What is Self-Care in Addiction Recovery and How Do You Practice It?

Sep 8, 2021

For people in addiction recovery, self-care is a set of skills that needs to be learned again. For some people in treatment, it may be the first time they’re truly learning about self-care if it was never modeled for them by parents and family members.

But, besides taking care of yourself, what exactly does it mean to practice good self-care while in recovery? We’ll define it here, and introduce three main ways to practice it as you’re working on your sobriety.

Self-care in addiction recovery is about prioritizing your health and wellness in more ways than abstinence from drugs or alcohol. As part of creating a new lifestyle of sobriety, every effort to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is valuable.

Taking care of the body includes proper personal hygiene and good nutrition. Self-care for the mind involves learning coping strategies to manage stress. Spiritual self-care can be practiced alone through meditation and nature walks or within a group activity, such as yoga.

What is Self-Care in Addiction Recovery?

Self-care, in general, is a collection of personal activities we do to protect our health or improve it. In taking care of yourself, you’re tending to all of your needs. You’re prioritizing what’s most important: your health and wellness.

During addiction recovery, the focus is on learning to create a lifestyle that is apart from former drug or alcohol use. Your body needs time to heal from the damage created by substance use. Your brain needs time to heal, too. This focus on the physical aspects to begin recovery is important. But, it’s not the only place to put your attention.

Your mental health is another fundamental aspect of good self-care. Being aware of how you’re feeling on a daily basis is important. If you’re feeling stressed, how you manage that stress is part of self-care.

For people with co-occurring mental health disorders, ignoring stress and other factors may be what has added to substance use problems over the years. Those factors could be anxiety or depression. They might involve feelings connected to unresolved trauma. Not giving these areas of your life healthy forms of attention is an example of when self-care wasn’t a priority for you.

During addiction recovery, every way you can care for yourself becomes important. The aim isn’t to just end drug or alcohol misuse. It’s to create a healthy and happy life that you can sustain over a long period of time. The recovery journey is a lifelong commitment, and self-care must match it to keep you in recovery.

Self-care in recovery shows up in a lot of different ways. It can be starting a new hobby to take the place of drinking with friends. It can be expressing gratitude for loved ones who have been part of your family support in treatment. It can be eating more nutritious meals and snacks.

These examples are all representations of a larger act by you to take responsibility for yourself and your choices. In taking ownership of what’s led you to need treatment, you’re also defining what recovery will look like for you. You’re actively shaping how you will adapt as your recovery needs change over time.

Three Main Ways to Practice Self-Care in Recovery

The body of someone with a substance use disorder suffers greatly from addiction. But, as we mentioned above, it’s not the sole focus for practicing self-care in recovery. We can look at how body, mind, and spirit are connected and how nourishing each aspect of ourselves benefits us holistically.

Take Care of Your Body

We start with taking care of the body because of its top-of-mind awareness. You know how your body looks. You know how it feels.

One way to take care of your body is to remain mindful daily. Be aware of what is going on with your body. That includes what you’re eating and drinking and how restful you slept the night before.

When starting treatment, self-care for the body involves a medical detox as a first step. This process eliminates the risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms at home where they can be dangerous. In the care of medical professionals, a patient can be cared for and monitored 24/7 until they are ready to begin treatment.

Another way to take care of your body is to be responsive to its needs. Hunger is a need. Thirst is a need. If you’re hurt, medical attention is a need. Your responsiveness to these needs is important. Delaying them or depriving yourself of them is a sign of poor self-care.

Self-care goes beyond simply eating to be full. In recovery, you want your body to be at its best. That means choosing healthy foods and beverages that sustain your energy each day, provide all the necessary nutrients you need, and help heal your body and brain and boost your immunity.

Your body needs activity and exercise to get healthy and stay healthy. Creating a fitness regimen is a form of self-care for you physically. It could be participating in a yoga class daily or riding your bike a few times a week. Whatever you choose, make it something you schedule and enjoy.

When someone is routinely drinking or doing drugs, personal hygiene tends to be an aspect of  self-care that gets overlooked or ignored. Once in recovery, this is an area to prioritize again. Personal hygiene involves bathing, brushing teeth, cleaning nails, keeping hands clean, and maintaining a clean and healthy environment.

Physical self-care follows you into the nighttime hours in how you sleep. Having a good mattress and a quiet environment are part of taking care of yourself in recovery. Getting adequate rest in a safe, stable environment makes a big difference in your efforts to stay sober, too.

Addressing lingering medical concerns or chronic issues immediately must be emphasized here, too. Underlying health conditions can lead to other problems if not given proper attention. Finding ways to get these issues treated or under control is one more way to protect your sobriety efforts.

Take Care of Your Mind

The mindfulness mentioned above about the body also applies to the mind itself. Taking care of it requires responding to your mental health needs. This may mean seeing a therapist routinely to work on coping strategies for stress or symptoms of depression or anxiety.

Practicing coping strategies is a way to test them and evaluate what works. Self-care for the mind is also about advocating for yourself. When something is not working, your experience should be seen as valid. Talking to your therapist about what didn’t work to help you cope can open the conversation up to new approaches to test.

An important first step in taking care of your mind in recovery is making sure you get a proper diagnosis during treatment for a substance use disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment can be a significant factor in helping someone understand what underlying condition has affected their drinking or drug use.

Once aware of it, they can learn how to create healthy behaviors as a replacement to the self-destructive coping mechanisms of substance misuse.

Connecting with other people in recovery is another excellent way to practice self-care for your mind. This can be something that comes through group therapy in a treatment program. It can also be connections you make on your own with family members, friends, coworkers, or people in your community who are also in recovery.

Listening to them and learning from their experiences is a way to deepen your understanding of addiction and its impact on all kinds of people.

Setting boundaries is highly recommended as a form of self-care for the mind. Boundaries are an excellent way to remind friends and family members to only communicate with respect, give space when needed, and take feelings into account. Communicating these new limits with loved ones can minimize situations that may negatively impact your recovery work.

Taking the time to learn new skills enhances the mind as well. These can be skills you’re learning in individual or group therapy. Also, they can be skills learned at a new job or through a new interest or hobby. The work on the mind can lead to more self-satisfaction and build confidence as you acquire new skills.

Striking a balance between all of the responsibilities in your life is one more example of good self-care for the mind. Someone who is in recovery and still working or attending school, raising a family, and managing a household has a lot of demands on their time. It can create stress or frustration if one area begins to demand more time and attention. Being able to prioritize duties and still make time for yourself is essential for your self-care.

Take Care of Your Spirit

Spiritual self-care is just as important as the first two categories. Taking care of your spirit is a part of the recovery journey that needs daily practice. It can come as early as the beginning of a treatment program, and it’s something you can learn to sustain on your own.

Learning to reach this part of yourself through daily activities strengthens your recovery work. It’s part of building a foundation of personal growth that can sustain you through challenging times and setbacks to your sobriety. The activities can be something you do solo or within a group.

Meditation is an example of taking care of your spirit. The aim is to clear your mind of distractions and focus on something specific in the moment. Through practicing meditation, you can learn to calm yourself emotionally and create a stable state of mind.

Connecting with nature is another example of self-care for the spirit. With mobile devices always in hand elsewhere, it can be a time to turn your phone off. Nature destinations can be a park, the beach, or a hiking trail.

If these types of places aren’t near you, simply take time to sit by a tree or enjoy the sunshine. Focusing on what natural environments have to offer can be a rewarding break from buildings and streets that we spend so much time in and on.

Solitude can be appealing for someone with a busy life who’s also in recovery. At the same time, connecting with others through group activities can be just as valuable for your spirit self-care. Group prayer or a spiritual service among others can be a way to connect with peers through a higher power.

One activity that can be done solo or within a group that’s spirit-oriented is yoga. This ancient practice actually combines body, mind, and spirit as you follow an instructor’s guidance through body poses and breathing exercises. With a comfort level available for anyone, yoga can be an entry point to reconnecting with yourself in one more way during your recovery.

Trust Hannah’s House for Holistic Recovery

Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration.

We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.


For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.

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