In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it states that alcoholism is a disease of self-centeredness. This can also be said of addiction to any substance or any unhealthy behavior, such as gambling or sex addiction. While you were actively addicted, your need to drink or drug trumped any other need or it definitely came before the needs of those around you. You probably had no qualms about stealing money from those you love or lying to them about where you were going. The most — and probably only — important thing in your life was you and your all-consuming need for your drug of choice. Self-care in addiction recovery is key to becoming comfortable in sobriety. Now that you are sober, you may be a little leery of offering yourself self-love. You may feel like there is a fine line between making self-care a priority and overcoming the addictive tendency to be self-centered. Yet in many ways, overcoming addiction does require that you put time and energy into focusing on yourself and healing yourself. Self-love can be a foundation on which recovery is built.
Getting Past Self-Abuse
Many addicts and alcoholics believe that they are not self-centered, but self-centeredness comes in many forms. Self-abuse is one example. You can abuse yourself in many ways, including constantly putting yourself down, eating addictively or self-cutting. If you practice any form of self-abuse, the root of the problem is still self-centeredness. For example, a person who is constantly full of self-pity and self-condemnation may drink or drug out of self-hatred — but as they continually beat themselves up, their focus is completely on themselves. They remain unaware of the harm they may be bringing to others with their behavior. Many people who turn to alcohol or drugs do so because they have a tendency to be self-destructive. In their own eyes, they always fall short. They drink and drug to mask these negative feelings or because deep down they believe they deserve to suffer. Alcoholics and addicts who habitually beat themselves up may have a very hard time getting or staying sober. Their self-abuse still makes them the center of their own universe.
Self-Praise and Self-Love
Recovery requires that you learn to love yourself. Although you may have done some things you aren’t proud of, including hurting people you love during your active addiction, there are still many good things about you. To become comfortable in your sober life, you have to start noticing the things you do right. Give yourself a pat on the back for each day that you don’t pick up a drink or drug and that you don’t revert to old self-destructive patterns. Give yourself credit for showing up for work, striving to make yourself a better person and being the best person you can be. Acknowledge your efforts to reach out to other people and not just dwell on your own hurts.
A Journey of Learning to Love Yourself
When you first get sober, you may believe that there isn’t much about you worth loving. Believe it or not, that is the disease talking. The disease of addiction is insidious. It wants you to believe you are a bad person because that will give you an excuse to self-destruct. Take small steps toward self-care each day. Make an effort to eat right and get some exercise. Try to get enough sleep at night. Listen to your body when it gives you signals that you need to rest or you need to get more active. Spend some time in spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation. In doing this, you begin to nurture your spirit as well as your mind and body. Give yourself credit for the efforts you are making to take better care of yourself. Each and every day that you don’t pick up a drink or a drug, you are moving in the right direction. You deserve to be treated with your own love and respect. Self-love isn’t the same as self-centeredness. Making the effort to love yourself is an early part of healing from all the years you practiced self-neglect and self-abuse. You deserve to be loved and cherished. Practicing self-care in addiction recovery will help you grow, heal and gradually build a life free of self-destructiveness and self-centeredness.