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5 Self-Care Tips to Remember in Early Recovery

Self-care is often neglected by people in active addiction. And when getting wasted takes precedence over basic health and grooming concerns, it’s not always healthy—or cute. Sometimes, concerns over losing our good looks can be reason enough to hop on the wagon. As one unofficial recovery motto goes, “Come [to AA] for the vanity, stay for the sanity.”

But now that you’re sober, it’s as good a time as any to start cleaning up, literally. It might sound superficial, but you’d be surprised how a little self-care can make you feel a lot better as you learn to face the world without drugs and alcohol. Here are a few self-care tips for people in early recovery:

Take Care of Your Teeth

Whether teeth are busted from bar fights or chipped from falling facedown, ground and decayed from drug use, or riddled with cavities from passing out nightly without brushing, dental care is important. It’s not too late to start brushing at least twice a day and flossing once daily—even if it’s a drag. And a trip to a dentist or hygienist is always a smart idea. Affordable care is available at dental schools, where a supervised student dentist can perform most services. Tooth whitening can be a nice luxury (and it helps to undo stains from all the coffee guzzled in 12-step meetings!).

Get a Shave and a Haircut

A new hairstyle can change everything—plus, it’s a great way to leave at least part of the past behind. One newly sober person gave her reason for shaving it all off: “Now I don’t have any hair left on my head that could test positive for drugs!” A lot of people in recovery have found new careers as hairstylists or barbers; you can ask one of them for a recommendation. Chances are someone will offer a discount. Similar to dental colleges, many cosmetology schools and salons need hair models. And a flattering haircut can help you in interviews if you’re looking for a job.

…a flattering haircut can help you in interviews if you’re looking for a job.

Get Your Nails Did!

Self-esteem champion RuPaul (who is also in recovery) once said: “Keepin ya nails lookin fly is a true sign of self-love.” Ru speaks the truth, honey. Go on, cut your coke nail down! Get a pedicure. It’s a great way to feel pampered, and express yourself with a pop of color or a shiny buff. It’s not just for the ladies—a soothing hand or foot massage can be enjoyed by anyone. These parts of the body are often an afterthought to a drunk. Now the hand-holding at the end of the meeting won’t be so rough (literally).

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is the simplest way to beautify from the inside out. Adequate water consumption helps organs function properly and washes out toxins. Water provides energy and adds a fresh and dewy look to skin. Whether you like your water flat—or with bubbles—the standard suggestion is eight 8 oz. glasses of water (2 liters) a day. And water’s not just for drinking: a hot bubble bath is a well-deserved indulgence. And it might just help you relax more than alcohol or drugs ever did.

Avoid H.A.L.T.

“H.A.L.T.” is a 12-step acronym that stands for “hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.” It might seem obvious, but these four issues can trip us up in a big way—and they’re all pretty easy to remedy. Most alcoholics and addicts in early recovery are not accustomed to regular meal or sleep routines. Until you’ve learned to rebuild a structure into your life, remember to eat when you’re hungry, and rest when you’re tired. As for the other two? Call a friend or your sponsor and talk it out.

Related: 5 Tips for Improving Self Compassion in Recovery

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