Martha's Musings on Self-Care in Recovery

May 26, 2022

Hello Beautiful People! I am Martha Brightman Gasca and I work with UCS Healthcare patients as a case manager. In this role, I help our patients access resources that cover their basic needs and their medical care. This requires partnerships with other agencies and businesses in the community that provide housing, clothing, transportation, self-care, jobs and more. One of the reasons I love my job is that I know firsthand that having one’s basic needs met allows a person to focus on and stay in recovery.  


During May, we’ve been talking about Mental Health Awareness month. I want to talk about some of the things that have been helpful for me in addressing my own mental health recovery. I work a personal recovery program. It started with addressing my substance use disorder and my sobriety anniversary is 9/7/97. Over the past 24+ years, my recovery has evolved into much more as I have discovered the importance of self-care to my mental health and overall health.  


I try to fit my self-care into all aspects of my life. My purpose for writing this post is to offer some suggestions to you, my fellow helpers and voyagers. I hope you can find some helpful ideas or even some inspiration to seek out ways to help yourself. 


Starting My Recovery 

When I began working a recovery program and went to treatment, it was considered the exception to have a dual diagnosis, but thank goodness that is no longer the case. Today it is uncommon for someone to have only a substance use disorder. People seeking care are able to get help with all of their needs and have a say in what they choose to address or not. I find this to be especially true here at UCS Healthcare. We assist those who entrust us with their care to help them develop a plan for personal recovery. 


I began attending 12-step groups about five days after I quit using - after I woke up! Today, I continue to attend 12-step anonymous groups and work with a person whom I call my sponsor and friend. I meet people who disagree with being friends with their sponsor and my take on this is: that you get to figure out what works best for you and your program. I consider the people I have met and with whom I continue to have relationships in the program as my family of choice. Just like our families of chance, there can be some we just do not get along with. As a result, we get the option of whether we keep them in our lives or not. And like Edward, our UCS Healthcare Peer Recovery Coach, likes to remind me, relationships are most central to our livelihood. I also have to remember Rule 62, don’t take yourself too seriously. 


Recognizing When You Need More Help 

After I had been sober for over 16 years, I had a series of unfortunate - or perhaps fortunate, depending on how you look at it - events that led me to seek help beyond the 12-step program. Despite having worked in the substance use disorder and mental health field for the previous nine years, I had not addressed my other mental health issues prior to that other than what was ‘recommended’ by the 5th Judicial District, early on in my recovery journey.  


Today when the topic arises, I encourage my associates working in this field to seek out counseling and/or support, regardless of what role you play in your organization. We must make our health and wellbeing number one or we will not be able to benefit others. Addressing our mental health is as important as addressing any other chronic or short-term health issues. I work with an amazing counselor, so I can continue to be somewhat sane and balanced and of service to patients and loved ones. But it bears repeating: you get to do what is best for you.  


“Take your time healing, as long as you want. Nobody else knows what you've been through. How could they know how long it will take to heal you?” - Abertoli. 


How Mindfulness Applies to My Wellbeing 

Mindfulness is a relatively new discovery for me but I went through the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program that was offered at UCS Healthcare, (shout out to my beloved supervisor Julie!). I learned so many more techniques that assist me with grounding and finding peace. One of the most beautiful things about mindfulness is that I can jump in and do it at any time. 

  • Mindfully eat - think about how the food is affecting all five senses. 

  • Mindfully exercise - when engaging, I often tell myself “I don’t have to do this, I GET to do this!” 

  • Mindfully engage in housework - sometimes I will make a gratitude list as I clean: I am grateful I have a bathroom to clean, because there were times I didn’t have a home, a kitchen, a yard, a car, etc. 

  • Mindful self-talk – am I berating myself? I like to think of a loved one and ask “would I say these things to my loved one?” Jon Kabbat Zin describes mindfulness wonderfully: Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing. 


In closing I want to throw out a couple other mantras that I have used, and meditated on, often over the years: 

  • “No one is a complete waste; one can always serve as a bad example!” You get to decide how your actions reflect who you are. 

  • “Nothing beats a failure but a try.” I hated this one, until I didn’t, because it finally clicked, especially when incorporating exercise and basic activity into my routine! 

  • Nike had it right “Just Do It,” don’t overthink things! Because inevitably, I will talk myself out of a necessary yet unpleasant task. 

  • Finally, the paradoxes of the 12-step programs: We suffer to get well; We lose to win; We have to give it away to keep it; and We die to live. 


These are merely ideas and suggestions from Martha’s Musings on Mental Health. I hope you find something useful in what I have shared. My challenge for you is to note what does and doesn’t work for you when you think about your self-care. Thank you for reading!