Addiction, Recovery and men
The idea of “self-care” isn’t new. In fact, it’s a pretty popular buzzword nowadays. But contrary to popular believe, it’s not just about “massages and journaling.” It can encompass whatever you need it to.
That’s the beauty of self-care—it’s all about you and whatever actions you want to take to protect your physical and emotional health.
Maybe this includes eating mindfully, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Or perhaps, for you, it’s something different.
The important thing is that you are not dismissing self-care as simply a collection of “feminine” activities like manicures, shopping, visits to the spa, or even a good, long cry.
For many guys, being seen as feminine means being seen as weak. Even in today’s society, some still believe that men are “supposed” to be self-sufficient.
They’re “supposed” to keep their emotions in check and maintain a stoic appearance—at least that’s what many are taught. And society only reinforces these ideas.
Unfortunately, these masculine ideals—especially keeping emotions bottled up—have real consequences. Men are 3.5 times more likely than women to commit suicide.
They’re also more likely to binge drink and struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and dependence.
Historically, there’s been a shortage of self-care information available that’s geared specifically toward men. Thankfully, this is changing. Men’s websites, like Guy Counseling, are increasingly embracing and promoting the idea that men’s emotional and physical health matters.
And that asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of—in fact, it’s something one can take pride in. And considering our nation’s continuing battle with epidemic levels of addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues—it’s about time.
Good Self-Care Is Vital for Men in Recovery
Let’s do some myth-busting: There’s nothing inherently effeminate or emasculating about taking good care of yourself. It’s not self-indulgent. It’s not selfish. It’s essential for physical and psychological wellbeing.
If you’re in recovery for addiction (or even if you’re not), here are some solid, easily accessible (and mostly free) self-care strategies you can start doing—now.
1. Establish a routine—and stick to it
Routine is important for everyone, but especially for those recovering from addiction. Lack of structure can make you feel even more stressed and anxious—a bad combination when you’re already in a vulnerable state.
Too much unstructured time can also lead to boredom and put you at risk of resuming unhealthy or risky behaviors.
Structure and routine can help make recovery feel less overwhelming. Plus, routine is compatible with the rhythms of your body clock—you simply function better when you sleep, eat, work, and exercise on a consistent schedule.
2. Stay socially active
For most people in recovery, having a support system of sober peers is crucial. Isolation and loneliness can make you more susceptible to relapse. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue, isolating can make symptoms worse.
If you’ve cut ties with your old drinking buddies or ended friendships that weren’t serving you well, recovery can feel especially lonely. Support groups can help you establish healthy new friendships with sober peers.
If you’re put off by some aspect of traditional 12-step programs, there are other support groups—there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
If you started your journey at an alcohol or addiction treatment center, they may offer aftercare programs and the opportunity to link up with a sober companion.
3. Get a regular dose of Vitamin “N.”
The therapeutic value of spending time in nature is proven. It’s why certain forward-thinking addiction treatment centers offer a holistic track that includes activities like gardening, surfing, hiking, and outdoor yoga.
Research has shown that spending time in nature can help improve mood, boost cognition, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
There are plenty of physical health benefits, too. One study found that a walk in the woods lowered participants’ pulse rates by an average of 4 percent and their blood pressure by an average of 2 percent.
Modern life is stressful, and stress puts you at risk of relapse. Whether you’re a die-hard nature lover or a devoted couch potato, make Mother Nature a rejuvenating part of your self-care plan.
People have been practicing meditation for centuries, but science is just beginning to uncover the extraordinary effects of meditation on the brain.
If you want to achieve better control over your thoughts, impulses, and behavior—yep, you guessed it, start meditating.
There are plenty of misconceptions about meditation—that it’s all about “loving kindness,” or that it’s inextricably tied to religion or spirituality.
The truth is that it means different things to different people. But one thing is certain: Meditation can help exercise the brain and comes with a slew of possible health benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, better attention span, and improved self-awareness—just to name a few.
Brain scans show that different types of meditation train different parts of your brain so make it a part of your self-care plan and see the difference it can make in your recovery.
5. Get enough sleep
Sleep is as essential to our survival as water, food, and air. The modern world makes it hard to get enough quality sleep. Blue light from smartphones and other devices disrupt our sleep hormones. Noisy neighbors keep us up at night. Late night work projects take priority.
Trying to de-stress after a long day is hard. But sleep is so important to physical, mental, and emotional health that it’s worth doing everything possible to catch more Z’s.
Put down the smartphone 30 minutes before bed, take a hot shower, do a 10-minute meditation—whatever it takes.
These are just some of the many practices that can help fuel your recovery. Eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, managing stress, and setting aside time for your favorite hobbies are other ways to practice good self-care.
Why? Because you matter and you’re worth it. We all need to hear that sometimes, don’t we?
About the Author
Dr. Nancy Irwin is a licensed clinical psychologist on staff with Seasons in Malibu, a rehab center providing world-class addiction treatment and dual diagnosis care. Dr. Irwin is a trauma expert and treats the underlying cause of addictions. She works with a team of psychiatrists, addiction specialists and therapists at Seasons in Malibu, creating unique, personalized treatment programs for every client.