Getting sober can be a slap in the face, and I mean that in the best way possible.
Everything is real and dealing with emotions and life can be overwhelming. If you’ve spent time in the 12 step rooms of recovery, you may have heard that when we are in active addiction we are caught up in selfishness and our ego guides us. Although is just one facet of addiction, it can be a tough reality to take. When we get sober we’re left with the daunting task of self-acceptance and taking responsibility for our past, including hurtful things we’ve done or said, and our actions that were motivated by self. But you’ve probably also noticed that in sobriety we are told to put our recovery first. Aren’t these ideas contradictive? Why is it imperative to put sobriety first?
Selfishness vs. Self-Care
I’ve been told that there is a slew of paradoxes in recovery.
For example, by surrendering we find freedom, by admitting we are powerless we become empowered, and we give it all away so we can keep it. Selfishness and self-care are similar. During active addiction, we are motivated by self and we are often incapable of seeing the whole picture. We don’t consider other people’s wants and needs. Then we get sober and we’re told self-care should be a top priority. I’ve even been told that self-care is the foundation of recovery. But isn’t self-care selfish? That’s where we find our paradox.
It might seem obvious why we’re told we need to put our recovery first, but it’s also not unusual to feel like this might be another selfish act. Truthfully, we must be a bit selfish in order to become the best version of ourselves and thrive in recovery. If we don’t put sobriety first, then we can’t be ready to deal with life on life’s terms. Our sobriety must be number one because without it we can’t function. What good will we be to the world if we don’t stay sober first?
Self-care is a concept I never even heard of until I entered recovery. Self-care, who does that? When I learned that people actually take the time to care for themselves via meditation, reading, meetings, massages, time alone, and treating themselves to a meal, I was surprised. Self-care is making sure your side of the street is clear, that you feel good about yourself and confident in your recovery so that you may help others too. Self-care is imperative to keeping your recovery strong and ultimately keeping you sane. Self-care is a continuum. On some days, self-care can be forcing yourself to get out of bed and participate in the day. On other days it can look like exercise, taking time out for yourself, or spending money on a pedicure. If you drank like I did, chances are you didn’t pay much attention to your physical appearance or health. I put my body through hell. In recovery, self-care is one way I get to make a daily amends to my body.
Now that we know that self-care is technically ‘selfish,’ but some selfishness is necessary to sustain successful long-term recovery, let’s discuss why it’s imperative to put your sobriety first.
Why you need to put sobriety first
- You should devote as much time to your recovery as you did to drinking. If you do this, you should be set. Sobriety should come first because drinking and using came first for years. It’s time you put what is most important on the top of your list.
- Recovery is a continuous journey of self-discovery. It doesn’t stop when you put down the drugs and the drinks. Recovery is a constant journey where you’ll have to work on yourself and your strengths and weaknesses every day. Becoming the best person you can be is hard work.
- You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first. If you want to be a good mother, father, daughter, sister, brother, friend, or partner, you must first make sure you are healthy and strong in your recovery. Once you are stable you’ll have the ability to bring joy and love into all of your relationships and use your sobriety toolbox for healthy coping mechanisms. Just by being able to move through the world with confidence and love I have become able to help others.
- Don’t conform to the world, let the world conform to you. Committing and sustaining recovery is not easy, but if we find pride, security, and solace in your recovery you will be able to get through anything. The world can be a scary and overwhelming place, but you can still stay true to yourself. Keeping your recovery number one will help you find your place in the world. Your recovery will allow you to let the world conform to you, instead of the other way around.
It’s not wrong or bad to want to put your sobriety first, it’s imperative. It will not only keep you alive, it will ensure you live a life that you’re proud of. If you don’t stay sober, you won’t be able to live life to the fullest. Putting your recovery first is a form of self-care and the most important one for me.
When I don’t put my sobriety first it suffers. I end up feeling restless, irritable, and discontent and this can be a recipe for disaster. If I want to reach my goals, stay peaceful and serene, and be successful I have to be sober. Without sobriety I am nothing. It has become a part of my identity and it is just as critical to me as breathing. That’s why it’s imperative to put it first. By putting myself first, I put others first. Self-care has transformed the way I do life and it can transform yours. As long as sobriety is your top priority, you will be ready for whatever life throws at you.