The Importance of Self-Care in Addiction Recovery

self help to overcome addiction

Addiction recovery, whether you are recovering from an alcohol use disorder, a drug abuse disorder, or an eating disorder, is challenging and as a result, self-care is necessary. You are asked to be vulnerable in one of the most profound times of your life, and often we can be too hard on ourselves while we navigate the throes of addiction recovery. Whether you are in the early stages of addiction or have been in recovery for many years, we often forget that we are human and deserve compassion, grace, and forgiveness along our journey. Self-care encompasses all of these things, and the more we practice self-care, the more we allow ourselves to embrace both the challenges and victories that come with addiction recovery. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, practicing self-care while in addiction recovery is crucial to developing healthy coping skills and relapse prevention. The more time you spend caring for yourself and paying close attention to your mind and body, the easier it’ll be to detect the early warning signs of an emotional, mental, and physical relapse.



Defining self-care

Our society and culture have tied self-care to many lavish actions or routines such as going on a shopping spree or making a spa appointment when self-care is different for everyone and does not have to involve spending money engaging in lavish activities. Self-care starts with self-compassion. It is not selfish, but rather it encompasses patience and love for yourself, two of the cornerstones to a successful recovery journey. It is merely impossible to define self-care without acknowledging self-harm. We are often so hard on ourselves, placing judgment and blame on our thoughts and actions and holding ourselves to nearly impossibly high standards. Emotional and mental self-harm can create turmoil within our relationships, affecting our self-esteem and putting up roadblocks to the path of recovery. When we do not prioritize our own needs to live a healthy life and stay on the path to recovery, we engage in self-sabotage. Instead, we should make a conscious effort to engage in self-compassion and practice self-care daily. 


Daily self-care routines:

  • Establish healthy boundaries: You will meet many people throughout your recovery journey who will support you, but you will also meet others who will bring you down and potentially compromise your sobriety. To establish and maintain healthy boundaries, it is important to learn how to respectfully and politely say “no” to others, avoid compromising situations that can jeopardize your recovery, and engage only with people who genuinely support your recovery. 
  • Make physical health your priority: It is easy to hit the snooze button on our alarm, skip breakfast, and rush out the door to start the day. It is just as easy to stay up late and eat junk food. Our physical health is essential to maintain our emotional and mental health. When we jeopardize our physical health by not eating a blanched diet, not moving our bodies, or not maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, we are likely to become irritated, exhausted, and engage in self-harm behaviors such as negative self-talk. It is crucial to keep a healthy sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time, and getting at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Drinking three liters of water a day and taking time to prepare balanced nutritious meals are important ways to nourish your body. Regular daily exercise can help you build and maintain physical strength, and it also releases endorphins that can boost your mood and combat stress.   
  • Get outside: We spend the majority of our day indoors, whether it is at home, work, school, or in the car. Taking a few minutes to breathe fresh air and get into the outdoors can help us recharge and have some time to ourselves. Whether you choose to eat a meal outside, go for a walk around the block, take the dog for a run or take a couple of work calls outdoors, the combination and fresh air and sunlight can be beneficial to your daily routine. 
  • Repeat positive thoughts: Create one positive thought about yourself and repeat it each day. Whether you are proud of a work project you completed, reached a milestone in your recovery, or made a new friend, it is important to acknowledge these positive thoughts and little wins along the way. Whatever it may be, take time to appreciate yourself each day. Positive thinking and affirmations can be the best forms of self-care. 
  • Do something every day that brings you pleasure: Whether it is drinking a good cup of coffee, eating your favorite chocolate, spending ten minutes reading a book, going for a run, putting on makeup, or listening to your favorite song; make sure that you are spending time engaging in something that brings you joy. Little moments of joy can happen anywhere, regardless if you are at work, running errands, or cleaning your house, but you may have to create space and time for these moments to happen. 



“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” 

— Maya Angelou

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