As a woman in recovery, the most challenging part of my journey, especially in the beginning stages, was putting myself first. I hate to sound like a martyr, but honestly that is what it took for me to get and stay sober. It continues to be my #1 recovery tool.
When someone asks me what they need to do to stop the cycle of addiction, my response would be to put you and your recovery above everything else in your life.
I understand, that is a big call to action.
It is also permission.
I would go so far as to say it is the only way you will succeed at long term recovery.
I had to learn to love myself in a big way.
No one has ever succeeded at anything by hating themselves.
So if you want to get sober, get on board with self compassion, and radical forgiveness. Everyone in your life will benefit from a healthy, sober you, so its not selfish at all to take care yourself first. Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Whether being sober makes you a safer parent, a more present spouse, or a positive role model as a friend. everyone in your life benefits from your health and wellness. You are doing them a favor by putting yourself first. Not worrying about your wellness, takes away one of their concerns. It can be hard to see it that way in the beginning, especially if you have been drinking to stuff uncomfortable issues in relationships and bending yourself to fit around what you believe other people want from you, like I was.
Everyone’s recovery is different. I want to introduce you to a concept that might help you learn how to love yourself, in a way that will work for you.
Have you heard of the 5 Love Languages? Dr. Gary Chapman developed a popular concept about how we give and receive love. The premise is that different people and personalities express love in 5 different ways: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. You can think about these ways and which one speak to you. One is usually dominant.
My husband feels love from me when I greet him with a hug when he enters a room. I feel loved by him when he cleans the kitchen. You see? Physical touch is his love language and Acts of Service are mine.
You can use the concept of Love Languages to learn your unique tools for getting sober. You can identify what your Love Language is and then use it to love yourself.
Here are some examples.
Words of Affirmation: Add a Post It to your bathroom mirror that says, “You are Loved”, “Good Morning Beautiful”, “You’ve got this”! Write in your journal, as if you have already accomplished your goal. “Another Day Sober”, “I am going to be sober for a year.” “I love myself” “I am good at x,y,z” “I am proud of myself for…”
Acts of Service: With the money you save on booze you can hire a babysitter, a housecleaner, a landscaper. Delegate tasks at work. Automate your bill paying. Skip making dinner and order delivery. Whatever would make your life easier, invest in treating yourself to an act of service.
Receiving Gifts: This might be obvious, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Little daily gifts are wonderful ways to show yourself love. Buy flowers for yourself. New nail polish. Fuzzy socks, a candy bar, a fancy water bottle, journal, a candle and bath salts. Anything little gift that feels like an out of the ordinary luxury, will work to rewire your brain by rewarding sobriety instead of drinking.
Quality Time: Yes, Me Time. Take yourself on a walk. Put gone fishing on your calendar. Spend time alone with you. Take yourself to breakfast. Stroll a botanic garden. Spending time alone is a wonderful way to get to know yourself and love yourself without distractions. Schedule a day off for your mental health and take yourself on a fabulous date, even if it is just a picnic.
Physical Touch: If you benefit from physical touch then a spa day may be the perfect way to show yourself love. Teach yourself EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), tapping is a great way to express self love. There are so many options! Acupuncture, cupping, petting animals, and holding babies would be additional ways to express and receive physical love for yourself. Indulging in your favorite body lotion, reflexology, quality pillows and sheets are wonderful ways to show yourself love and affection.
What is your love language and how are you going to love yourself first?