Many people struggle with feeling compassion for themselves. Feelings of guilt, failure, and shame can often make us feel like we’re worthless. These feelings can be magnified in times of active addiction or recovery. In these times, we may feel like we’ve let ourselves or our friends and family down.
Grief, guilt, and shame can often feel overwhelming and dominate our thoughts. These feelings are common and understandable, but it’s essential to both our mental health and our recovery that we don’t succumb to them. After years of negative self-talk, feelings of failure, and setbacks in life, it can be hard to believe that we deserve love and happiness. However, the truth is that we do.
Treatment is the perfect time to cultivate ways of showing and expressing self-compassion. This way, when we’re back out in the “real world,” we’re able to practice self-compassion and show ourselves the love that we deserve.
Self-Compassion in Recovery
Negative self-talk and a lack of self-compassion may seem acceptable before treatment, but it’s absolutely essential that we correct these behaviors in treatment. Looking at how self-compassion (or lack thereof) can affect us before and during treatment and in recovery can help us better understand its importance in general and in recovery.
Whether or not we realize it, having a lack of self-compassion before treatment could lead us to not getting the help that we deserve. If we feel that we don’t truly deserve good things in life, we’ll continue to treat ourselves poorly. This could mean continuing the use of substances, shutting ourselves out from friends and family members, and more.
Engaging with these negative thoughts and behaviors will only perpetuate the cycle. We’ll continue to neglect ourselves and abstain from treatment simply because we believe that we don’t deserve it. If we can learn to love ourselves, develop self-compassion, and believe that we deserve good things, the transition into recovery may be easier.
Perhaps the most important time in recovery to practice self-compassion is during treatment. Treatment can pose challenges for anybody; we must rely on the support of others as well as ourselves.
A common display of a lack of self-compassion is engaging in negative self-talk. Negative self-talk is when we speak to ourselves negatively, thinking things like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m such a loser.” If we perpetuate this mindset in treatment, the many obstacles we face will feel insurmountable. We’ll feel inadequately prepared for the trials of recovery and will likely find ourselves in relapse. We can only do what we believe we can do, so if we don’t believe that we can face these obstacles, we likely won’t be able to.
An unfortunate risk in recovery is relapse. While setbacks and relapse should be avoided if possible, they are a common step on many people’s journeys. If we find ourselves taking this step on our journey, it can be absolutely crucial that we practice self-compassion during this time.
Engaging in negative self-talk and telling ourselves things like, “I can’t do this” or “I’m a failure” will prevent us from having the courage to start treatment again, and we’ll never be able to heal. By practicing self-compassion, recognizing that recovery is a difficult journey that isn’t always linear, and understanding that we owe it to ourselves and others to pursue a happier and healthier life, we can find the courage to start again. Without this self-compassion, however, we’ll continue our downward spiral and find the life we’ve convinced ourselves we deserve.
Another reason that it’s essential to develop self-compassion in recovery is so that we can utilize it long-term, well beyond achieving sobriety. Though we may have successfully navigated treatment, the world outside of the care center still poses many threats.
Readjusting to a sober lifestyle can be extremely mentally and emotionally taxing. You may find that some tasks that came easily to you before are suddenly challenging or difficult to perform. In these instances, it’s essential that we practice self-compassion and acknowledge the journey we’ve taken. Creating a space of understanding for ourselves can help us to readjust to sober living with grace and without sweating the little things.
Self-compassion is a skill that can be developed just like any other. One of the best ways to develop self-compassion is by talking through our issues with a licensed professional. This can be done before, during, or after treatment.
Another way to develop self-compassion is by analyzing our self-talk. When we talk to ourselves, we have to assess whether or not we would talk to someone else that way. Would we say, “You’re a failure” or “You can’t do anything right” to a close friend? A relative we care about? Hopefully, the answer is no. Thus, we also shouldn’t talk to ourselves that way. Monitoring and even policing our self-talk is a good first step in changing the way we talk to and view ourselves.
A final way we can develop self-compassion is through journaling. Journaling has many benefits in addiction recovery, and this is just one of them. By keeping a daily journal, we can document our highs and our lows, providing an honest insight into our daily lives. When we can see our progress and struggles develop over time, we can begin to humanize ourselves and realize that, at the end of the day, we’re just trying our best. This can be an important beginning in viewing ourselves as real people who are worthy of love and respect.
Regardless of how we choose to develop self-compassion, it’s essential that we do. Self-compassion is integral to everybody’s lives in this often difficult world, but it’s even more crucial for those in recovery. Developing self-compassion could be instrumental in executing a successful and long-lasting recovery.
When we’re used to practicing negative self-talk and beating ourselves up over little mistakes, it can be hard to find worth in ourselves and our lives. This is why it’s so essential that we cultivate self-compassion. In recovery, even the smallest obstacles can feel nearly impossible to overcome. During these times, it’s important that we give ourselves the space and understanding necessary to face them. If we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough or that we can’t do it, our brains will most likely believe us. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we understand and emphasize the importance of self-compassion. To learn more about how we teach and integrate self-compassion into our program, call (760) 492-6509.