How Can I Practice Self-Love?

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Self-love is not a dismissable term, though at first glance it may seem like a vague, overused catchphrase. Self-love is akin to self-care, which essentially means taking care of ourselves and being as loving to ourselves as we are to the people around us. For alcoholics and addicts, we often have to begin journeying the 12-Steps to start understanding and practicing love of any kind. The 12-Steps help us overcome our destructive selfishness. They teach us how to think of others and be of service to them. 

Ultimately, the program of recovery aims to teach us how to be loving, healthy people in all our relationships — and that includes our relationship with ourselves. A glass can only spill what it contains. If we are unkind to ourselves or treat ourselves like garbage, it will be nearly impossible to be as kind, loving, and helpful towards others as our recovery asks that we be. So we need to give our attention to self-care, which begins with self-love. But how exactly can we practice self-love?

Lay the Foundation

For those of us who are alcoholics and addicts, we always need to start at the start. That means working the 12-Steps and actively engaging in a recovery-based lifestyle. Get a sponsor and stay current with them while working the 12-Steps. Attend regular meetings, get commitments, and participate in our recovery community. Be of service to anyone and everyone that we can. All of this transforms our lives in the most wonderful ways. It helps us live to the fullest and be our best, so that’s the baseline for those of us with the disease. We need to embrace and maintain our recovery. Without it, we have little chance to be loving to anyone, including ourselves.

Be Willing to Practice — A Lot

This one probably seems obvious, but it needs to be said. Like anything new, self-love takes a lot of practice. Staying involved in the 12-Step program is a great way to stay in practice, but there are lots of other little ways to help ourselves. If we have a problem with negative self-talk, we can begin with something as simple as noticing when we are talking negatively to ourselves. Noticing these thoughts can help us catch them, and eventually, we can stop ourselves as soon as a negative thought pops up and work to replace it with a loving thought instead. Believe it or not, something this small can yield tremendous benefit in every facet of our lives. And it all starts with very simple practice on very small things — that’s how the big things get changed.

When practicing anything, you must remember to be patient with yourself. Practice involves making a lot of mistakes and then doing our best to learn from them. Practice means trying every single day, whether we feel like it or not, and just doing our best — even our best is a little lackluster that day. It is a steady, regular, open-minded effort to embrace the healthier ways of life that can eventually lead us out of our bad habits.

Find the Practice That Works for You

As for the ways we can practice self-love, it looks different for each of us. For some, it means changing how we talk to ourselves or treat ourselves and build a kinder and more loving inner dialogue. It can mean taking better care of our bodies by exercising, eating healthier, or meditating. It can mean going to therapy, following doctors’ orders, and quitting unhealthy habits. Practicing self-love can even mean finally doing something we’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s time to learn how to play the piano or take a trip somewhere exotic.

Self-love can take a million different forms. It can be only having one less cup of coffee in the morning to help ourselves avoid anxiety. It can be taking a significant risk and applying for our dream job, going back to school, or making a new friend. It can be delving deeper into our spiritual life and the things that feed our soul or building private rituals and routines that keep us spiritually connected to our higher power. It can be quitting smoking or taking a weekly class at the gym or joining a sports team. It can be cleaning our home regularly or learning a new language. The sky’s the limit here.

We determine if the things we do are done out of love or not, but we often need the clarity found by working the 12-Steps to help us decipher our real motives. Doing inventory and consulting our sponsor or a trusted member of our recovery community can help us discover if and how we are being unloving to ourselves. Likewise, it can also help us illuminate the specific ways we can practice self-love. Self-love may look different for all of us, but it often looks like working the 12-Steps to the best of our ability, taking care of our minds, bodies, and spirits, and doing the things that make us happy and free, so we may be of more help to more people.

Seek Love for Others and Yourself

Ultimately, the 12-Step program of recovery tells us that “love and tolerance” is our code. We learn that tolerance will always eventually lead to love. This love that we must have for all, we must also learn to have for ourselves. Just as we learn to love others better as we take the journey of recovery, we are also given the opportunity to love ourselves better. It takes practice, but it’s well worth the effort. As we continue working the 12-Steps and seeking love for all in everything we do, we are guided to the right ways to practice self-love as well.

Alcoholism and addiction are a destructive and debilitating disease that can warp the lives of those who suffer, as well as those whose lives are intertwined with theirs. Once loving people with happy lives can be laid low by this disease. Thankfully, there is a solution. The 12-Steps are a program of action designed to produce the necessary psychic change and vital spiritual experience that are required for successful, lasting recovery. This program can restore life and happiness to those who are willing to do the work. At Jaywalker Lodge, we have experienced the lengthy struggle to achieve and maintain long-term recovery from alcoholism and addiction. We found the pieces of the puzzle that were missing for us, and they may prove to be the keys to success for you as well. Willingness, honesty, and open-mindedness are necessary for this process. If you have those, Jaywalker Lodge can help with the rest. Call us now at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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