Self-Care to Prevent Relapse

When we’re working to recover from our addictions, it’s so important that we dedicate time and energy to self-care to help us prevent ourselves from relapsing. Addiction recovery is an especially strenuous and challenging time in our lives. When we’re first recovering, we’re particularly susceptible to the temptation that naturally occurs, and we can very easily get thrown off course in our recovery. The more we care for ourselves, the better prepared we are for the challenges that arise. We have increased resilience and inner strength to cope with the challenges of recovery and the difficulties that accompany our mental health issues.

We’re conditioned to think that self-care is extraneous, unnecessary, and a luxury we simply can’t afford when we’re busy dealing with all of life’s demands. We think we’re selfish to choose self-care over our children, our work, or our many other obligations. We feel guilty when we do make time for ourselves. We’re rarely able to be consistent with our self-care, and we have a hard time following through with any intentions we set for ourselves. We lack the motivation to commit time to ourselves. We associate self-care with being one more thing we have to add to our to-do list, another obligation, another responsibility crammed into an already overflowing schedule. Our stress levels are often overly high, causing us increased worry, anxiety and tension. Our physical health suffers. Our mental health issues take a hit. Our depression worsens. Our relationships are weakened, causing us even more emotional turmoil. We prioritize fixing our relationships, and managing all of our daily obligations, so much so that self-care becomes a total after-thought. It gets completely sacrificed. We think we’re organizing our time better by sacrificing our self-care, but the truth is, as we neglect our self-care, we become less and less equipped to handle all of the stress and overwhelm we encounter on a daily basis. We’re not developing the healthy coping skills, such as meditation and deep breathing practices, to help us cope with the ongoing challenges in our lives.

We never pause to take a breath, to reconnect with ourselves and check in with ourselves, to make sure we’re doing okay. More often than not, we’re not doing okay. We’re really suffering, but we’re avoiding thinking about it. We’re distracting ourselves. We’re ignoring all the warning signs that we’re headed for collapse. Eventually many of us do collapse, and we suffer from nervous breakdowns and/or major depressive episodes. As we neglect our self-care, we’re neglecting ourselves. We’re making little time for emotional healing and development. We’re not building the mental and emotional skills we need to cope with all of the challenges of our lives. As a result, everything we’re working so hard to accomplish suffers. Everything we’ve been trying to maintain falls apart. We can’t sustain our hectic lives as they are, without giving ourselves some time to reconnect with our inner selves and access the quiet stillness within. Our lack of self-care is not sustainable. Over time, everything in our lives can start to deteriorate. We can be more vulnerable in our addictive cycles. We can be more susceptible to the addictive urges that are a huge challenge during the recovery process. We can find ourselves fighting temptation and feeling powerless over it, again, even after we’ve worked so hard to get sober. We can feel disheartened, defeated and totally out of hope. We can feel depleted of our energy and motivation. We lose the will to keep going. We become filled with self-doubt. Our inner demons tell us that it’s not worth it to deprive ourselves so much, that we should be letting ourselves live rather than making ourselves suffer. In this place, we’re walking a very thin line between our sobriety and the chance of relapse. The only solution is to rebuild ourselves, and therefore our lives, from the inside out. And that starts with self-care.

Self-care is far from selfish. It’s a critical part of maintaining our inner balance, our sense of groundedness, and our peace of mind, so that we can be happy and whole. We want to be the best providers and nurturers we can possibly be to our loved ones, but we can’t do this when we’re not at peace within ourselves. We can’t give of ourselves when our well is dry. The more we deplete our own inner resources, the more we chip away at our resolve, our strength, our resilience and our energy, the less equipped we are to deal with the challenges in our lives. We’re less able to be there for the people we care about. We’re naturally less giving, because we have less to give. Self-care is actually a gift, not only to ourselves but to the important people in our lives. Self-care empowers us to be good to ourselves and to our loved ones. It enables us to replenish our inner resources and renew our internal connectedness, making us stronger and more resilient, and therefore better able to cope with life. We’re much more likely to be able to prevent relapse when we’re feeling on top of things in our lives, when we’re not feeling overly stressed and overwhelmed, when we’re feeling balanced, grounded and centered. Making time for self-care, therefore, is a critical part of our relapse prevention work.

Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you uncover the issues fueling your addictions. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.