Balance in recovery. It is an everyday struggle for me. I was a heroin addict in the tenderloin, a place where balance and recovery do not exist. When I first got clean, a little over a year ago, I thought as long as I didn’t use drugs everything would be simple and easy. Since getting clean, I have found that my addiction manifests in many other ways besides drugs. I can take almost any facet of my life and ignore it, or on the opposite end, obsess in it. For me, this has been a struggle with relationships, food, self care, and mental health. If you have a loved one struggling with addiction, check out this piece on helping someone who doesn’t want help with addiction: http://addictionrehabblog.com/5-things-can-help-drug-addict-doesnt-want-help/
Navigating relationships has been hands down one of the most challenging aspects of recovery for me. Whether it is a friendship, family relationship, or an intimate relationship, nothing brings out my insecurities and bad behavior quicker than dealing with people I care about. When it comes to intimate relationships, I have a history of dropping my friends in recovery and my program of self care for a person just to find myself miserable and discontent. In reality I think most of us strive to have a relationship with another human being. So how do we find balance? This has been the million dollar question for me. I am currently in my first relationship where I have maintained a healthy balance. It’s not always easy and it goes against my instincts. There are several things that I must be mindful of everyday. Going to meetings and staying connected with my fellowship has been very important. It’s so easy to just stop going to meetings and hanging out with sober friends when you have the option of spending all that time with your significant other. Everyday I make a decision to go to a meeting before I spend time with my girlfriend and it has been a good choice. As well, continuing to meet with my sponsor and regularly engage in step work has been so important. When I stop doing step work, my behavior deteriorates and I stop being accountable. That behavior transfers over to my relationship and that’s when problems happen. I have found that putting my self care and recovery first, before my relationship, only results in me having a better and healthier relationship.
Since I have stopped using drugs, I have found myself using overeating or poor eating habits to cover the way I feel many times. To be honest, the first 9 months I was clean I literally ate everything and anything. I found myself getting to a point where I felt sluggish and bad, and I believed it was having an effect on my mental health and recovery as well. I don’t have a strict diet by any means, but I do try to be mindful of my eating habits and choices on a daily basis. I make an effort to just try and have at least one healthy meal a day and to drink more water. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you drink a normal amount of water and limit your junk food intake. Although I am not perfect, a small change in my eating practices has had a great impact on the way I feel physically, mentally, and about where I am in my recovery.
Just like healthy relationships and diet, self care was something I never dealt with in my addiction. It has become one of the most crucial and challenging parts of my recovery. There are endless aspects and outlets of self care. For me self care was so overwhelming, as it is for so many of us new in recovery, I had to start with the simplest of things. In the beginning, it was literally reminding myself to brush my teeth, make my bed, wake up by a certain time and many other things normal people just do. Little by little repetitively doing those basic tasks helped me to start build the beginnings of self esteem. After building that foundation, I got to discover what self care meant to me. Self care for me always includes the basics like doing my step work, going to meetings, and meeting with my sponsor, but there is so much more. That is the part you get to discover for yourself and it has been so rewarding for me. I was sitting with my sponsor one day and he asked me “What do you love to do?”. I didn’t have an answer for him because it had been so long since I had engaged in any positive activity that meant something to me. That question was stuck in my head. I looked back in my life to the things I had loved to do growing up. Mountain Biking and Baseball. I knew if I really wanted to I could achieve participating in both of those activities. I started saving for a bike and I joined a baseball league. When I was in my addiction I never thought I would do either of those again. For me those activities are entirely about self care. When I am having a rough day or feeling uncomfortable, I go on a ride. That is what taking care of myself looks like for me. Taking some time to think about what self care looks like for you, and making a plan of action around those goals will be so rewarding.
Balance in my recovery is something I will continue to struggle with. I keep working on it everyday and to me that’s all that matters.