Yes, You Are Worth It (and a whole lot more besides)
When I drank alcohol, I would make small nods towards the practice of self-care. I’d stick on a facemask or make time for a decadent bubble bath (usually with a glass of wine to hand as I soaked), or I’d have an early night to sleep off a terrible hangover, often with racing heart, a stomach filled with regrets, and shameful memories spinning around my head. Once in a while I would swear off the booze entirely for a month or so (always following a massive binge, so horrific that I would declare emphatically that things were different now, I was a changed woman) and stock up on green smoothie ingredients, fill my fridge full of vegetables and drink endless pints of iced water.
But I would always go back to my old ways.
Self-care, in a nutshell, did not exist when I drank alcohol. How could it? When my entire life revolved around a toxic substance that cut through every aspect of my life like a chainsaw hell bent on ultimate destruction. But weirdly, I thought I was being kind to myself, treating myself, whenever I poured a glass of wine or smoked a cigarette. It was twisted logic – I was looking after myself by damaging myself (which is precisely the logic used by the alcohol industry in their adverts and marketing strategies, especially aimed at women – come on ladies, you’ve had a tough day at work and now you’re having a tough time at home! Neck a load of wine and give yourself a break; you are WORTH it!).
When I quit drinking, I tried hard to embrace the whole self-care phenomenon. However, my soul was still broken and I didn’t think I was worth much at all so it all felt a little fraudulent. Yes, I was having early nights and staying at home a lot, but that felt like a punishment, denying myself a social life to avoid the temptation to drink at all costs. Any bubble baths I might have run were purely a means of passing the time, rather than the manifestation of my belief that I deserved a little pampering.
Now that I have been alcohol-free for eight years, I am fully immersed in the world of self-care. But it’s not a face mask here, a new pair of slippers there; it’s an entire way of life that revolves around a simple premise – I am a valid human being who deserves to be well and happy. Thus, the choices I make support that belief. I eat food that energises me and keeps me well. I exercise regularly because it serves my entire being – mind, body and soul. I spend time only with people who are good for my mental health and I don’t engage at any length with those who are not. I walk my dogs and play with them because they fill my heart with joy and bring a big smile to my face. I meditate and practice mindfulness because I want to enjoy and notice the world around me as much as possible. I work in a job that fulfils me and provides me with a purpose. I don’t drink alcohol - ever.
These things are all self-care. And because I do them (and believe in them) I also feel that I deserve a bit of pampering now and again rather than perceiving those little ‘treats’ as pointless and empty. A bubble bath is a mindful exercise in relaxation, not a time to lie back and ruminate on all that is wrong with my life. Having my nails done reminds me that I’m worth looking after. Having a weekend break with my family restores and cements family bonds, rather than it being an opportunity to drink and damage myself further.
Self-care is essential and serves us in many ways. But without the foundations of self-esteem and self-worth, its value is minimal.