Self-care sounds selfish to many people. Why should people in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction learn to practice so much time caring about themselves, loved ones often lament. It is true that addiction and alcoholism are diseases of selfishness. Recovery, it is commonly heard, is also selfish. Recovery has to be a selfish program. Addicts and alcoholics lose their ability to choose themselves when they are constantly choosing drugs and alcohol. To people on the outside, it seems as though the addict or alcoholic were constantly acting selfishly, unable to take others into consideration. The way that addiction takes over the brain actually changes the way the brain thinks about consequences, makes judgments, and rationalizes decision making. Choosing drugs and alcohol selfishly serves addiction in the brain in order to satisfy unrelenting cravings or symptoms of withdrawal. In recovery, addicts and alcoholics are learning to choose themselves instead of choosing their addiction. For this reason, self-care is incredibly important for them to practice regularly.
Self-care is not an excuse to label anything that feels good as self-care. It takes time for each person in recovery to develop their own definition of what self-care is for them. Self-care is the way that people in recovery take time to focus on healing themselves, creating more energy, and finding the rest they need to function at an optimum level. Self-care isn’t a way to cope out of feeling, taking responsibility, or confronting challenges. Self-care is a way to cope with feeling, taking responsibility, and confronting challenges. Self-care is the way to feel, to take responsibility, and to confront challenges.
The ways in each person will take care of themselves will differ based on individual needs. Some people find their self-care time in resting and watching a movie with a favorite snack. Others prefer to be more active and find their self-care in exercising or moving physically. Part of self-care can be trying different self-care activities to determine which fits best.
In the beginning, self-care might be uncomfortable. It can feel counterintuitive to do something nice and productive for yourself instead of something harmful and destructive. Overtime you’ll learn to cherish your self-care time and prioritize it in addition to the other important responsibilities of your life.