One of the primary messages behind a lot of the self-help industry’s most successful publications and productions is the message of self-care. Besides simple things like better managing stress, taking days off, regularly engaging in simple rituals and giving yourself the time to exercise or sleep in, the spirit of self-care is recognizing that you matter.
More and more studies imply that a multimodal approach is effective not only in treating addiction, but in treating patients struggling with any number of mental health issues. How you think of yourself and your mindset when going into treatment matter, not only because of the positive effects of placebo, but because the only way to ensure that you’re wholeheartedly committed to any give treatment is when you believe in it and in your own chances.
When it comes to addiction recovery, focusing on yourself is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. You need time to recovery both physically and emotionally from your days as an addict, and your psyche needs to cement a reason to keep away from drugs for the foreseeable future. Sobriety is impossible unless you have a great reason to be sober, and a person can only be a ‘dry drunk’ or so long. By investing in your own interests, practicing the basics of self-care, and building your sense of self-esteem, you set yourself up for long-term success rather than dooming your recovery to failure by way of a lack of faith. But how does one go about going from the emotional rollercoaster of early recovery to developing a rocksteady sense of self for the latter portion of their sobriety?
Finding the Motivator
The first real example of how important it is to focus on yourself during recovery is the act of recovery itself. Drug recovery can be a grueling journey, and without the unshakeable belief that you deserve treatment and have the hope of getting better, it’s unlikely to succeed in the long-term. Addiction is a disease, and it’s important not to forget that treating an addiction is about more than matters of willpower and motivation. But the mindset with which a patient enters treatment does have an effect upon the outcome.
Addiction treatments are not guaranteed to work the first time, but long-term treatment is effective so long as a recovering addict does not quit going into recovery, working on their sobriety, exploring different means to stay clean. For some, it can be a hellish road involving long struggles and hardships. It’s important to seek some sort of motivation in the midst of it all, a reminder why you’re going through this to begin with.
Your primary motivator might be family, or it might be a future goal. Some people are at least partially motivated by shame, fear of prison, fear of death, or financial loss, but these negative reinforcements are hardly effective at helping someone stay sober for the long-term. It’s important to find a motivator beyond fear and anxiety, something to look forward to as a result of getting better. By focusing on what you want, and as an extension, focusing on yourself, you’re giving yourself better chances at long-term recovery.
Be Kind to Yourself
Shame and guilt are normal emotions during the recovery process, especially when the haze fades and after withdrawal symptoms begin to go away. Many recovering addicts are angry with themselves for the choices they made and the mistakes they suffered through, and they blame themselves for how things turned out. While it’s true that part of recovering from addiction is accepting responsibility for the way things turned out to be, it’s also important to realize that no one is beyond making better choices.
All it takes is one major commitment to start doing better, and you’re well on your way to turning things around. Rather than going around looking for second chances as a way of redeeming yourself in your own eyes, give yourself that second chance. Be kinder to yourself. Move past the paralyzing guilt and find ways to utilize sobriety to pay back to those who helped you get clean, those who decided to support you throughout the rehab process.
It might seem like very little, but simply deciding that you have the potential to right your own wrongs and move past the emotions of guilt and shame that have been weighing you down can be very powerful.
Explore and Build Relationships
Many people in recovery fear commitments to others out of reasons of trust. Some are scared they will hurt the people who decide to trust them, while others fear that the people they connect with will betray their trust, due to prior experiences.
While no one is saying you should dive head-first into a committed relationship early on in sobriety – in fact, many suggest waiting a year after going sober before pursuing anyone romantically – it is a good idea to open up to people and learn to make friends again, for your own benefit. Being with others in sobriety can help you gain perspective, learn how other people go about their sobriety, and reap the benefits of a healthier social life.
Connect Who You Are with Who You Want to Be
Addiction can lead people to lose sight of their dreams. But you don’t have to give up who you want to be because of an addiction. Learning to value yourself also means recognizing the potential within yourself to still do great things, whether for your family, the community, other struggling addicts, or society at large.
Having purpose can be another powerful motivator to help someone stay sober, and finding that purpose is half the battle – which is why it’s important to give yourself the time to explore hobbies and activities that interest you, and find out how you might be able to do your own part to change the lives of others in some way, whether by supporting other recovering addicts, investing physically and financially in local recovery communities and groups, or doing your part to write and speak about your experiences and how they might help others.
Addiction is a terrible disease, but you are not your disease. The addiction may always be a part of who you are, but do not let it primarily define you. Define yourself however you choose to, through your actions in recovery.