Self-Love in Alcohol and Addiction Treatment, Recovery and Beyond

“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” – Parker Palmer

How do I find self-love in alcohol and drug addiction treatment, rehab, recovery and beyond?

Is this something you’ve, more or less, asked yourself before?


Mirror, mirror on the wall…

The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, an expanded guide to the Twelve Step program pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, contains a passage in Step Three about the newly sober alcoholic which reads: “Should his own image in the mirror be too awful to contemplate (and it usually is)…”

But that was then (over half a century ago) and this is now. In the recovery community, we now know that over and above the stern moral self-appraisal most recovering addicts need to conduct, self-love is also necessary to any successful recovery program.

Self-Love May Not Come Easily for the Recovering Alcoholic and Addict

Despite the aim of the Twelve Step program to shatter the ego, the fact is that many who struggle with substance abuse deal not only with problems surrounding humility, but with crippling self-esteem issues, many of which have their origins in childhood. Surprisingly, low self-esteem can go hand in hand with delusions of grandeur; an inflated ego often masks deep-seated feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. That’s why it is so important in recovery to learn to receive love from others, and to actively begin to practice self-love.

While this may seem to run contrary to the Big Book’s warning about selfishness in all its forms, there is actually nothing selfish about being firmly grounded in self-acceptance and self-love. In fact, it is impossible to extend very much love to others without considering oneself as part of the equation. Of course, kind actions towards others are possible regardless of one’s self worth, but in order to gain the kind of sustained serenity and compassion that make a sober life so worthwhile, it is necessary to learn to extend the same kindness to oneself.

Learning Self-Love Takes Practice in Recovery!

Coming into recovery, it can seem like there is so much to remember in order to stay clean and sober and live successfully: Call your sponsor! Go to meetings! Notice your triggers! Write things down! Examine your thinking! Help others! Meditate! With so many injunctions, it can seem head-spinningly difficult to embrace the new order of things. However, gentle practice of these and other recovery tools does pay incredible dividends.

When it comes to self-love, a great way to practice is to notice opportunities to take care of yourself and then act upon those opportunities. A great time to start is July 3rd, which is National Compliment Your Mirror Day. How can you observe this holiday wherever you are? It’s simple: Find a mirror, gaze into it, and tell yourself how great you are and how well you’re doing. If this sounds ridiculous, like something that would make you either burst out laughing or burst into tears, then you’re definitely on the right track. How long has it been since you told yourself you’re wonderful, instead of picking apart your flaws?

When speaking to yourself in the mirror, don’t make it all about the physical – although you should definitely feel free to observe all the things you love about your physical form! Don’t neglect to praise yourself for your positive traits, abilities, accomplishments and ways of being. You are who you are, not just what you earn or the things you check off your to-do list. So, take time to tell your mirror image how much you are loved for simply being you.

Beyond Complimenting the Mirror

Hopefully this quick exercise on National Compliment Your Mirror Day will continue long past July 3rd and become something you do on a regular basis. After all, your contributions to friends, family, the workplace and society don’t just occur on one day; you make them every day. Take some time to regularly acknowledge yourself and do good things for yourself. You may also choose to use your mirror time to tell yourself some positive affirmations and experience the creative power of the spoken word. Writing out some meaningful recovery affirmations and then speaking them aloud in the mirror is a powerful investment in self-nourishing behaviour that can go a long way toward healing past damage caused by addiction, and changing old belief systems in a positive way.

Happy National Compliment Your Mirror Day. You’re the best!

Share in the comments below about what positive affirmations you have found successful in addiction and alcohol treatment and in your continued recovery?

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.