12-Step programs – such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) – serve as a strong foundation for many in recovery. They provide clear steps and spiritual guidance that have helped thousands find their place in the world – alongside building a network of supportive people and a life that’s more fulfilling. Self-care is essential in daily life, but those in addiction recovery have often neglected self-care for quite a long time. Whether you’ve just begun your journey to recovery or you’re considered taking that courageous step towards treatment, it’s important to explore self-care and how it connects to 12-Step programs; because although it’s not talked about as often, there are many links there.
What is Self-Care?
There are many definitions of well-being; Yoga International defines self-care as,
“…what happens when you meet yourself as you are, and where you are”.
When we practice self-care, we’re recognizing that we’re human – and that as human beings, we don’t always have the ability to control what happens to or around us. Instead, we can acknowledge that we’re going to make mistakes – and by doing this, we can start taking steps towards making our lives more fulfilling as we can direct our focus up (to God or another Higher Power) and out (to our community).
In 2018, The Fix, a website that publishes relevant information on addiction and recovery, noted that when addiction is active, we’re more likely to neglect our personal mental, physical and spiritual health. Addiction is a disease that progresses and reels us in as we go – and with it, we may lose parts of ourselves even for a brief moment, along with relationships, jobs, money and more. They recommend the following exercises to implement self-care in recovery:
- Writing about how you’re feeling. Get a journal and start keeping track of your thoughts, moods and overall feelings about yourself, your life and your recovery. These brief moments of writing will help you release any pent-up anger, sadness or stress you may be feeling – and, over time, they can also serve as a way to observe patterns in your behavior so that you can take steps to ease your journey.
- Taking time to be alone. Addiction often brings people who abuse substances together – but all that substance use does is take us away from the present moment. Spend some time in recovery sitting alone and just breathing. Mindfulness is a beautiful practice that can truly change your life if you embrace slowing down and simply being.
- Taking breaks from technology. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s lives – especially if it feels like there’s more time to relax in recovery. At Cumberland Heights, however, you’ll be involved in a schedule with a lot of activities to keep you focused on your recovery goals – and you’ll find that it’s a nice break from technology.
- Move your body. Nutrition and exercise are vital components of wellbeing. As you work towards your physical health, you’ll want to get moving – even if it’s just a walk – so that you can start embracing how wonderful it feels to participate in life at a steady pace.
- Connect with others. Previous research has shown just how important it is to build a strong support system, and Cumberland Heights can provide you with many opportunities to do this.
12-Step Programs and Self-Care: What You Need to Know
12-Step programs are made to integrate self-care through weekly meetings and updates. By talking about the problems we’re experiencing and connecting with others, we’re doing a number of self-care acts:
- We’re relating to others, which builds our sense of community
- We’re opening up about our problems, which relieves stress
- We’re problem-solving, which enhances our lives
- We’re adopting new perspectives which shape the way we lead our lives
- And more
Several years ago, a study was published in the Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment which assessed 12-Step program effectiveness alongside treatment programs. Researchers found that individuals who participated in 12-Step programs with regular treatment were more likely to remain active participants in their recovery; the 12-Step philosophy encourages people to look beyond themselves and into something much greater. From here, it becomes not only an act of self-care – but acts of care towards a Higher Power and one’s community, too.
Accountability is a highlighted component of 12-Step programs, and they remind us that not only are we not alone but that our actions do have an effect on others. Self-care then becomes part of relapse prevention and daily maintenance, as we attend 12-Step meetings, eat healthily, maintain contact with our sponsor, and participate in other recovery programs to feel continuously uplifted.
Seek Help Today
If you’re ready to push past addiction and build a life that’s fulfilling, speak with a professional from Cumberland Heights today.
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 two 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. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.