I was an addict before I even knew what addiction was. From the time I was a child, I indulged. I overindulged in almost everything I could. I would play video games through the night and watch the sunrise through the window.
Obsessing over practicing my soccer kicks until my parents dragged me inside was a daily occurrence. But perhaps one of the most damaging things I would indulge in was self-loathing. This habit of self-loathing followed me through my adolescence and into my adulthood. After I entered recovery, I was told I need to start practicing self-love.
The tragic part was that I didn’t even know where to start.
After years of honing my recovery and working on many facets of myself, self-love is still an area I struggle with. But, despite my daily battle not to beat myself down mentally, I’ve picked up some great methods for practicing self-love. While I am far from perfect, I’m on my way.
Self-love and the Addict
I am in no way unique. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics struggle on a daily basis when it comes to practicing self-love. Whether we used as a result of self-loathing or don’t like ourselves because of our addiction, the point is we aren’t practicing self-love. One of the main themes of recovery is learning to accept and love ourselves and others.
So how exactly do we accomplish this seemingly impossible feat?
For years, I toiled away in self-loathing. Even with multiple years of recovery, I would find myself incapable of finding one good thing to say about myself. Completely at a loss, I was unsure of how to truly start to love myself. I would hear people in meetings share about finding peace with themselves. I became completely desperate for some sort of relief, wanting what they had.
Finally, at three and a half years of recovery, I decided things needed to change. I began to start implementing not only a program of recovery in my life but a program dedicated to practicing self-love as well.
5 Great Tips for Practicing Self-Love
Much like recovery, practicing self-love can seem very foreign at first. It requires a strict regimen that must be followed diligently. I decided that the only way to start was just by doing it. I began asking people I saw in the rooms that appeared happy with what they were doing. Opening myself up to the suggestions, I began doing the following things:
1. Implementing Positive Affirmations
We’ve all heard the term “positive affirmations” thrown around. Well, it turns out, they’re an especially effective tool when practicing self-love. A positive affirmation is a specific statement that can help you overcome self-sabotaging negative thoughts.
They help you visualize and believe in the things that you’re affirming to yourself. Positive affirmations help you to make positive changes to your life and career. Using positive affirmations can also reduce stress and depression.
I was constantly beating myself up mentally. Rather than continually employing that negative train of thought about myself, I began to start using positive affirmations. By redirecting negative thinking, it began to change the way I viewed myself and the world around me.
I’m a firm believer in the power of energy. Positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative. By inviting more positivity into my life, I began to start believing the good things about myself. Rather than honing in my flaws or shortcomings, I began to celebrate my strengths.
2. Cutting Out Negative People
Perhaps one of the hardest ways to practice self-love is by removing the negative people from your life. A toxic relationship is characterized by behaviors on the part of the toxic person that are emotionally and potentially physically damaging to the other person.
Toxic relationships can refer to romantic relationships, family members, or friendships. Anyone in your life who is not adding to your recovery is taking away from it.
Many times when we are subject to a toxic relationship, it negatively impacts our self-esteem. We begin to take on the negativity surrounding the other person and turn it inward.
Self-blame and self-loathing are common occurrences when it comes to dealing with toxic people. If we want to practice self-love, we need to be strong enough to walk away from the negativity, no matter how difficult this may be. It is not only empowering but one of the most effective ways to love ourselves.
When I removed the people who were hurting rather than helping, I found comfort in their absence. I began to feel better about myself for doing something so difficult. My life became better without the negativity, and all of the energy I was dispensing on the toxic relationships I could spend on loving myself.
3. Treat Yo’ Self
I am also a firm believer in treating yourself every once in awhile. Sometimes practicing self-love can be as simple as going and getting your hair done, eating at your favorite restaurant, or taking a personal day to read on the beach.
Working hard and putting others first are great attributes to possess, but sometimes you need to put yourself first. Allowing yourself to enjoy a new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on is a great way to show yourself some love. Taking care of your own needs is necessary before you can really take care of the needs of others.
But as with all good thing, limitations should be set. Constantly indulging in using outside things to derive happiness is not healthy. Self-love needs to come from within first and foremost. Remember, the external things won’t fix the internal problems.
4. Getting Healthy
As a direct result of active addiction, my health and nutrition definitely fell to the wayside when it came to my priority list. Using drugs and alcohol takes a heavy toll on our bodies and overall physical health. Taking care of my body in recovery was a key element that I was missing.
I was still eating junk food at my leisure and negating any sort of physical exercise. This had a severe negative impact on both my physical and mental health. When you eat poorly, you feel poorly. My lack of concern for my physical health was directly correlating to my low self-esteem and self-loathing.
I decided to begin focusing on my body in a positive manner. Believe it or not, practicing self-love means taking care of yourself. I began to start watching what I was eating more closely and joined a gym. Today, I work out several days a week.
This newfound concern with my physical health has helped me on my journey towards self-love. I’ve given myself fitness goals, and it feels great to accomplish them! Not to mention the plethora of physical benefits that come from working out and eating right. The endorphins released during a workout are feel-good chemicals the body produces naturally that elevate mood.
But again, as with treating yourself, it’s important to limit yourself when it comes to working out. We are addicts in the end, and we can turn anything into an addiction, and this includes dieting and working out. It’s important to not allow it to cross the line from beneficial to harmful.
5. Seeking Outside Help
Lastly, perhaps the most important thing I’ve done when it comes to practicing self-love is that I’ve begun seeking outside help. Outside help is using other methods other than just the program of recovery when it comes to dealing with issues in your life. I have finally stopped resisting and fearing the stigma surrounding therapy.
Therapy has been an awesome addition to my program of recovery and self-love. I was always very opposed to the idea of therapy, feeling as if asking for help made me weak. The stigma surrounding therapy is just that–a stigma. It doesn’t mean you’re defective or crazy, it means you love yourself enough to start getting the help you may need for any issues you have going on in your life.
As an addict lucky enough to be blessed with a dual-diagnosis, attending therapy is crucial. My pre-existing mental health conditions are no fault of my own but need to be dealt with by a professional. It has given me a new outlook on life, and by accepting myself for who I am, it has helped me when it comes to practicing self-love.
My journey from addiction to recovery has been a long and sometimes strenuous road. My journey with self-love has been just as tough. While I am in no way where I want to be, I’m on my way. If practicing self-love is something you struggle with, just know you won’t get it perfect at first.
Like anything, it requires much practice and commitment. But as long as you’re constantly working on it, you’re already succeeding. Realizing that I’m perfectly imperfect has been the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout both my recovery and my life—and I’m finally okay with that.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, contact us at Pathway To Hope. We can get you in touch with our admissions professionals who can help you get the help you need. Don’t delay, call today!