Is self-care selfish? A lot of people think so and I think this hinders their recovery. A well known Christian command is to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This presupposes that we would naturally be taking care of ourselves. Sometimes, though, recovering addicts have a hard time doing this. Before recovery, we “took care of ourselves” by using. However, being abstinent alone does not necessarily lead to healthy self-care. It is something that needs our hard work and attention.
So what are some areas that demand good self-care? First of all, our relationship with our higher power must come before anything else. Having a deep connection with God is paramount to our recovery and helps us to have a joy and gratitude that translates into a life of service for others. Without it, we will burn out quickly. I meet a lot of people in AA who are a bit lost when it comes to the spiritual side of things. It is helpful in your search process to begin with prayer. It may help you to journal your prayers if you have trouble praying out loud. You can also talk to someone you know who appears to have a lot of faith and ask them about they went about their search. Don’t give up! A deep relationship with God is totally worth it.
The AA HALT acronym can also guide us towards good self-care. This means observe whether we are getting too HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY or TIRED. Each of those states require action to deal with them. When we are hungry, we eat, when we are lonely, we need to pray or call a friend, when tired, take a rest. These might be self-explanatory, but sometimes I have found myself eating when I’m actually just tired. Or when I am lonely, taking a nap instead of tending to that need more appropriately. When we are angry, we need to examine the reasons. Too often, when we have resentments or hurt feelings, we shut down. As a rule, recovering addicts typically have a difficult time resolving conflicts. We either stuff our emotions and get quietly resentful, OR we can blow up and then feel horribly guilty afterwards. It is important to our self-care that we resolve conflict in a healthy way. This means that we approach the person with humility and openness about the hurt. We work at resolving things. When you do work through a conflict, pat yourself on the back for the accomplishment! It is never easy to deal with conflict, but it is a must for a healthy recovery. Remember, resentment is the number one reason people relapse.
Also, it is important to have healthy boundaries and set limitations for what we can or cannot do. This requires knowing yourself and it leads to self-respect and others treating us the way we would like to be treated. If you are unsure what healthy boundaries are, I highly recommend the book Boundaries, by Townsend and Cloud.
Lastly, good self-care involves learning how to enjoy life again. Make a list of things you enjoy and engage in at least one of the activities each day. When you are enjoying life, it makes it so much easier to be giving to others. I know that it can be hard to push through the guilty feelings, but remember that the Bible says that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” God wants us to enjoy life and not just trudge through it day by day. It is a much better example to our friends and family to be truly joyful, rather than just trying to survive. Take care of yourself and have a great day!