Good Self-Care

Recovery must take priority in an addict's life. Although it may seem selfish to others, and even to the addict, it is really the most selfless thing an addict can do. Selfishness is continuing in one's addiction, further damaging oneself, others, and relationships. Good self-care begins with following the recommendations made by knowledgeable professionals after a thorough evaluation. Developing a follow-through plan will be helpful and will provide guidelines that make compliance easier.

For an addict, good self-care is a twofold process. The first component is protecting one's recovery. This means being aware of cravings and triggers that could provoke a slip or relapse. To pretend they will never occur again is to potentially set oneself up for problems and place one's recovery at risk. Triggers have already been addressed, but how does one manage cravings? Here are some suggestions:

  • Don't deny the presence of cravings. Do wait them out. Most cravings will diminish or go away after about fifteen to twenty minutes.

  • Change old patterns. Avoid places, people, and situations that may initiate cravings.

  • Periodically remind oneself of the pain, unpleasantness, and negative consequences of addictions. This will give one strength to say no to cravings.

  • Be patient. Cravings will get weaker and easier to manage with time in recovery.

  • Have substitutes available. Chewing sugarless gum, eating healthy snacks, or engaging in a hobby that keeps one's hands busy are examples of substitutes.

  • Keep the long-term goal of a balanced, healthy lifestyle constantly in sight.

The second component of good self-care is developing healthy habits that may or may not have been present prior to one's addiction. The development of healthy habits takes time. Allow at least a month for a new habit to take root. This is a time of testing and will require perseverance. After a month, one's new habit will become easier and a more natural part of one's daily life. Be patient. Healthy habits will pay big benefits over the span of one's life.

Remember, develop health habits that encompass balance. As part of one's overall plan for health, choose goals that address mental, physical, and spiritual health. For starters, reinforce healthy habits that may have been in place prior to one's addiction but were forgotten, neglected, or ignored. Once this is accomplished, add new habits one at a time.

Alert

Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of calcium by the bones. Brittle bones may result, putting one at risk for bone fractures. As part of recovery, it will be important to get adequate calcium along with vitamin D, which helps metabolize calcium. One can get vitamin D from the sun or through fortified milk.

Habits related to physical health will include reaching and/or maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods that won't trigger cravings, and exercise. Physical health is also about getting regular checkups such as recommended mammograms, stress tests, blood-sugar testing, colonoscopies, and so forth. Healthy eating in particular is essential for one's physical recovery. Addictions often deplete one's nutrients through malnutrition.

Additionally, sugar and refined carbohydrates may trigger cravings for drugs and alcohol. Remember that alcohol is broken down into sugar during the digestive process and sugar itself can activate the dopamine pleasure circuit. Nutritional supplements may be necessary to regain physical balance. It may be wise to consult one's physician or a nutritionist trained in addiction recovery for nutritional guidelines.

What is spiritual direction?

Spiritual direction is the practice of helping another on his spiritual journey. A legitimate spiritual director will have training on guidance and ethics. Spiritual directors can be from any faith background. They do not provide counseling, therapy, or give advice.

Physical health and development has many benefits. It provides one with the stamina to enjoy many other activities, promotes healthy weight management, and can prolong one's life. If exercise has not previously been a habit, take it slowly. Get physician approval before starting a strenuous exercise program. It may be helpful and encouraging to consult with a personal exercise trainer to get started

Choose forms of exercise that are enjoyable and that match one's abilities. For those individuals who live in climates with multiple seasons, it might be a good idea to develop ways to get exercise in each season: swimming in summer, skiing in winter, hiking in fall, and biking in spring. Vigorous exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural opiates. This is a healthy “high,” unless exercise addiction has been a problem.

Fact

Good self-care requires a plan for dealing with cravings should they occur. Cravings are strong mental and physical urges to engage in one's addiction. Although they lessen with time and abstinence, cravings can be reignited with a slip or relapse. Even memories of using days can trigger cravings. Cravings are one of the greatest obstacles to recovery.

Spiritual health and development will also need attention for a balanced perspective on life. Embracing one's spirituality can be a very rewarding experience.

Spiritual growth and development is often encouraged in some form in twelve-step groups. Many recovering addicts have found this to be an invaluable source of encouragement and inspiration. There are many avenues to spiritual growth. Reading holy writings, praying, meditating, listening to inspirational messages, and reading inspirational books are all ways that many have found helpful.

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