some other great acts of self-care that we are worthy of doing, like:

    • Going to a spa
    • Having a massage or facial
    • Taking a vacation
    • Attending a yoga workshop or meditation retreat
    • Attending a cooking class or cake decorating class

    All of these are valid acts of self-care that you are worthy of taking part in. Practicing self-care as part of recovery is an important step.

    Call 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) today to learn about flexible treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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