“I just need a night to myself, sorry.”
This is a phrase that has become widely accepted because the importance of self-care is a trending topic in articles and books on mental health and wellness.
Sometimes we all need to detach, regroup and recharge and I often do.
Maintaining sobriety requires me to navigate social situations and make decisions that put me in a place where I am reasonably comfortable and not too tempted. I am blessed with the ability to be in many social settings and still be okay with not drinking.
But, it’s been almost seven years and sometimes I’m not okay.
Those are the times when I need to go home and sometimes even decide ahead of time to not attend the get-together at all.
Recently, however, I have noticed a tendency to revert inward and call it self-care.
Numerous times over the past month I have hid behind my sobriety and failed to engage those around me. Now, some might read this and say, “So what!? You need to do what’s best for you.” I get that, but sometimes the reason we give for why we do or not do something, is simply a lie.
Self-care is noticing when we need to lean in or back off, and there is benefit in doing both.
Working out – leaning in. Taking a night to sit with a book and a cup of tea – backing off.
Skipping on a responsibility or plans with someone, simply because I don’t feel like it, is not self-care, it’s turning away from an opportunity and it’s rude. It is also tough to expect people to be there for me if I am not there for them.
Recently, I was at a professional development conference which included many opportunities for fellowship. A lot of these opportunities include alcohol. One night I skipped the fellowship time and watched Netflix instead. Upon reflecting on that decision, I realized what I did was not self-care. It was just selfish. The alcohol wasn’t why I skipped, I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like it.
The next evening I hung out for a while at the social time but left a little early. The reasoning for this? I had plans to wake up early for a run, because it’s an example of leaning in, it’s something I know is good for me.
Because I stayed for a bit, I ended up having a few laughs and strengthened bonds with dedicated and loving educators who are doing outstanding work all over the country. Laughs and conversations I almost missed, because of Netflix.
Realizing the difference between self-care and being selfish is important for me because I don’t want to come off as a victim or a martyr. My sobriety is not an excuse for being lazy or rude. It doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone and it certainly does not give me a pass to be selfish.
I should remain vigilant but I cannot pretend that things are worse than they are. I have done a lot of hard work and taken steps over the years to be on solid ground.
I’m excited and optimistic because I know it is possible to balance doing what is right for me, while also doing right by others.
Self-care, not selfish.