The Role Of Self-Care In Recovery From Sex Addiction

While the concept of self-care seems self-explanatory, the absence of it is the single, most predictable and measurable cause for a relapse, or acting out on your unwanted sexual behaviors.

Phrases such as “take care of yourself” do not get translated into action in today’s success and achievement oriented society, where the objective is to attain your goals no matter the cost even if it is at the expense of your physical and emotional health.

“The more you invest in self care, ironically the more energy you will have to do your work and to get those important tasks done.”

Take for example:

You are crammed with a deadline at work or you have an exam in a couple of days.

What to do most people do?

They focus on getting that work assignment done on time or the exam is crammed for, while in the process they are sacrificing sleep and injecting lots of caffeine and other stimulants into their bodies so they can “perform better”.

Done once in a very long while, this may be ok and necessary but if this is one’s modus operandi then there are going to be great repercussions. More often than not, this path leads to physical, mental and emotional burnout and a sense of entitlement for “getting things done.”

When it comes to “addiction recovery success,” these ingredients are a recipe for disaster and guaranteed relapses.

One of the things I stress to my clients throughout the various programs we offer at Purify Your Gaze is the concept of prioritizing self-care. Clients who first joined the Purify Your Gaze Program were pleasantly surprised by the concept of “self care” and initially felt resistant to the idea.

To one brother, the concept seemed quite inconvenient and outlandish.

Brother Yousef”I think I always thought of acts of self care as luxuries. Eating properly, working out, getting regular haircuts were unnecessary. They only needed to be done at a bare minimum and anything more than that was borderline narcissistic or conceited. I thought I was doing myself a favor by not doing those things because I was surviving on very little and for some twisted reason I thought this was zuhd or asceticism, something that is aspired for in our faith.”

His perceptions radically changed when he experienced the impact that self care had on his life:

Brother Yousef”Self care now though boils down to this: things that have value need to be maintained diligently and with care. I realize now that me caring for myself (putting on nice clothes, caring about physical fitness, eating right, getting proper amounts of sleep, etc) reinforces my belief of self-worth. And if I believe I’m worth it then I have good things ahead of me insha’Allah.”

While physical self care has its own benefits, emotional self care often is just as important.

One sister reflects:

Sister Tasneem”At the start of recovery, I was self abusing, albeit emotionally. Criticizing myself, hating myself, internally punishing myself, I thought that was good for me. Self care taught me to be kind to myself and to forgive myself and love the parts of me that I am otherwise ashamed of. I began to realize that yes self care is tidying your room and eating breakfast, as well as doing all the other stuff like exercising, having a hobby, going out with friends. But it’s what’s on the inside that’s most important. Do you torture yourself inside, or are you kind and gentle and loving with yourself … that had a real impact on me.”

And sometimes for some individuals, the concept sounded totally silly.

“You’re asking me to do what?” was brother Wisam’s initial reaction when I first suggested the idea of self care to him.

As he further comments:

Brother Wisam”My initial reaction to self-care was: “I have to talk to myself in a mirror and read an affirmation statement. Only crazies talk to themselves in the mirror!” And honestly, it was the hardest thing to do. To stare myself in the eyes and to read an affirmation statement about how I am a slave of Allah, and that I am a good person, and a good father. I couldn’t do it. It was that toxic guilt. Early on, self-care was the last thing I wanted to do. Instead I would much rather have spent time listening to calls and working on modules. But I’ve come to realize self-care is itself recovery. That is the true recovery work.”

Often self care is the last item on your to do list to save time. However, another way to look at self care is that the more you invest in it, ironically the more energy you will have to do your work and to get those important tasks done, without burning yourself out leading to the path of relapses and breakdown.