Practicing Self-care

IMG_1746I have been thinking a lot about self-care lately. It’s usually not that we don’t know what to do to best support ourselves, it’s that those practices take a back seat to other priorities. We get busy at work. We worry about finances. We put in more hours. We get busy trying to maintain a hectic schedule. We try to accommodate the needs of others before our own. Sometimes that is reasonable. We do the best we can. In doing so, we can lose something along the way: ourselves.

Yes, self-care. Most of us cannot fly off to a tropical island vacation tomorrow. That would be nice, right? I have to think about little things that I can incorporate into my day to day experience like a great tasting cup of coffee, a break to really stretch my body, walking away from whatever I am doing for ten minutes, a change of scenery, talking to someone else. I do better when I periodically ask myself what I need in the moment. When did I last eat or drink something?

And then there are, what I call follow up activities, the things we know about that help, like walking in nature, resting, having a hot meal, going to bed early, yoga, meditation, listening to music, exercise, spiritual practice, retreats, weekend getaways, pleasure for pleasure’s sake, and especially spending time with people who want to spend time with you.

When I feel overwhelmed, when I feel tired all the time, that is when I want to increase my self-care, even in some small way, so I meet the priorities I set for myself. I cannot sustain a hectic pace for long without making changes to get my needs met. I deserve to treat myself as if I matter. I am the one who can best do that.

Gratitude in Recovery

img_1678Many people, when they first realize they have addiction, think about what they lost. They have lost time, money, jobs, maybe important relationships, with family and others. Maybe their health has suffered. Maybe they spent time in jail. They look around and compare themselves to peers and see this one has a house, that one a secure job, or a career. They see this one found a life partner, that one is raising children. It takes time to start thinking differently. It takes time to recognize the madness that continuing to drink and/or use drugs could have continued. They could have lost much, much more. When the desperation of having to drink or drug every day lessens, then disappears, when the cravings stop, the gratitude can start. It grows with each day spent clean and sober. Eventually, we move toward a place of realizing that we have been given a gift that not everyone receives. Some people do not get clean and sober. Some of us die. We begin to realize that we have to do the work to clean up our past, to live well today, respect others, and take responsibility for our choices to retain this gift. It is only by cultivating gratitude that we can rebuild our lives and start to have meaningful connection with others. Feeling grateful in recovery is a continuing journey, one that takes a lifetime and it naturally ebbs and flows, one day at a time.