Practicing self-care in recovery is an incredibly meaningful part of the journey for many. As you change your relationship with alcohol, how will you ensure you are prioritizing your wellbeing? What behaviors, habits, and activities do you want to integrate into your life? How do you want to show up for yourself and others? These are some of the questions to explore as you create your own version of self-care in recovery.
Why is Self-Care Important in Recovery?
Why is self-care important in recovery? Self-care includes developing and nurturing the tools, resources, and power within to take care of your physical and emotional health, which allows you to feel more enjoyment every day. Change and growth associated with self-care may not always feel good while it’s happening, but the benefits of sobriety that are around the corner are worth it. Embracing the ups and downs is part of the human experience, and it ultimately leads to more resilience, gratitude, and a more fulfilling life.
As you embark on this next phase of your journey, show yourself grace and know that recovery is often a non-linear path. Some days will look and feel better than others. Every day presents an opportunity for growth. Building upon your progress and moving forward is something to be proud of, and self-care can be a meaningful part of that experience.
5 Ways to Practice Self-Care in Recovery
When it comes to self-care and recovery, focus on growth opportunities that will feel authentic and rewarding to you. Here are five ways to take care of yourself as you change your relationship with alcohol.
1. Explore Wellness Activities That Add Value
The importance of self-care in recovery starts by looking at the parts of wellness that add value to your life. These could be physical, emotional, or a combination of both. Physical acts of self-care may include taking a break between Zoom calls to go for a walk or nourishing your body with healthy food. It can also include setting goals for yourself, such as seeking out an interesting hiking trail or participating in a daily yoga flow. The self-care activities you choose can be as simple or complex as you like.
Introducing exercise as a physical health activity simultaneously contributes to your emotional self-care as well. Other ways to incorporate emotional wellness into your daily routine include getting quality sleep, developing a mindfulness practice, and building a social network invested in your well-being.
In addition to family and friends, you may also want to seek alcohol therapy and join an online alcohol support group and/or community forum. The idea is to maintain a reliable and accessible group of people you can turn to as you navigate sobriety or moderation.
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2. Be Intentional When Creating New Habits
Establishing new daily habits is another impactful part of the early recovery process that can help guide your self-care plan. In addition to dedicating time to new activities, being intentional about your smaller actions throughout the day, like eating and sleeping, can amount to meaningful growth.
One avenue to think about is intuitive eating. There has been research linking intuitive eating with better psychological health and other physical health benefits. Being intentional about your eating habits without being restrictive can have a valuable impact on how you feel throughout the day. For more guidance about how to incorporate nourishing foods and vitamins and replace alcohol in your mealtime rituals, you can watch our expert interview on alcohol and nutrition.
Preventing relapse through self-care
Another important routine to check in on is your nightly ritual. Especially in early recovery, many people experience challenges falling asleep. Being intentional about your pre-sleep habits can result in more restful sleep and more energy throughout the day. For example, reducing screen time before bed, exercising early in the day, and creating a mindfulness practice can result in higher quality sleep. For more sleep hygiene best-practices, watch our expert interview with Dr. James Besante, MD.
Checking in on these habits is in itself an act of self-care. It’s important to remember that an ‘ideal day’ for you may look different than someone else navigating recovery. That’s why it’s helpful to work with a therapist in an alcohol therapy program to discuss your current routines and habits, and how you can adjust them to better align with your goals.
Be Sure to Find Balance
When building new behaviors, it’s important to maintain balance. It can be tempting to go ‘all in’ on a new healthy activity, but focusing too much on a single aspect, however positive it may be, can start to feel overwhelming and stressful. As with changing your relationship with alcohol, finding what works for you will help you embrace and maintain healthier behaviors. Previously, alcohol may have played a main role in your daily life. Rather than replacing drinking with another activity that requires your full attention, be intentional with how you spend your time. Try to identify multiple outlets for your time and energy in a way that feels sustainable and fulfilling.
Keep in mind, it’s okay if what once brought you joy doesn’t anymore, and it’s also valid if what fulfills you now changes in the future. You and your needs and ever-evolving, and your self-care routine can evolve, too.
Check in with yourself and gauge how well your habits provide a sense of stability and comfort. Also, consider how they make you feel. The more you tune in to what your body needs, the easier it will become to make smaller adjustments to sustain your sober lifestyle.
3. Journal for Self-Reflection
Another way to tap into how you’re feeling throughout the alcohol recovery timeline is by journaling. It gives you time to practice mindfulness as you sit with your thoughts and pay attention to your cravings and moods as they arise. Then, you can determine what you want to do in a thoughtful way rather than being guided by impulse and feeling tempted to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. A few prompts are:
- What feeling(s) led to your last craving?
- How does your mood affect the quality of your day?
- What alternatives do you have in place instead of drinking?
- Have you used the resources available to help you maintain your sobriety?
Making time for self-reflection and meditation can help guide your self-care in recovery. These practices allow you to get to the root of where your positive and negative emotions are stemming from and how you can address them in a healthy manner. You can explore these areas further through personalized online therapy and in the anonymous community forum. Each tool can provide a better understanding of what determines your behaviors and actions and present opportunities for growth.
4. Create Experiences to Replace Drinking Rituals
Self-care and recovery often involve replacing drinking rituals with new fulfilling experiences. Alcohol takes center stage at many social gatherings. Happy hours, celebrations, and holidays are all times when alcohol is typically involved.
Tap into your creative side and find enriching things to do instead of drinking. These activities may include photography, drawing, or learning a foreign language. You may want to join a nature group, book club, or intramural sports league. These are all healthy ways you can practice self-care while leading a sober lifestyle.
Furthermore, you can still carry on the tradition of happy hours with colleagues or birthday celebrations with friends. They can feel equally festive with delicious alcohol alternatives. There are many brands of non-alcoholic spirits, beers, and wines to choose from that are complex, delicious, and celebratory.
As you progress through your journey, create your own versions of what these events look and feel like for you. Consider what you enjoy most about these experiences. Is it the connection and camaraderie with others? Is it the sense of happiness and relaxation it produces? These desires and feelings are valid and can still be achieved without alcohol being part of the ritual.
5. Prioritize Your Own Needs
The primary value of self-care in recovery is that it teaches you to prioritize your own needs. Being someone that always says ‘yes’ can leave you feeling unfulfilled and depleted emotionally and spiritually. When you don’t prioritize yourself, it can also lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, or anger.
Learning to Set Boundaries
By setting healthy boundaries and making decisions aligned with your goals and values, you are automatically practicing self-care and strengthening your connections. It allows you to show up for yourself in the best possible way, which in turn allows you to show up for others, too.
Think of times when saying ‘no’ may have felt immediately uncomfortable but would have provided you long-term relief. It can be difficult to change this behavior pattern if you’re used to always being guided by what others want. However, you’ll start to see and feel a difference in your mental health when you start taking your own needs and feelings into account first. The result can be both empowering and healing.
Life Shouldn’t Have to Stop for Recovery
Prioritizing your own wellness is a crucial part of the recovery process. It will help you let go of deeply-ingrained negative habits and behaviors and make room for healthier ones. This process looks different for everyone.
Some may find that they develop new habits and routines on their own, while others may seek support from an online alcohol treatment program like Monument to provide guidance and accountability along the way. However you choose to make a change, you should be proud of that decision. There is no shame in seeking support. In fact, it’s the ultimate act of self-care.
As with any change, there are growing pains and learning curves. It’s a non-linear path, and setbacks are often part of the journey. However, with time, self-care in recovery will become more natural to you, and your new habits will become second nature. You also are never alone.
At Monument, we have free online support groups you can join based on your schedule and needs. Whether you need verbal affirmations, in-person accountability, or simply an ongoing connection with others, there are resources in place to help you on your way. They are therapist-moderated, and you are welcome to join anonymously if you wish. Whatever way will help you best show up for yourself is more than enough.
It takes an intentional effort to keep moving forward in changing your relationship with alcohol. We’re here to provide you the resources you deserve.
- Cambridge Core. “Review Article Relationships between intuitive eating and health indicators: literature review, https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/review-article-relationships-between-intuitive-eating-and-health-indicators-literature-review/CBC03E81A54FBAAC49B2A8B2EC49631C.” Accessed Mar, 28. 2021.