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  • Writer's pictureIrving Najman, LMFT, CSAT

Components of Recovery

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Self-care - is the number one priority in recovery, from the first moment you wake up in the morning to the last moment before you go to bed, from the first day in recovery to every day of the rest of your life. Without self-care your life can’t run properly — it’s as simple as that. Self-care serves two very important functions in addition to the side benefits of making you healthier and functioning better. It provides the action of caring for yourself, which you neglected before, and it also provides the experience of receiving self-care, which is akin to receiving nurturing you missed as a child.

The practice of caring for yourself may feel alien at first, as you allow yourself to receive the healing benefits self-care provides. To begin, you should start each day with the top five things you need to do to stay well: shower, take any prescribed medicine or vitamins, exercise, eat a good breakfast, and do something that makes you feel special or important or valued or happy, whether it’s social or making time for yourself.

Other self-care activities might include prayer, meditating, reading recovery material, working your program in some way to step up your recovery.

Support groups - Some people are just naturals, some people need therapy, and some people have an unconditional loving person in their life. Take a look at how isolated you are and honestly take note of your needs for support and then go and look for a suitable group. Most support groups and other 12 Step programs are free, and, as the name of many of them indicates, anonymous. You can even have more anonymity through online support groups. Make sure you feel safe and read the group’s literature and ask questions to find out which group is right for you. Recovery people need recovery people. In a support group, you are cared about, you are not judged, and you are accepted for who you are, where you are in your process and the program.

Boundaries - In recovery, it’s extremely important to develop criteria for who you let in close to you. This criteria defines your boundaries, which are behaviors and actions you deem acceptable in those closest to you. To begin the process, create a personal list of basic needs you must have met in any relationship (e.g. being treated with respect, receiving a call if they will be late, etc.) and then write another list for preferences that you would like to have met, but could live without if the essential needs were met, (e.g. remembering your birthday, ways of expressing affection, etc.). Then create a list of behaviors that you will no longer tolerate in relationships. This way you will have a clear idea of who is treating you the way you need and deserve.

Needs - There are basic core needs every human must have in order to get and stay feeling well: support, validation, kindness, caring, unconditional acceptance, active/reflective listening (as opposed to unsolicited advice), security, and safety. Part of the human connection that we crave is often simply a matter of being heard, noticed, smiled at, having someone in our life that just cares for no reason. Unfortunately, not feeling deserving of having our basic human needs met, or feeling we must suffer, sacrifice, or be taken advantage of in order to get them, prevents us from getting them met in healthy, normal ways.

By engaging in therapy you can undo the damage; the unconscious patterns that make you feel undeserving, defective, wrong, bad, guilty, ashamed, helpless, and hopeless. In the process, you can replace those feelings with permission to want, permission to love yourself, permission to allow others to love and care about you without expecting anything in return.

Principles - or values, what you hold as important to you, principles are where you start living your life of recovery. When guided by what is important to you — freedom, safety, fulfillment, contribution, connection, peace, etc. — it’s easier to make a decision about anything that comes. You make decisions in accordance with your recovery principles by first asking yourself, “Will doing such and such bring me more of less freedom, safety, connection, peace, etc.? That way, you don’t have to think about it twice or continue to torture yourself about the decision.

Spirituality - An essential component in the success of any recovery program is faith — faith in yourself that you can do what it takes to get well. It is OK if you have lost faith, you can always renew it. If you believe in a Higher Power make sure it is a kind and loving one. If you feel your Higher Power knows you, has unconditional love and compassion for you and accepts you regardless of your past mistakes, then it is much easier to go to that Higher Power for help when needed.

One of the many benefits of having a Higher Power is that it gives you something to surrender to, something that can willingly accept and recycle any negative energy you need to release, including your raw emotions of anger, rage and grief or guilt. Another benefit is having something to turn to during your lowest moments or to come to terms with the damage you’ve done to yourself.

Through this, a spark of optimism and a sense of personal power will begin to emerge. All that is required is a little willingness, a willingness to do the work and to believe that you can get better and your Higher Power will help you if asked. Looking at your life from the perspective of a Higher Power or sense of spirituality also enables you to develop a degree of objectivity about yourself and life. Prayer and meditation are spiritual practices that can add to your serenity. Each person must decide for themselves what works for them.

Focus on Yourself - One of the most basic characteristics of codependency is the tendency to think about others; how they are feeling, what they are doing, what they need, and how to make them feel better. Codependents feel responsible to prevent crisis and clean up messes for others, while at the same time forgetting or neglecting their own. It’s now time to think about yourself; how you are feeling, what you need and how to make your life better. While it may seem selfish at first, focusing on yourself is really the first step on your journey to recovery. It involves:

• Placing attention on your life and where you are right now and how you got there

• Defining what your needs are in every area of your life

• Realizing the consequences of self-neglect (loss of personal development, self-esteem, and self-love, health, creativity, enjoyment)

• Choosing what principles and values you want to follow

• Identifying what you love, what you’re good at, what makes you happy, and what you love to do

• Choosing what state of mind you want to be in, returning to your natural state, your true nature

In the beginning, during this pivotal time of renewal, it may be necessary to completely disassociate, or at least minimize, contact with any difficult or negative people in your life for a period of time. This will allow you the space to start the process of sorting out and coming to terms with your own needs, wants, and feelings, to differentiate them from those imposed upon you by others. While you take a break from others for a time, take a look at:

• Your illusion of control, that you can fix things and other people

• Your feelings of being responsible for everyone

• The people who drain you that you need to detach from

• The fact that others also need to focus on themselves; it is their responsibility to do so

• The fact that others also have their own Higher Power with a purpose for them

• How your caretaking doesn’t really work out and sometimes even backfires, doing no one any good, including you

• The lack of reward for rescuing others

• Emotions triggered by the above to tap on, like guilt, obligation, fear, the need to prove yourself worthy

No one likes to break a habit and if someone has the habit of making you take care of them out of obligation or guilt they may put up resistance. That is to be expected at first, but if you stick to your commitment to yourself for some "me time," they will calm down. They may even give up and look for someone else to meet their needs. Be aware that there may be some backlash; they may get angry with you for being so selfish as to take away your attention on them and put it on you. That is ok, you can say “I understand how you feel, you may be right, I’m sorry if you don’t like it but I just need some time to myself right now.”

You are responsible for taking care of yourself first before others and you cannot take care of everyone’s feelings. In many cases, you are going to completely alter the way you interact with and relate to certain people, maybe forever. You may need to continue having no contact for months, or even years, with those people who are so toxic that even healing the past wounds won’t keep up with the havoc they can cause in your interactions with them in the present. Emotionally healthy people don’t use the notion of ‘family’ to manipulate and pressure other members into doing things for them they don’t want to do. Love is something freely given and received; it is not a tool to be used to get something out of

someone else.

Self Awareness - Once you’ve developed the healthier habit of focusing on yourself, you then want to be able to distinguish between a healthier, balanced way of being and an unhealthy imbalanced state. This unfortunately, isn’t as obvious as it sounds for those who grew up experiencing physical and emotional stress as a ‘normal’ part of their lives and can only come from practice and experience. As I like to believe, in order to eliminate a negative state, one needs to have full firsthand experience and knowledge of its nature. Likewise, in order to create a positive state, one needs to have full firsthand experience and knowledge of its nature. This process involves:

• Honesty and willingness to tune into your issues and feelings

• Choosing what state you want each area of your life to be in (chaos or calm)

• Returning to your true nature as you become well

• Overcoming fears to being and expressing your true nature

• Developing resources for direction, help, and support — inner, outer, and Higher

• Identifying and practicing self-care habits

• Giving to yourself, thereby creating the experience of receiving from yourself, including

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