Learning to Love Myself in Recovery

Stephanie Hazard
Stephanie Hazard on boat

“You’ve got to go learn how to love yourself!” 

Those words pierced my heart when a former boyfriend abruptly ended our relationship. At the time, I was a 34-year-old single mom drowning myself with white wine and hanging on to our volatile relationship for dear life. I was bottoming out emotionally and physically. 

As a result, I crawled my way into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Al-Anon, and discovered that getting sober was the ultimate act of self-care. I didn’t recognize it at first, but getting sober and being in recovery was the catalyst for developing a new and improved relationship with myself and others.

I used to think that self-love was something only other people had. 

When I saw the phrase, “To thine own self be true,” on the back of my 30-day AA coin, they made me wince. What self? I certainly admired people who honored themselves. They seemed to be confident and grounded in who they were. They had healthy boundaries and an air of serenity around them. But I didn’t understand how they got there.

Loving myself felt hollow and unattainable. But the most incredible thing happened. I began listening to other people share their experiences and be honest about their lives, and I felt compassion for them. This in turn enabled me to have compassion for myself, and encouraged me to make better choices. Turning toward myself with gentle curiosity, I developed a loving relationship with myself.

A lot of people struggle to love themselves

Stephanie Hazard on beach

While working as a recovery coach, I’ve learned that many of my clients are riddled with shame and guilt and are totally lost when it comes to loving themselves. I encourage them to attend recovery support meetings so they can listen, learn, and feel supported.

Hearing and relating to other people helps build self-compassion. As they come to understand they are greater than their worst parts, my clients eventually begin to understand their own suffering was contributing to their struggles.

How to introduce self-care into your own life 

Take a moment to sit quietly and ask yourself: What’s one easy thing you can do now that would feel good? Maybe it’s staying seated and enjoying a moment of silence with the sun pouring through your office window. Maybe it’s getting up and cuddling with your dog. Maybe it’s sipping a comforting cup of tea. Whatever it is, do it with your full attention. 

What self-care looks like is different for everyone. For me, sometimes it’s simply eating well, meditating, or getting a chair massage. For some, it might be taking a nap, or going to the gym. For others, it might be stretching every morning, going to a recovery meeting, enjoying nature, or reading a book. You may find that the more you practice self-care, the more about yourself there is to love. 

Self-Love Grows Over Time

Developing a loving relationship with myself has been a journey. No longer chasing a drink or covering up a hangover, I had the time to get to know myself and cultivate that relationship. Negative self-talk and hurtful behaviors have dissipated, and I extend loving kindness toward myself and others in thought, word, and deed. Being sober for the past 24 years, I’m grateful that my greatest struggle – to learn how to love myself – has also been my greatest gift.

–Stephanie Hazard

Woman in a support circle

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