When someone is suffering from an addiction, the hardest thing is to find a way to take care of oneself. Self-care is, therefore, one of the significant steps towards recovery. When someone becomes addicted to a substance, they are very well aware of how it affects their mental and physical condition. However, they are wracked by the need to consume the substance. Their mental self-image takes a battering, and their physical image matches what they think of themselves. As the addiction worsens, their hygiene deteriorates, and along with that, their sense of self. Addiction preys on a person’s mentality as much as it affects their physical well-being.
Self-care can take several different forms. If someone wants to recover from their addiction, their self-image needs to be a core part of that recovery plan. Being able to recover from addiction depends on rebuilding a person’s self-image. In part, this relies on proper self-care, both mentally and physically. The doubt and feelings of worthlessness that funnel someone towards addiction need to be addressed as a fundamental part of overcoming addiction. While self-care on its own isn’t enough to get someone to overcome addiction, it provides a necessary basis for them to see themselves as a recovering person. That self-image can mean a world of difference if they start to relapse.
Having a picture of who they see themselves as will give them a goal to work towards. Addiction is about losing that sense of self and putting one’s faith in feeling good in the substance. Finding that sense of self is a significant driver towards recovery. Many people think drug recovery is just about detoxing and then going back to their lives, but nothing could be further from the truth. While detox will ensure the person no longer has the substance in their body, it takes a lot of willpower to keep them from falling into habits of use all over again. Self-care is the foundation to create a mental picture of how one looks when one is not addicted to the substance, as a motivator to stay away from it.
What Is Self-Care?
Self-care can take several forms related to improving one’s mental or physical state. It’s like recharging one’s battery. Each person has a different type of self-care that works for them personally. Most mental health professionals recognize the need for self-care to bolster a person’s mental fortitude as they recover. Self-reflection and discovering what one enjoys make for powerful replacements for an addictive substance. But self-care isn’t just about mental fortitude. It can come in physical form as well.
Addicted persons sometimes have a reputation for neglecting their physical well-being. These physical aspects include forgetting basic hygiene, such as brushing one’s teeth or combing one’s hair. It might even extend to things like taking a shower. This lack of physical self-care, in turn, shows up in their poor personal appearance. Many people don’t realize that personal appearance can affect their mental image of themselves, leading to lowered self-worth and feelings of inadequacy. These feelings are what drive people to addiction and increased drug use. Taking care of one’s appearance will help avoid the negative emotions that lead down the road to addiction.
Self-care is one of the most important ways to overcome addiction and get one’s life back on track. Aside from mental and physical aspects of self-care, emotional, social, and spiritual needs should be met. Many recovery facilities can help people discover the best ways of approaching their own self-care and even guide them until they find out what works for them.
The Importance of Self-Care
Recovering from an addiction is not just about leaving the substance behind, even though that is the most vital part of the process. Recovery needs to be holistic, or else it will simply lead to a person falling back into use and abuse of the substance. To completely recover from a substance, a person needs to change their physical and mental outlook on life. A person’s focus on their well-being helps them understand why they should avoid drugs and how they affect their lives. Addiction recovery needs self-care for the recovering person to ingrain that sense of self-worth into their life. It’s a core part of teaching a recovering person that they matter.
Recovery is about rebuilding. When a person enters rehab, they are at their lowest point, but they hope that they can bounce back. Self-care is the foundation for that recovery because it gives them an image of the person they want to be as a place to work towards. Each step a person takes towards reaching that pinnacle of self-care is a step out of the shadow of addiction. For a person recovering from substance abuse and dependence, self-care is about action – being able to do something that positively impacts their lives. It’s the polar opposite of the powerlessness a person feels when in the grip of addiction.
Self-Care vs. Selfishness
Many people mistake the terms self-care and selfishness. For some individuals, these terms mean the same thing, but that’s not the case in reality. As kids, we learn that holding onto certain things makes one selfish. Instead, we’re told to share so that we might make friends with others and build our social network. However, what teachers fail to mention at this stage is that it’s okay to take some time for oneself. Self-care is a time for introspection and looking at who we are, understanding our base motivations, and using that to better ourselves by finding what inspires us or makes us passionate. It’s a fallacy to think that self-care is selfish.
Selfishness happens when a person decides to hoard something that they have enough of to share. A recovering person can’t be selfish because, in their position, there’s not enough of their mental energy to go around. They need all of it to help themselves out of their addiction. This journey to recovery is a highly personal one. While the recovering person might lean on the support of friends and family, most of the work is done internally, through their mental and physical processes. This approach needs all of their mental strength. Self-care, in this sense, can’t be selfish because there’s no more of the recovering person’s mental strength to share with others.
The Urgency of Self-Care For Recovering People
When someone enters rehab, they take the first step towards recovery. However, self-care needs to feature as a significant component in their review process. The urgency of self-care stems from empowering the individual to control the parts of their life that they can. When a person is addicted, they neglect relationships because all their energies are directed towards the substance. Those bridges need to be rebuilt in recovery, but the first one that a recovering person must start with is the bridge to their own self-image. This bridge is the most vital one because it helps people grasp the importance of their existence to themselves.
Starting self-care doesn’t have to be a grand, sweeping gesture. It could be as simple as remembering to brush one’s teeth or change one’s clothes when the outfit gets dirty. Starting small, with the things the recovering person can control, allows them agency. Agency is linked to their confidence and helps build up that self-image of a person who can do things positively. While addiction controls a person through fear, the best way to overcome it is to instill confidence. The sooner a person starts to grasp the need for self-care, the sooner they can begin overcoming the way a drug feels.
Self-Care and Mental Health
It’s common to hear someone who has mental health problems referred to as “crazy.” Unfortunately, this stigma has made it extremely difficult to discuss mental health in any forum. When someone enters rehab, it’s common for recovering persons to feel as though they’re losing their minds. This feeling is partially due to their psychological dependence on the drug. However, another part of it stems from how they see themselves as a person. Some individuals entering rehab centers have mental health problems that may compound their recovery. Such “dual diagnosis” cases may be referred to a psychiatrist as a part o their recovery.
For others, there’s still a significant mental impact from addiction. Some people are driven into substance abuse because of the stress of their daily lives. They start using it as an escape which devolves into a lifestyle of drug addiction. Reducing stress helps manage the mental burden on a recovering person, focusing on their recovery and mental well-being. Simple techniques such as meditation or writing can go a long way towards helping a recovering person overcome their dependence. Having fun also helps to reduce stress and is a crucial part of a healthy mental balance.
Self-Care And Your Physical Well-being
In many cases, drug addiction can change a person’s appearance, and not for the better. Many addicted persons lose weight because they neglect eating or can’t afford food. In some cases, they may suffer from illnesses because of a lowered immune system. Physical well-being can come in many forms, but four central pillars can help a recovering person ensure they maintain their physical health:
- Exercise: Even though many recovering people seem to have fit bodies, their muscle development is deficient. Exercise helps with circulation and helps them to have something to focus on that isn’t the addictive substance. Exercise can also help build up the immune system, keeping them safe from other illnesses that might creep in.
- Diet: Eating right is another crucial part of recovering from drug addiction. Human bodies typically burn carbohydrates first, then fats, then proteins. In many cases, because they didn’t eat appropriately while addicted, many individuals lack fat. Eating a healthy diet fuels the body and rebuilds those wasted tissues, getting them back to a healthy point.
- Sleep: Some individuals had bouts of insomnia when they were addicted. As they transition to sobriety, getting enough sleep is crucial to mental and physical health. Ideally, an adult should get between six and eight hours of sleep a day to function normally.
- Personal hygiene: From showering to taking care of one’s appearance, self-care like this can have a significant positive impact on a person’s self-image and inspire them to remain sober.
Physical self-care can help a person recover their self-image and keep their body functioning properly. However, mental and physical self-care are not the only facets that a recovering person should know.
Spiritual Self-Care for All
When a person is recovering, everything counts towards their success. Holistic recovery centers realize that spiritual well-being is also a significant factor in a person’s physical and mental health. Spiritual care is about finding something or someone that the recovering person can put their faith in. For some people, it could be a higher power, but it’s the best version of themselves for others. Part of spiritual self-care is self-reflection. Understanding one’s internal workings can help one come to terms with their struggle and move past it.
Several people shy away from rehab centers because they aren’t fans of religion. Spiritual self-care has nothing to do with religious services. Instead, it focuses on helping individuals discover the triggers for their emotions and the urges they get. Spiritual well-being could lie in meditation and yoga for some people or through deep thought and contemplation for others. Each person’s spiritual self is different, and the best recovery centers help a person find that inside themselves.
Strategies For Self-Care in Recovery
Self-care isn’t something that happens accidentally. If a person is serious about their recovery, they need to take the initiative with their self-care. As mentioned before, there’s no need to undertake something massive in terms of self-care. Recovery self-care can come in many simple actions, including:
- Reading and writing
- Nature walks
- Discussing things with other recovering people
- Meditation or prayer
- Taking a drive to nowhere in particular
- Having coffee with a supportive friend
- Setting healthy boundaries with friends and family
- Listening to music
- Taking a bath
- Having a shower
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s meant to show all the things that count as self-care. Each one impacts a different facet of a recovering person, and each works together to ensure a successful recovery.
Self-Care And Self Awareness
Self-care stems from self-awareness. How does one know when one needs to engage in self-care? A person could have a rigid and unchanging schedule, but that doesn’t work well since humans are unpredictable at best. Instead, turning into oneself at the most basic level helps inform one about one’s self-care needs. Self-awareness is how a person discovers when one needs self-care. One of the best ways of finding oneself is by asking oneself questions. Self-awareness helps shape those questions around how the person is feeling and how their mental and physical state affects them.
When a person leaves addiction behind, they quickly realize that they have more time to do things. It’s easy to fall into a new manic lifestyle of being on the go all the time, but this can have disastrous consequences. Neglecting self-care and self-awareness usually follows because one doesn’t have the time to address one’s needs. Self-awareness gives a person the clues necessary to understand what they need to deal with their self-care.
Taking Time to Take Care Of Yourself Every Day
Each day brings with it new challenges. Each day could mean a step closer to recovery or a step backward towards relapse for a recovering person. Many times, the difference lies in dealing with self-care. As mentioned before, self-awareness gives clues to whether someone needs to perform self-care. In the busy rush of a day, it’s easy to forget that self-care is a crucial part of one’s recovery. Setting aside some time each day for that self-care and self-awareness is healthy. It is not selfish to need time for yourself to deal with your mental and physical well-being. With life being so busy, setting aside that time during the day helps to build availability for that self-care.
However, it’s important to note that self-care can happen at any time, not just during the scheduled period. Learning how to adapt to self-care needs is a crucial part of rediscovering oneself.
Reach Out for Help In Times Of Crisis
Many individuals who are recovering from addiction feel like they need to do so on their own. While a person’s recovery is heavily dependent on themselves, there are certain things that one cannot do on their own. Asking for help is not a weakness – it’s recognizing where you need someone else’s support. Circle of Hope is an institution that understands the struggle of recovery intimately. Our staff is always on call to help recovering individuals. We’ve successfully helped hundreds of others on their way to recovery. Give us the chance to help you. If you feel like you’re struggling and need a helping hand, all you have to do is ask. We’re always ready for you to make contact.