BlogRecovery

Prioritizing Self-Care:
Sobriety First, Healing Next

By May 21, 2020 May 25th, 2020 No Comments

Self-care is giving the world the best of you instead of what’s left of you.
—Katie Reed

How do you feel about prioritizing your self-care? Does it sound appealing but seem impossible in reality? Do you relate to the following statements?

  • “I feel selfish when I put myself first.”
  • “When I focus on my needs above others, I feel uncomfortable.”
  • “There’s not enough time in the day for me to focus on my self-care.”

Let’s explore what it actually means to prioritize self-care—but first, let me clarify what it does not mean, because I see a lot of confusion around this.

  • It doesn’t mean we don’t take care of the children.
  • It doesn’t mean that we don’t do our best job at work.
  • It doesn’t mean that we don’t do the many tasks and functions on a daily basis to be a contributing member of the family and society.

Instead, it means we prioritize our needs and self-care first and then attend to that around us. So it is not that one gets more and the other gets less. Consider this analogy: in an airplane when adults are asked to put on their oxygen masks securely before attending to others, it’s because they need us functioning first before we can assist anyone. So in early sobriety (especially), it’s so important to attend to your self-care first, because we are recovering from a disease—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This way, you have more to give because you took good care of yourself.

It is simply not true that you must put others first.

every day

Actually, putting yourself first is like an
insurance policy that others will be taken care of.

Think of it this way, if you were suffering from stage-four cancer, you would be doing everything possible to figure out how to heal and get better, even to the point of keeping your emotional state balanced and healthy. There’s no difference here. Addiction can be as life-threatening as stage-four cancer. Even though we might not hear that as much in the news, this is a fact we live with. What’s more, in the case of alcohol use disorder, the mind/body/spirit disease is not just a result of the drinking but the cause of the drinking—so healing the root causes is key for sustained recovery. 

So, please, look within and ask yourself if you are giving yourself permission to take this as seriously as any other life-threatening illness or circumstance. If there is resistance it is important to recognize and address it now. Many women feel they cannot put themselves first, their care first, or their needs first, when in reality they can. These are patterns or habits that have been wired into us. It is simply not true that you must put others first.

Actually, putting yourself first is like an insurance policy that others will be taken care of. Putting yourself last places your recovery in a vulnerable state, and then no one will be taken care of.

To help you, begin the day with the mantra: I am going to help myself first today, so I can be the best version of myself where everyone, including me, benefits. 

Addiction can be as life-threatening as stage-four cancer.

every day

Give yourself permission to heal. 

Prioritizing healing and self-care is so important that it’s my sixth strategy in my Stay-at-Home Sober Guide, which so many of you now have. I’ve been hearing from many of you (and it just warms my heart) that this has made its place into your homes and home offices, and has served as an invaluable guide for you in your early sobriety. The guide provides an excellent starting point for refocusing on your healing, but I’d like to dive even deeper into this topic here. Let’s begin with the most important areas to focus on in your healing. 

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others. 

—Audrey Hepburn

Sleep

The most basic habits make the most difference. For example, if you recover a healthy sleep-wake cycle, then you have healed multiple systems in your body and given your body the primary tool it needs to restore healing properly. Sleep is our healing time. Our body runs diagnostic check-ups and repairs while we sleep, and even it operates on a specific schedule like clockwork, with each system functioning in certain ways at certain times. 

To restore your circadian rhythm back to its innate state of balance, It’s essential to have an established routine of going to bed and waking up with the rising and setting of the sun, or at least staying relatively close to its cycles. It’s also important to go to bed on an empty stomach, so your body can do its job and is not busy digesting food. Digesting meals while you sleep is guaranteed to compromise the healing process. Aim for eating your last meal three hours before you go to bed, and, of course, do not overeat. 

Woman self-care

Sleep issues are increasingly common not just among people with alcohol use disorder but with Americans at large. Women in early sobriety are particularly vulnerable due to hormone disruption. Sleep is complex and multifaceted, connected to hormones and so many other aspects of health. In fact, 50% of women in recovery have thyroid challenges. Sleep and thyroid challenges go hand-in-hand. So it might be that you have a thyroid problem, and, once it’s corrected, your sleep would improve. And, conversely, if your sleep improves, your thyroid function might improve.

Another major factor in the sleep-wake cycle is light, which is intimately connected to the production of melatonin. Because of this it’s important that you receive sunlight not just through your skin but through your eyes in the early morning, or at least during the day. Allow soft, morning sunlight to indirectly enter the eyes without sunglasses (obviously do not look directly at the sun). Just as critical as it is to receive sunlight in the morning, it is imperative to avoid blue light in the evening. Common sources of blue light are energy-efficient lightbulbs and screens on TVs and computer devices, including smart phones. There is so much emerging science around the dangers of blue light—it’s associated with diabetes, weight gain, and cancer, for example—but one key finding (that might explain the aforementioned associations) is that it suppresses the secretion of melatonin and interferes with sleep. Many experts suggest wearing blue-blocking sunglasses at night and avoiding exposure to blue light after the sun has gone down. You can find blue-blocking sunglasses online for about $30 and up. In addition, there are software programs that you can download to tint your computer screen to warmer colors, reducing or eliminating blue light. One such program, f.lux, is free and has been in widespread use for several years.

So, please be patient with yourself, understanding that sleep is a complex system that might require additional time to heal while you sort all the pieces into place.  

Get the support you need to heal this area. As interim support, over-the-counter supplements such as l-theannine, melatonin, and GABA can assist in sleep and relaxation, along with medications your doctor might prescribe. My 6-month Humble Warrior Women course devotes an entire week to healing sleep, because sleep is that important. In fact, it’s the very first lesson in the program.

Be patient with yourself.
Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground.
There’s no greater investment.
—Stephen Covey

Vitamin D

Another reason it is necessary to get exposure from the sun is because this is how our body creates what is called vitamin D (it has recently been reclassified as a hormone). As an essential hormone, vitamin D helps so many of our bodily systems function. So get out in the sun every single day for a minimum of 30 minutes, preferably in the morning, as early as you can. It’s important to have your doctor check your vitamin D levels, as low levels are extremely common nowadays. You might need to take a supplement, even if you get plenty of sunlight. 

Movement

Moving our bodies is key for recovery. Why is this so important? Because movement promotes the flow of energy, supporting healing, while a lack of movement stagnates your energy and sets up your body up for disease. Our immune system, particularly our lymphatic system, relies on movement for optimal functioning. Additionally, exercise has a profound effect on mental health, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, negative mood, and even cognitive function.

Woman Self-Healing

Living in Florida, I like to use the analogy of an outdoor swimming pool. Imagine a pool whose filter hasn’t been running for a while. Debris collects everywhere in the stagnant water. That’s similar to a human body that hasn’t moved in years—filled with stagnant pools of toxins. Movement is key in supporting the natural detoxification processes of the body. Also the fascia (connective tissue that surrounds all organs, vessels, bones, nerve fibers and muscles) literally require movement to remain healthy; otherwise, it becomes gummy and crinkled (this is called adhesion), leading to pain and contributing to blocked energy. 

So, if you don’t already have a movement routine, begin now by adding it to your day. It doesn’t need to be “workout” where you are huffing and puffing and breaking a sweat. Even taking a short walk (15–30 minutes) is helpful. Or perhaps you are more drawn to a gentle yoga practice or dancing. The key is moving your body, however it feels best for you. 

Healthy Diet

Eat clean, whole, and primarily plant-based foods and ensure that you have healthy fats such as avocado fat and olive oil, as well as healthy proteins. It is important too that the food is organic. “Conventional” (not organic) foods are loaded with toxic chemicals that cause cancer, disrupt hormones, and so much more—which you cannot afford at this delicate time of healing. If you eat animal protein, make sure it is not just organic but cruelty-free in how it was raised. There are many reasons for this, but one practical reason is that it’s more likely to have had a diet that is appropriate for that animal. Check that the beef you eat is grass-fed and grass-finished. The reason for this is that grass is the cow’s natural diet; cows fed grains and other products are sick cows with major digestive problems. Everything we allow to enter our bodies and minds should be of the highest vibration possible.  

Do not eat any processed or added sugar, and limit carbs and flour. Sugar affects the brain similarly to how alcohol does: when ingested, it creates a surge of dopamine in the brain and can lead to addiction. So, humble warrior women, please put down the sugar and fast carbs. You don’t want to trade the alcohol problem for a sugar one. Instead of eating refined sugar, eat a piece of fruit, maybe an apple a day.  

Be very cognizant of your diet. It is important that you have high-quality food. This is your fuel and a primary way to limit toxins entering the body (remember, the brain is the body too!). The food-mood connection plays a significant role in addiction and wellness. 

It is not only what we eat that matters, but how we eat. When you eat, are you distracted, talking, working, or multitasking? Begin to approach your meals and snacks with mindfulness. Take a moment to look at the food in front of you, welcoming its qualities into your senses, and breathing calmly. Perhaps even take a moment to feel gratitude for everything and everyone that made it possible for this food to make it all the way to your plate. Chew slowly, never rushing, savoring the flavors and quality nourishment you are receiving. 

Routine

Routine is so important during recovery. As I mentioned before, our bodies are hardwired for routine. This is why in Chinese medicine, an ancient healing tradition dating back thousands of years, the hours of the day correlate with organ functions and related activities (optimal times to eat, etc.). It’s so important to recognize that your organs work best at certain times throughout the day; you can make your healing so much easier by working with the built-in optimization of your body! Let your body help you. 

Routine not only supports our bodies’ natural cycles of scheduled healing and detoxing, but it brings focus and clarity to your mind, freeing your energy for enjoying your time and also giving you greater adaptability for when the unexpected arises (and it always will!). This way it provides a solid foundation of stability and reliability you so that you can dance through each day yet still remain grounded. The more automation you can build into your day, the easier it will be for you to integrate this multifaceted healing and wellness system into your daily life. 

Do the same things every day around the same time. You can still be spontaneous and creative, of course! In fact, creating a baseline of stability and wellness will make you better equipped to manage the unexpected curve balls that life throws at you. These structured rhythms support your overall wellness and ability to flow with life.

The more automation you can build into your day, the easier it will be for you to integrate this multifaceted healing and wellness system into your daily life. 

Earthing

I think this is the best kept secret in the Western world! Earthing is, quite simply, harnessing the power of the ground. We can most easily receive this by being barefoot on the natural earth without a barrier such as shoes, a floor, or concrete. Take your socks and shoes off, and put your feet on the ground. There’s so much balancing and vital energy that comes from the earth that actually enters the body this way. As a bioenergetic practitioner, I can confirm that this is scientifically measurable. There is plenty of literature available on the science of earthing and even healing success stories. There are also earthing products, such as floor mats and sheets, that you can use indoors while sitting at a desk using a computer or sleeping. These might be especially helpful for those who have little access to the natural ground.

Earthing

Water

Drink lots of clean, filtered water. It is no secret that staying hydrated with clean water is essential for human health, as we are made of mostly water. Don’t assume your water is clean (I get ours tested regularly). Getting a reverse-osmosis filter is ideal for clean water; however, there are other types of filters as well. Staying properly hydrated also influences day-to-day energy cycles and appetite regulation.  

Detoxing

The subject of detoxing is complex and even controversial. For this stage of healing, I recommend a very subtle and gentle approach to dietary detoxing, merely by incorporating lemons into your day. Lemons are wonderful detoxifiers, especially for the liver. 

Having fresh lemon in warm water, especially in the morning on an empty stomach (even before coffee), is a gentle way of supporting your body’s natural detoxification process. It’s a simple way of saying, “I love you, liver. Thank you for all have done for me, for the decades of drinking and all the other toxins you are constantly filtering.”

 

Hydration

Emotional Support Practices

I recommend using either uplifting or calming practices, depending on your energy imbalance. Uplifting practices are best suited for you if you are fatigued and depressed. Calming practices are ideal for you if you tend to have an overactive or even hyper propensity. The goal is, of course, to stay balanced. You might find that you fluctuate between hyper and exhausted, or overactive and stagnant. So use these practices adaptively, switching to meet your needs at any given moment. The key is to bring joy and laughter into your life. Please refer to my blogs Stay-At-Home Sober: Practice Emotional Support (Part 1) and (Part 2) for an in-depth exploration of these practices.

From Sobriety to Sustained Recovery: Patience Is Key

Yes, it’s great to be sober, but it’s even better when you feel healthy and vital for the long-term! And what’s more, you can better protect your hard-won recovery by keeping yourself balanced and vibrant, adaptive to the triggers and challenges that life will invariably present to you.  

These self-care systems boost our health and work synergistically on all levels of our being—mind, body, and spirit—to help stabilize our mood, bring the much-needed mental clarity in early recovery, and, of course to heal and strengthen our physical bodies. We are becoming our authentic selves as we recovery; in fact, we are recovering our highest selves. Because of this, everything is changing—not just what we do, but how we do it.  

We need to give time for the healing process to occur from the decades of alcohol use. Many of us motivated women might be used to setting goals and “getting it done” expeditiously. But please, let go of that for now. Allow your body to set the pace. Honor its timing. But, rest assured, you can get there! Absolutely. 

I want to support you as you move from early recovery into a life of abundant wellness, one that is rich with inner resources of healing, so that you can draw upon them even during the most challenging times. To support you in cultivating these self-care routines, I am sharing with you the Vitality Tracker I created as part of the Stay-at-Home Sober Guide. I highly recommend printing it, customizing it for your life, and using it every single day. This will help you prioritize your self-care and healing practices, keeping it as automatic and simple as possible. Remember, routines are critical for now. 

I think you will find that applying these practical tools will be truly life-changing as you move from simply being sober to becoming healthy, happy, balanced, and adaptive to challenges on a day-to-day basis. You can begin to envision a totally new life for yourself. Think BIG, because now you CAN, since you’ve cast aside what has been holding you down for years.

Prioritize self-care, and the health will follow. It’s that simple. So stay strong, Humble Warrior Women.

Until next week, Namaste.

Lotus of Self-Healing