How Caring For Others Taught Me How To Care For Myself First


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I care for 33 lives. Imagine the responsibility? I love it. I’d even say, I live for it. But, caring for 32 lives wouldn’t be possible without putting one above them all — MY OWN. That was a lesson I had to learn and now take very seriously.

Breaking Down The Caring For Others 

At all times, seven kinkajous are entirely dependent on me for their care. Sometimes more — Kinkatopia offers boarding. Seven kinkajous and 24 various other animals live in my house. To be clear, none of this would be possible without my boyfriend, Michael. He primarily handles the reptiles and I take care of the mammals. We share responsibility of the cats (I have to give him credit here, he’s very fond of our cat children). In many ways I also take care of Michael; but he also takes care of me. We are balanced in our partnership, and I feel so blessed to have found a partner like him because while we’re so proud of what we do, what we’ve taken on sometimes feels monumental. 

Here’s Why Putting Myself First Is Critical 

By 2016, I accumulated three and a half years of sober time and relapsed. By the grace of God, I just celebrated two years of sobriety back this past March. After seeking help in 2017, I was given many opportunities to look at the contributing factors, which pushed me toward picking up my drug of choice again. For me, it is as simple as that I am an alcoholic, I wasn’t taking care of myself, and therefore, I went back out. That’s typically the story for many in the same position. 

I wasn’t taking care of myself. That’s a loaded phrase — what do I mean by that?  

I wasn’t working a recovery program. I lost my connection with God. I distanced myself from friends and family. I was entirely consumed with the animal organization I was running at the time. I allowed it to become my Higher Power. I lost sight of my recovery and took it for granted. I failed to conduct daily spiritual and mental maintenance — and as soon as the opportunity arose, I picked up. 

Having two years again has instilled the importance of not only putting my recovery first but putting myself first. I notoriously take on too much, as many good alcoholics do, so I need a constant reminder to conduct self-care. But what exactly does that look like? Especially with such a busy lifestyle. 

In the bigger picture, I learned to not only define myself by animals

 Don’t get me wrong, kinkajous are my heart, however, I need other enrichment in my life to strive for balance. It is so important for me to have various interests and people to spend my time with. I work out, volunteer, plan daytrips with girlfriends, watch all the “good” horror movies, go to concerts, and never refuse an opportunity to get outside my comfort zone. Having this balance in my life allows me to decompress and experience new things. 

The obvious component of self-care for someone in recovery is the basics

I go to meetings, try to meditate, work with a sponsor, communicate with my support network, and maintain a connection with God. Do I work a perfect program? No. I have a formula I follow, and if I need more of my “medicine,” I rely on my supports and gut to tell me to increase the “dosage.” Everyday I take a personal inventory, talk to someone in recovery, pray, and don’t pick up no matter what — without fail. 

My favorite aspect of self-care is where I can totally indulge in it  

Spending time with nature, facials, pedicures, massages, meditation, binging on my favorite shows, sleeping in … all the magical avenues to relaxation. I usually get so caught up in commitments that I forget how important it is to decompress. I will be the first to admit that I fall short here, but something greater than myself is working to adjust that defect. 

I cannot impress the importance of a solid support network, when it comes to self-care

 I need the guidance of others to help me take care of myself. One of my closest friends is an aesthetician, who blesses me with facials and eyelash extensions — she reminds me to take care of myself. My best friend always knows when to tell me to slow down. My sponsor helps me process a self-inventory when I am getting squirrely. And Michael constantly offers: “What can I do for you?” and helps out where he can. Amazing. God has put people like this in my life to keep me grounded and healthy. 

All that being said, some of my favorite nights are spent in routine with my kinkajous 

 Even cleaning them has become therapeutic. Crazy, I know, but that is a topic for another post. It is okay for me to enjoy spending time with my animals and work on the nonprofit, as long as I am putting myself first. After all, the kinkajous never turn down a special treat or massage, so why should I? 


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