One of the most challenging aspects of recovering from alcohol and drug addiction is helping rebuild your confidence. The first step to building confidence is the most important thing you can learn, which is how to love yourself. This is why understanding your mental health needs and mental health problems in the midst of overcoming addiction is so important.
Giving yourself this kind of attention and care can help you stay on your road to recovery and focus on a sober life. There is no better source of inspiration, motivation, encouragement, and hope than that you find in yourself as you learn to love yourself again, or even for the first time.
Take Care of Your Basic Needs
Have you ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Well, here’s a crash course. Maslow was a psychologist who talked about human motivation. He created a pyramid, a hierarchy to explain the levels of need priorities. His theory was that you couldn’t move up the pyramid if the needs of the level below weren’t fulfilled. If you don’t have your basic needs met, you cannot build on them. They are your foundation and without these needs met, you will have nowhere to build the infrastructure of your sober life.
The Hierarchy looks like this, beginning with your most basic needs, and moving up through the different levels of need:
- Physiological Needs: food, water, warmth, rest
- Safety Needs: security, safety
- Belongingness and Love Needs: intimate relationships, friends
- Esteem Needs: prestige and feelings of accomplishment
- Self-actualization Needs: achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities and endeavors.
Often a diagnosis of alcohol or drug addiction can include a dual diagnosis for a mental health disorder, but it isn’t always clear which informs the other. Your body will never allow you to work on your psychological needs (those that are a bit higher up the hierarchy) if you don’t tend to the basic needs.
How to Meet Your Basic Physiological Needs:
Eat consistent and balanced meals throughout your day. Don’t let your body get super hungry. If you don’t eat you experience shifts in blood sugar, which affects mood, decision-making skills, etc. It’s important that you don’t miss breakfast, eat a good lunch, and a sensible dinner.
Hydrate yourself! Your body is 70% water! If you let yourself get dehydrated, your body goes through all kinds of hoops to keep you going. Some of that circus act includes taking energy you were trying to use to, say, control cravings, and manage triggers, to keep going. It’s hard to live a sober life when you aren’t drinking water.
Warmth: It may seem funny that this is on Maslow’s list of the most basic needs until you consider that we are warm-blooded animals. We have to manage our body temperature ourselves. Your body doesn’t work when it isn’t afforded the proper temperature.
Rest: Oh, this one is hard. We live in a time when people are practically expected to be in two places at once. There’s no time to sleep because we’re too busy surviving. But I’m here to tell you, and so is Maslow, that if you aren’t well-rested, surviving is going to be a much more complicated prospect. Especially when you are struggling to control a drug or alcohol addiction. Get no less than six hours of sleep per night. Convention tells you that you need at least 8.
How to Meet Your Basic Safety Needs:
Your safety needs are based on your protection from the outside elements, security, order or structure, stability, and freedom from fear.
How can you tend to these needs?
Have a safe and secure place to sleep. When you are coming away from spending time at a drug detox facility or alcohol rehab recovery program, you need to make sure you have a place to call home or at least a solid place to sleep at night that is safe from the elements. If you are homeless, please reach out to a shelter today to get a bed and work toward a consistent and secure place to stay. They can help you make a plan.
Security is the idea that you can trust that you are safe. If you have a chronic fear for your safety, ask for help. Talk to a friend, religious leader, or loved one. And if you don’t feel secure because someone is threatening you, please call the police and get away from the threat immediately.
Create a consistent structure for your life. Humans thrive in a schedule. Create some predictability for yourself so that your body can start to settle in and feel safe. That means, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, eating consistently, etc. This one is big if you’re recovering from a life of addiction.
Stability means that you can start to breathe. When you’re stable, you don’t have to always be on your toes. You can take care of the need for stability by being consistent. By remembering that every single time you choose sobriety, to fulfill your basic needs, to treat yourself as worthy of a healthy and sober life, it becomes easier. Everyone needs stability and the room to trust themselves.
Freedom from fear plays a huge part in your mental health needs and is something that everyone desperately wants. “Fear is the mind-killer,” Frank Herbert tells us in Dune. Even if it is coming from a Science Fiction novel, this isn’t the stuff of futuristic technology. It’s right out of Maslow’s theory. If you are constantly overrun by fear, you will never be able to focus on your other needs. For this, it helps to practice facing your fears. Start at something small. Are you afraid to email that friend you haven’t talked to while? Just shoot them off a quick “hello, hope you’re well!” email. The thing is when you succeed at that, the next time, it will be easier to face your fear. Let the successes snowball. You’ll start to face them quicker and with less intimidation the more intentional you are about it.
How to Meet Your Basic Love and Belongingness Needs:
Your needs to feel loved and a sense of belonging are vital to your wellbeing. After your physical and security needs have been met, you need to also tend to your psychological and social needs.
How can you tend to these needs?
An excellent place to start is by getting therapy. Learning to understand the way you currently relate to others is the first step to making sure you have healthy boundaries and the proper tools to advocate for yourself in relationships. Therapy can greatly impact your mental health needs by helping you achieve a positive headspace.
Make sure your friends are your kind of people. Pay attention to who you spend your time around. Make sure the people you spend your energy cultivating relationships with are the sort of people that want to walk with you through both the hard parts of life and the easy times. It helps to make sure you feel safe with them and like you can trust them, but it is also important to share a passion, cause, or basic belief structure with them.
How to Meet Your Basic Esteem Needs:
Your esteem needs are vital to your wellbeing. After your physical, security, belongingness, and love needs have been met, you need to also tend to your self-esteem needs. Maslow breaks this down into two categories, but I think they are pretty linked. Self-esteem and a desire to build a reputation with others. I think the idea is that a healthy person has a self-esteem that is structurally sound. This is about loving yourself, right? And a need for a relational experience, a reputation with others that is robust and motivating.
How can you tend to these needs?
- Start to focus on the things you love to do. If you love to garden, invest your whole self into it. Build a garden you love. Work at it. If you love to read, make a goal of what books you want to read and spend the time you need to really enjoy them and think about them. If you want to run a marathon because running is what makes you feel alive, chart out the training and get moving. The more you focus on doing what you love to do, the things that make you feel alive, the more you will feel grateful for your own company. It’s hard to not love life when you fill your time with the things, people, and activities that you can feel good about and enjoy.
- Work hard to succeed in your responsibilities. Dedicate yourself to doing the best you can at each responsibility. Work hard at your job, even if you’d rather be outside playing in the snow. A day well spent in honesty hard work is one you can look back on with pride. It will also help you to cultivate a reputation of hard work and dedication.
- Spend your time around people you respect. If you want to be motivated toward building a reputation, spend your time around people you aspire to be like. You’ll watch them in their lives and it will give you the motivation to work hard and to make the kind of choices that help you live up to your own expectations, which are often more stringent than anyone else’s.
How to Meet Your Self Actualization Needs:
Your self-actualization is vital to your wellbeing. After your physical, security, belongingness and love, and esteem needs have been met, you need to also tend to your self-realization needs.
This is the dream, folks. Getting past the other needs to get to a place ou can spend your time focusing on the best you. It’s the fun part where you get to zone in on which part of your life you want to spend time bettering and refining. You can think about going back to school or switching careers. Maybe you want to volunteer or get really good at a video game. It goes to show you that when you take consistent and loving care of someone (yourself in this case) you get to know them better than you thought possible. Success here means just becoming the most you that you can be.
Self-actualization sounds like a kind of contentment that Buddhism may offer, but really, it is just knowing who you want to be, and working hard to be that person. Making sure your basic and mental health needs are met is an incredible way to start on the journey to a sober life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol abuse, call our medically supervised alcohol detox treatment center and drug detox facility today at (866) 809-8164. If you are battling mental health issues, you can also contact our mental health care services today at (805) 401-0530.