Recovery Blog

Love Yourself After Addiction: The Science of Self Compassion

24 Aug

Accepting Addiction and Learning Self Compassion After Detox

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, addiction affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, and is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease. But despite these factors, the stigma of substance abuse continues to make many who suffer from this disease feel bad about themselves and remain stuck in an ongoing cycle of addiction without getting help. Addiction commonly evokes negative feelings in its victims such as guilt, shame, and isolation — all of which can lead to relapse and other destructive behaviors when ignored.

However, practicing self-forgiveness and showing compassion for yourself allows your brain and body to cope more efficiently with stress, and can keep you from relying on drugs and alcohol as coping methods. Self compassion involves being kind to yourself when you make mistakes as well as when you feel as if you’ve failed yourself or others. Self compassion is comprised of three core components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. With all of the health benefits of sobriety, self compassion is just one additional step to making yourself stronger in recovery.

Learn more below about the science of self compassion, and how it applies to those who suffer from addiction.

The Importance of Self Compassion

While addiction may cause you to suffer in countless ways, try to avoid judging yourself, which is a negative behavior that can often lead to greater suffering. Instead, try viewing yourself as a friend or family member you love, and treat yourself accordingly. This positive thought-process can help you experience a greater sense of self-worth, and prevent you from turning to drugs and alcohol to mask symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety related to your suffering. Look at your positive decisions, like the choice to get into detox and to find ways to assist your sobriety.

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Understanding Common Humanity

Nobody’s perfect — including those in good health who do not struggle with addiction. Having self compassion means understanding that everyone is human and makes mistakes just like you. Accepting that you are human along with everyone else can help you forgive yourself and work toward correcting or overcoming certain mistakes you might have made on behalf of addiction. Practicing common humanity also helps you avoid feelings of isolation, which is common among those who suffer from addiction.

Practicing Mindfulness and Being Present

Practicing mindfulness means living in the moment and being aware of your feelings as you’re experiencing them. For instance, if you’re feeling guilty about things you did while under the influence, practicing mindfulness can help you accept and be more aware of your suffering so you can move toward achieving more fulfilling “present” moments. Ignoring your pain or fighting negative feelings can often lead to relapse, since those who struggle with addiction may use drugs and alcohol to mask these symptoms.

The Body’s Hormonal Response to Self Compassion

Self compassion decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and increases oxytocin, which is a love and bonding hormone that makes you feel more safe and secure, and naturally reduces drug and alcohol cravings. Practicing self compassion can make you feel happier, positive, and more motivated to fight your addiction, while also reducing your risk for relapse.

Learning Self Compassion at Wellness Residential Detox

Many drug detox centers teach patients how to practice self compassion as part of addiction treatment. Individual, group, and family counseling sessions help patients and their families understand more about the science of addiction, and how self compassion can boost and play a role in one’s recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, behavioral counseling, and 12-step support groups are other therapies that can help those recovering from addiction gain a better understanding of self compassion.

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