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When I first got sober, I spent a lot of time reading books on sobriety. I took delicious therapeutic baths almost nightly. I tried practically every new (to me) flavor of LaCroix. I used tons of essential oils allll the time to calm and soothe me, especially when the kids were driving me up the wall. Lavender, eucalyptus, orange…you name it I was blending it in order to create wonderful aromatic scents to help me chill out. I also began training for my first race, which would become the beginning of my obsession with running and “earning bling.”
What I didn’t quite realize was that I was taking care of myself in new ways. The cliche “self-care” trend had become integral and essential to my wellness in sobriety. I was replacing my nightly crutch of drinking alcohol to forget my day with taking care of myself in order renew, reflect, restore, and challenge my body and mind in new ways.
Why is Self-Care So Important In Sobriety?
When you get sober, its crucial to begin rebuilding physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alcohol is a toxic, soul-draining substance that serves no purpose other than to destroy lives, hopes, and dreams. When I stopped drinking alcohol, especially those first few hours and days of sobriety, finding something else to distract or reward my non-drunkness was crucial. Reading books and blogs to arm myself with even more knowledge about how awesome sobriety is and how terrible alcohol truly is helped keep me sober.
One might say you are replacing one habit with another, but it is important to realize just how much time alcohol consumed.
I planned when and what I was going to drink every single day.
I had to plan if I needed to hit the liquor store or grocery store to get wine, rum or vodka.
There was A LOT of time spent scheming to get out of the house to “run errands” to quickly hit the store to pick up my drink of choice for the evening, or to replace a bottle I was worried my husband might have noticed that I polished off way too quickly.
Then, I would take the time to make drinks, plan how to sneak shots in between those drinks, make food to sober up a bit, drink more shots, go to bed drunk only to wake up at 3AM deathly sick with a sinking feeling in my stomach and wondering why I am drinking so much yet again.
So yes, if you need to physically distract yourself in early sobriety by baking the flakiest, buttery biscuits or indulgent double chocolate muffin recipe you can find, by all means do it.
And as time wears on and we are left with our raw emotions that we can no longer chase away with an adult beverage, we have to deal with these emotions, head on. Beginning to address our issues of anger, anxiety, self-consciousness, self doubt, unworthiness, not being good enough, not cool enough, not feeling beautiful, or downright hating ourselves takes a lot of work. And it’s a constant work-in-progress! And that hard work needs to be rewarded with some self-care.
What Does Self-Care Really Look Like?
Everyone’s ideal self-care ritual looks different. I wouldn’t even call mine a ritual, rather an arsenal of stuff I might need to lean into to get through my days. So what I do to take care of myself may look different than what you might need. I can also say my self-care stash has evolved. One thing is for sure, I don’t look like those zen magazine covers of women peacefully relaxing and thoroughly enjoying themselves as they get their temples massaged. That definitely isn’t me and that is okay.
Like I mentioned earlier, I keep different essential oils, such as lavender or stress relief blends stashed around my house and in my bag, and when I need it, I use it. (and so do my kids and husband, for that matter!)
Early on, I would take bubble baths almost nightly, but due to life that has been something that is more of an occasional treat now. However, I look forward to making it more routine again in the near future.
I read a ton of books. This helped quench my thirst for knowledge about how to get and stay sober. Reading other people’s sobriety stories also helped me realize I am not the only one in this struggle! I also listened to podcasts while driving to work, specifically Paul Churchill’s Recovery Elevator podcast. It contains great info related to alcohol substance abuse and sobriety, as well as interviews of people at different points of their sobriety journey.
I got a kick out of trying all the LaCroix flavors, only because that is something everyone has to experience at some point of sobriety, like a rite of passage. While I love an occasional sparkling water, overall I’ve become a real basic Coke Zero kind of girl.
Finally, because I love a challenge, I began training to run my first race a few months into sobriety. I needed a challenge of something I never thought I would be able to achieve, and I turned it into an activity that was I 100% devoted myself to and used as “me” time. I looked forward to running my miles to clear my head, to work through issues, even to let out anger and sadness. The accomplishment, the exhaustion, the way running grounded me was an integral part of my self-care that I needed for my sobriety. Since my first 5 mile race back in 2018, I have run a couple of half marathons and one marathon! Although I enjoy working out, pre-sober Martina would have never, ever run for fun, let alone train to run in an actual race. The challenge and commitment to a goal is something my spirit craves and I look forward to it while navigating my sobriety.
More Self-Care Ideas
Self-care won’t look the same for everyone and it can be everchanging. But having something positive to help take care of yourself, no matter how small it may seem, is extremely important in sobriety.
Take up a new hobby such as learning a language (Rosetta stone now has an app!) learning to knit or crotchet, or pick back up that musical instrument that you played in school that is just taking up space in your closet!
If you like to cook or bake, find over the top, decadent recipes to try your hand at. I like trying random muffin or cookie recipes….and my family gets a kick out of trying all the new recipes that mommy makes!
Try meditation or breathwork. It’s not for everyone and personally I have struggled over the years with adhering to a meditation practice, but I love doing short, focused sessions of breathwork. It’s a quick way to calm feelings of angst, overwhelm, or anger. I have even done this breathwork while driving so it can literally be done anywhere! Try this one here, its only 4 minutes!
Take a bath or shower and add a few drops of essential oil to the water. If you’re short on time and taking a shower, get your shower started and add a few drops of oil while the water is running. The mix of the steam from the shower and the oil creates a spa like atmosphere!
Listen to your favorite songs or playlist. Or, create a special playlist that you listen to when you’re relaxing at home.
Self-care is especially important in sobriety. Getting sober takes hard work, staying sober takes even more work, and in the midst of all of this, the body, mind, and spirit needs to be rejuvenated and healed with self-care. Don’t view it as a treat, view it as a lifeline for your sobriety journey.