Addiction is actually the very opposite of taking care of your needs, so we need many tools in our recovery first aid kit. Self care both for people struggling with addictions, and for their loved ones simply doesn't exist. There is a kind of destructive conditioning that takes place that has to be replaced with loving self care in every area. Here's what recovery healing looks like.
For those new to recovery, not using is the first victory. means you're in recovery. The next recovery victory is healing and balancing each of these five areas.
We list physical health at the top of the list because it sets the basis for all healing. Following the basics of physical health is an essential foundation for the other four areas of recovery healing. Physical health entails seven basics. If you didn't learn them as children, now's the time.
- Eat healthy. Living on junk food, snack bars, Starbucks sugary/caffeine drinks, chips, and candy alone can sabotage your success. Have real food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Give your brain and body the nourishment it needs to heal from neglect. This includes: good protein, fruits, vegetables, healthy fat and carbs.
- Get enough rest. Don't over-do-it as you have done in the past. Either too much caring for others or too much partying makes you sleep deprived. Stop. Rest more. Take some time to just relax and let go. But most of all, sleep, sleep, sleep.
- Exercise 5 times per week. All right, this may seem excessive, but exercise can be a half an hour walk. It can mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It can mean yoga, or dance or any number of activities that get you moving. Just move is the operative exercise word.
- Seek medical help as needed. Don't wait when you have symptoms.
- Take medications as prescribed. This is critical if you need meds for your addiction recovery or other mental illness.
- Maintain basic hygiene. Take showers, wash your hair, hands and face, brush your teeth. Keep your clothes clean. Change your clothes. Do all the self care necessary to look and feel good.
- Stay clean and sober. You may be taking meds to stay off your drug of choice or a medication for depression. For our purposes, you are clean and sober if you're doing what your doctor or addiction plan tells you to do.
Our emotional lives are also often neglected when dealing with addiction. Neglected emotions can cause problems such as denial, anger outbursts, unresolved grief, and depression. There are many ways to focus on feelings. It means allowing yourself to feel but not allow your feelings to rule your life.
- Feel your feelings, but don't get stuck in them. Feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. You can feel mad as long as you don't act out your anger on others, or have anger rule your emotional state.
- Journal about you thoughts and feelings. Writing helps to get it out. When you write about it, you are letting it go.
- Talk to family and friends, or a therapist. Talking is another way to loosen your feelings and help overcome the negative ones.
- Be Creative. Find a way to express yourself. Personal expression includes: color in a coloring book, bake, paint pictures, learn to cook, sing in a choir, or plant a garden.
- Get out in nature. Just look at what's around you, get your feet planted on the ground. Experience the seasons.
- Play with children. Enjoy play and show the children in your life you have time and emotional space for them.
- Cry over a sad or happy movie. Some people are so hurt by their experiences, it's hard to cry or laugh. Movies can help access those feelings, and the tears from relating to stories on the screen can bring some relief.
- Attend support groups such as AA, NA, Al-Anon, Codependency Anonymous, or Emotions Anonymous, or a grief support group or a spiritual group.
- Find a therapist or do family therapy. It helps. It really helps to have a professional in your life to guide you through the healing process.
This doesn't have to be a scary word. Throughout our lives, we have to keep our brains active for many reasons. Whatever schooling we had, it's not enough to help our coping skills now. We need to keep learning new things, or we'll be stuck in old destructive habits. We have to continue to engage with new ideas and activities.
- Think on positive things in your life and community. Keep up on positive recovery and health news.
- Stay connected and interested in others around you. What are they doing and thinking? What tools do they use to keep positive?
- Learn something new, maybe a language or a recipe. Take up a sport you haven't tried.
- Listen to books on tape or read.
- Attend classes or return to school.
- Write about your life, also called journaling.
- Do puzzles and Sudoku. We also love Scrabble.
- Explore ideas about your job, how can you do it better, or enjoy it more.
While many focus on this aspect as being in relationship with others, we believe that it is a 2-part-process. Step one is relationships with others and step two is a relationship with ourselves.
- Engage in activities with friends and family such as going to movies, out to dinner, and spending time talking about thoughts and feelings.
- Attend support groups. These can be religious/spiritual groups/book groups.
- Exercise with others. This includes playing sports, walking with a friend, doing yoga, or anything that involves movement.
- Volunteer to help others. Service is an important component of healing. Anything you do for others counts to help you heal from whatever trauma you have experienced.
- Get love and give love and support. Giving is important, getting love and support is important, too.
- Nurture non family relationships with neighbors, your kids' teachers, co-workers and others. This is part of staying connected.
- Enjoy alone time. Occasionally, take a time out from everything and everybody else. It's good to take a nap, read a book, watch your favorite show alone, soak in the tub if you enjoy baths.
Spirituality is what makes our spirits soar. Here we connect to life and the living. Here we also connect to a sense of well-being, of peace, compassion, and acceptance. We may connect to a Higher Power – or not. But we feel a connection that is beyond our self. Everything that we do that is about healing is about the spiritual, for spirituality encompasses us in our entirety.
- Breathe in for five counts, hold for five counts and breathe out for five counts. Yoga breathing slows your heart and helps to calm your spirit. When you are counting your breath, you're not focused on what makes you mad, sad, or afraid.
- Play with your pet. Enough said. This activity is known to lift your spirits.
- Meditate. This is a catch word everyone is using these days. Meditation works for those who can still still and concentrate long enough to do it. Not everyone can. Listen to a meditation tape and see it if can work for you.
- Pray means reaching above the everyday for positive energy. You don't have to pray to any particular God for prayer to ease your spirit.
- Attend religious and/or spiritual services. Research shows that people who attends services live longer. But organized religion is not for everyone.
- Teach compassion and tolerance to your children. This is for everyone.
- Feel joy and sorrow, and accept all. This is not as touchy feely as it sounds. There are many parts of life. Rarely does a human experience only the good, warm and supportive. Acceptance of what is and can't be controlled is a very important part of recovery healing.
When we break down each of these 5 areas of recovery healing, we can see things we already do and perhaps, new things to do. We understand that these 5 areas weave in and out of one another. For example, going jogging helps us physically, increases our endorphins which make us feel good emotionally, gives us time to be alone or with others, and may help us to get into a sense of connection to life as we take in the beauty that surrounds us. These are the ways to live a fulfilling, healthy life.
If you need help with addiction or mental health, check out Recovery Guidance for a free resource to locate professionals near you.