Recovering from addiction–or counseling someone through the recovery process–is a remarkably difficult undertaking. You have to know when to be firm and when to give someone the independence to take control of their own life.
A key factor in determining healthy independence is self-care. Or rather, how much someone in recovery is willing to commit to their own self-care.
After all, there are major benefits of self-care in recovery. It’s all about learning how to care for yourself. Here’s what you need to know to coach someone through it.
What is Self-Care?
Self-care today is often associated with bubble baths, chocolate, and Netflix. But at the heart of it, self-care is all about taking care of your health.
Self-care is about:
- Knowing your limits
- Taking care of your body
- Getting enough sleep and knowing when to rest
- Finding productive ways to work through a difficult situation
For example, if you’re going through a depressive episode, one way to approach self-care is to do the dishes and tidy up your living space. Or, if you’re dealing with addiction, self-care could mean finding healthy, sober hobbies to occupy your time when you’re struggling.
What is Self-Awareness?
A big part of self-care is self-awareness, which is when you understand why you think, feel, and behave in specific ways.
For example, if you’re dealing with addiction, part of self-awareness is knowing how to recognize negative behavior patterns and where they’re coming from. If you’re a recovering alcoholic and find yourself craving alcohol more than usual, it might be in response to a stressful situation.
Knowing why you behave in certain ways and what aggravates certain behavior patterns allows you to proactively address the issue and make real headway in your fight against addiction.
The Benefits of Self-Care and Self Awareness
Self-care and self-awareness go hand-in-hand.
Of course, when you’re fighting addiction, or you’re an addiction counselor helping someone else fight for recovery, self-care and self-awareness are frightening things. Many people fall into the same trap of thinking that self-care is selfish.
When done properly, self-care isn’t selfish at all. Having the right combination of compassion, persistence, and a stubborn commitment to your own wellbeing is the first step in caring for the people around you.
That said, because self-care is so often associated with luxury, many people struggle to find ways to enact self-care.
The best way to approach self-care from a recovery perspective is to think of it in terms of health rather than a luxury. It’s a necessary step toward your physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing.
In fact, it’s critical if you want to leave behind patterns of self-abuse that are so common in addiction. There are a lot of ways to abuse yourself, from drinking in excess to pushing down your emotions to addictive eating patterns.
The irony is that, while self-care is often viewed as selfish, self-abuse is actually an act of self-centeredness. Any form of self-abuse is, at its root, an issue of selfishness–when you spend so much time beating yourself up, your focus is solely on yourself, without consideration for how you may be harming others.
In addiction recovery, one of the most important steps is moving out of these cycles to recognize the pain you’ve caused others. This is where self-care can help. Here are a few tips to try during recovery.
First and foremost, you need to stay mindful.
Addiction, in all its many forms, is about running away from something. Some emotions, situations, thoughts, and sensations are so deeply upsetting that you rely on addictive behaviors as a shield.
One of the biggest steps in recovery (and one of the most important ways that self-care can aid you) is learning how to sit with what upsets you. Not disregarding or diminishing it, but learning how to be aware of it and ride the tides.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
Mindfulness practices are all about identifying what’s going on and exploring it. This gives you a chance to learn why something is so upsetting to you and take steps to address that discomfort in healthy ways.
This is where it’s important to find balance.
As a society, we give our actions a lot of importance. Busyness, in our eyes, is directly connected to your personal value.
You have to remember that anything can be an addiction, in that you can use the same set of addictive behaviors even if you’re not abusing drugs or alcohol. Throwing yourself blindly into work or school is just as much of an addictive behavior pattern as drug abuse. It’s not much better for your loved ones.
In overcoming addiction, you have to find balance in your life between work, school, loved ones, social activities, and recovery. If you focus too much on one aspect, you can use it as a tool to hide behind and set yourself up for relapse.
Seek Support, But Take Time to Be With Yourself
Finally, balance applies to the time you spend with others (and yourself).
Addictions thrive on solitude. In order to maintain your habit, you have to isolate yourself from those around you, physically or emotionally. Recovery involves leaving solitude behind to seek help when you need help.
That said, surrounding yourself with people 24/7 isn’t a realistic way to go through life (or recovery). Humans are innately social and we hate being alone. However, it’s important to distinguish between being alone and loneliness.
You can be alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely in a crowded room. It’s possible to be happy alone if you learn to be comfortable spending quality time with me, myself, and I.
It’s Not Selfish to Focus on Yourself
One of the most important things to remember about self-care is that it’s not about spoiling yourself. It’s about taking care of yourself. Learning the difference is one of the biggest benefits of self-care for the recovery process.
If you’re interested in becoming an addiction counselor, it helps to learn as much as you can about the recovery process. That’s where we can help. Check out our blog for more useful tips, like this post on what it’s like to be an addiction counselor.