If you attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, or other 12-step type groups, then you might have heard of the phrase “First things First”. It’s a saying that means you’ve got to put what matters most in your life first. For many people who are struggling with addiction, the problem is that they put the drinking or the drug use first. In fact, this is one of the symptoms of addiction – the substance use becomes the sole focus of one’s life. Putting “first things first” means that you put spirituality, your own welfare, family, and friends before drinking, drug use, success, and money.
In fact, if you read the Big Book, you’ll likely see that the priority of what you put first is usually in the following order: spirituality (or your higher power), your own welfare, family, and friends. Notice that your own welfare is second in this list, right behind God, or your higher power. This means that your well being, your physical health, your psychological strength, and daily welfare comes first before anything else, short of God.
Taking good care of yourself is incredibly important. During an addiction it’s common to throw your whole life away. It’s common to ignore your needs, except the cravings for drugs or drinking, and make your entire life about the addiction. So, in recovery, the whole illness of addiction must be turned on its head. You’ve got to now focus on you, including getting your basic needs met, taking care of yourself physically, finding meaning and purpose in life, and tending to your emotional needs.
In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) “Recovery from alcohol and drugs problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness, and quality of life.” SAMHSA includes four major areas of life that recovery needs to include:
- Health – Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way.
- Home – A stable and safe place to live that supports recovery.
- Purpose – Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society.
- Community – Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.
In order to find really transform your life, you must start with the way that you take care of yourself. One of the best ways to include self-care in your recovery is to include it every day. That is, every day do something for yourself that is nurturing or nourishing. You might take a warm bath every day after work. You might go for a walk by the beach. You might go hiking in the woods. Or you might write in your journal. You can never include enough self-care in your recovery! Recovery is a time to heal and take good care of YOU!
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