Life’s daily grind wears us all down over time, and in recovery it’s tough to keep an eye on sobriety when there’s so much going on. I’ve been working on my sobriety for a few years now and have had phases where I could abstain from unwanted sexual behaviors for long periods of time, just because I was too busy with school or just had too much going on. I would be proud of myself for the number of days that I had “made it” and would end up relapsing and fall into the cycle of guilt, shame, a quick Tawbah, and then back to “normal”. Often, I would run away from my support system just because I knew I would have to actually do some soul-work to figure out what was really going on. (I was, and still am, terrified of that). But one of the main tools that Ustadh Zeyad and my friends here in PYG always advised and used as a sobriety-gauge was self-care. I would scoff at the notion of finding ways to take care of myself and actually do those things. I wasn’t a believer in this thing called ‘self-care’. I didn’t think it was important because I saw it more as facilitating my own selfish behavior. I would challenge others in the program, even Ustadh Zeyad, about the purpose of self-care and what difference would it make. But in the end, I gave up fighting this war of ‘to self-care, or not to self-care’ just because I was tired of arguing and not finding any progress with my own formula to sober living.
Understanding “Self-Care”The first step for me was to really understand what self-care was: what actions constitute self-care and where was I mentally supposed to be for it to work. To put it simply, self-care for me is anything you do that helps you connect more with yourself and helps build a safe place within for healing. It’s taking care of yourself so that you can take care of others. It can be the time you take to be more present during the day, treating yourself for something “small”, journaling, or just having a nice warm meal to comfort yourself from the storm you’re in. The amount of self-care you need can vary, based on how you’re feeling, stress, how busy you are, etc. I’ve found that the times when I think of self-care as a to-do list, or just something I need to get done, are the times when I’m unknowingly edging closest to the deep end (relapse).
The Self Care CupAs I was slowly allowing myself to accept the positives of self-care, I decided that having it as part of my to-do list was not the way to go. With encouragement from Ustadh Zeyad, I began using a self-care cup. I brainstormed and searched the internet for different self-care actions that I considered fun but realistic and wrote them down. On little slips of paper, I wrote each one individually and made the slip visually appealing by adding in some cartoons, writing in bubbles versus print, or just coloring in a background to each item. I wanted to give each item some time as a way of investing myself more into the idea of building self-care into my life. With the slips completed, I folded them up and put them in a cup. The plan was to take a slip out every morning and do what it said before going to bed that night. If I wasn’t up to doing what one slip said, I gave myself two more draws and then had to select an item from there. It was fun because they were all things that I had chosen beforehand, so there wouldn’t be any rotten eggs, but I also didn’t know if the slip would push me out of my comfort zone for a bit that day. There was an adventure to be had with every slip.
Twists And Turns Along The JourneyWhen the self-care cup was born, the cup I used was generic and held no importance to me and because of some twists along my journey, I abandoned the self-care cup altogether. Recently, I’ve come back to it because it worked for me before and I need to get back on the stepping stones that were leading me forward. We all are on different journeys, working toward living authentically and there are going to be bumps in the road. Leaning on self-care and using this silly cup to keep on track has been helpful in its practicality but also liberating. The small daily self-care rituals force me to put away my “too busy” shield and connect with all of me: the addict, the quiet child, the daughter, the sister, the student, the friend, the bully, the rebel, the adventurer, and the woman in recovery. Connecting and taking care of myself has carved out a place where I can be safe and find the gentleness, joy, and compassion that I need as I journey slowly through recovery.
What are some things in my cup?
- Unplug today
- Make something with Nat Geo pictures
- Read a poem
- Free yourself: forgive others. Don’t hold the weight of their hurting you today.
- Pamper yourself
- Reading Day/read for 30 min
- Draw today
- Go around barefoot today (especially outside)
- (Blank)…surprise me
- Do nothing for 2 minutes, let your mind breathe
- Go running (Jason Bourne, ‘Run Forest, Run!’)
- Craft project (origami)
- Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee today
- Do some extra journaling today
- Clean out a junk drawer
- Go somewhere new
- Lay in the sunlight
- Learn 3 new phrases in another language
- Drink hot chocolate
- Be your favorite character for 2 hours