Learning How to Love Yourself in Recovery: The Do’s and Don’ts

Learn to Love Yourself in Recovery

There are a lot of emotions that appear throughout recovery, especially as we uncover more of who we are. One of the most challenging aspects of healing is learning of what we said or did while intoxicated; for many people, this is a beginning point of shame, anxiety and fear of abandonment. Nobody likes to hear that they’ve hurt the ones they love, but when we’re in the throes of addiction, it’s all too common. Self-love in recovery is crucial as we learn to accept the mistakes we’ve made in the past, while also maintaining hope for our future.

What is Self-Love?

Banu Sekendur, an Intuitive Coach for business and life, wrote an article for Tiny Buddha, a website that covers various topics on love and relationships, meaning and passion, healthy habits and more, that self-love is:

  1. Choosing ourselves, even when it means upsetting others
  2. Saying what’s true for us and expressing how we really feel
  3. Giving ourselves proper nurterment and exercise to keep our mind and body healthy
  4. Wearing clothes that make us feel good about ourselves
  5. Building a life we love
  6. Accepting all parts of ourselves
  7. Making time to do things that bring us joy
  8. Not dwelling on past mistakes
  9. Trusting one’s path in life
  10. Learning to set boundaries

It’s so much easier for us to fall back into those negative coping mechanisms – to blame others for everything that’s happened, to wallow in self-pity over what we can’t have, and. When it all boils down to it, however, where does that take us? How much healing do we truly get from partaking in these painful, wallowing ventures?

Nitika Chopra, a certified life coach, entrepreneur, a resource for young women, told Mind Body Green,

I’ve found that when I feel my lowest, when my body has been the most sick and when I’m bombarded with the most self-deprecating thoughts, the only thing to pull me up and out is drenching myself in self-love.”

Why We Neglect Ourselves

Unfortunately, the path towards self-love is often missed as we find ourselves turning down roads filled with self-hatred, depression, anger and resentment. We may find that even when we’re surrounded by people who believe in our recovery, we feel alone; we neglect ourselves due to low self-esteem and the belief that we’re not worthy, that we’re incapable, or that we’re meant to be this way. Why is this?

Last year, the New York Times explained that it’s part of our biological instincts – to focus more on the negative than the good, as a way of self-preservation. The problem with this is that in modern life, we’ve adapted to focus more on the negatives as a whole – not just for survival. When we give more weight to our flaws and shortcomings, we’re holding ourselves back from receiving the love, joy and fulfillment that we truly deserve. The reality is that addiction can destroy many aspects of life – but why let it continue to take over pieces of you, even once you’re seeking treatment?

Dr. Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, told the New York Times in 2018:

Self-criticism can take a toll on our minds and bodies. It can lead to ruminative thoughts that interfere with our productivity, and it can impact our bodies by stimulating inflammatory mechanisms that lead to chronic illness and accelerate aging.”

When we neglect self-love in recovery, we tend to:

  • Think thoughts that make us more prone to relapse
  • Become more withdrawn in social situations
  • Avoid attending recovery-related activities
  • Experience more self-doubt with our potential success in recovery
  • Give into temptations easier, especially if we feel we’re deserving to fail
  • Act aggressively
  • And more

Neglect can tear us apart from our own sense of wellbeing, and this can further damage our progress in recovery along with our progress in forming meaningful, supportive networks to move forward in our lives.

Applying Self-Love to Addiction Recovery

If you’re ready to apply more self-love to your recovery, it’s important to remember that there are going to be many days when you don’t feel like it – but you must do it anyways. Once clear exercise to begin is to focus on giving yourself positive affirmations. What are some good things about yourself and your life right now that you can focus on? Here are some examples:

I’m seeking help and that’s the best step I could’ve taken.

I have people around me who believe in me.

I’m a strong person and I can get through whatever obstacles come my way.

Work with your healthcare team, your therapist and/or your sponsor to help remind you to replace those negative thoughts with more positive, productive ones. Over time, self-love will become more natural – and you’ll find that your mind, body and spirit thrive off of it as well.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.