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Recovery and the Hierarchy of Needs

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
-Abraham Maslow, Humanistic Psychologist and Creator of the Hierarchy of Needs

American psychologist Abraham Maslow created what he called the Hierarchy of Needs to describe the motivational steps required for growth and human achievement. Maslow placed these needs in a hierarchy on a pyramid, meaning that some of our needs build the base of the pyramid and each need fulfillment brings us closer to “self-actualization.” “Self-actualization” refers to the apex of what we are capable of achieving and becoming.

While addicted to alcohol or substances, we may have forgotten about our life’s purpose and neglected to fulfill our own needs. We may need to begin our recovery at the base of the pyramid or at another step along the way toward our self-fulfillment.

According to Maslow, we need to fulfill our needs in the most basic areas before advancing toward fulfilling needs that are considered to be of a higher order. The hierarchy of needs is as follows, beginning at the most basic of needs to the highest need of self-actualization:

1. Physiological Needs: Food, Shelter, Clothing–the Basics

The first set of needs on Maslow’s pyramid is the basic, physiological needs all people require for survival. Most of us in recovery have these needs fulfilled, however, we may need help maintaining these basic needs. We may also neglect the importance or value of these needs and how they can be vital to recovery. For example, eating food that is nutritious and healthy will fulfill our needs better than eating junk food. Once we have our basic needs met we move on to safety and security needs.

2. Safety and Security: Routines and Predictability

Many of us in recovery may be at this level. We may have been surviving, but our lives have become chaotic and unpredictable. We may have lost our means for financial support or support from our families to supply necessities, which helped us to feel safe and secure.

Safety and security needs help us feel stable in our lives. Without stability, we may be surviving at only the most basic of levels. Once we have our safety and security needs met, we move on to seeking love and belongingness needs.

3. Love and Belongingness: Support Networks

We are social creatures and thrive when we feel a sense of love and belonging. When others accept us, we feel that we belong to something greater than ourselves. In recovery, we may need to build support networks for ourselves to lean on when things are tough.

Recovery is challenging, but we are not alone in this journey! Peer support and group sessions can help us fulfill our needs of belonging and give us a sense of community. Once we feel that we are loved and belong, we begin to work on our esteem needs.

4. Esteem Needs: Dignity and Reputation

Our support networks can help us feel stronger and we can begin to feel better about ourselves. Then, we can work on esteem needs. Esteem needs relate to how we feel about ourselves and how much we feel others value us. In recovery, we may need to learn how to love ourselves.

We may feel that we let others down with our addictions and seek to rebuild our reputations. Having dignity and self-respect will help us achieve our goals for our self-fulfillment. Being respected by others may help us feel better about ourselves if we feel that we have hurt others in the past with our addictions.

Once we build our self-esteem and self-confidence and build up our reputation, we can look towards the apex of the pyramid: self-actualization.

5. Self-Actualization: Our Best Self

The top of Maslow’s pyramid is the highest need of all. Self-actualization is our need to become the best that we can be. When we have all our other needs fulfilled, we can be our best selves. While we may have a vision of what the best version of ourselves is, without the other needs being fulfilled, we may find accomplishing our highest goals to be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

In recovery, we remember that we are on a journey and the destination is our best self. However, we cannot climb a mountain without drinking any water! We will have a difficult time facing challenges without emotional support and encouragement from others.

When we begin our journey in recovery, we must look forward while recognizing that climbing the pyramid of self-improvement takes time. Step-by-step, fulfilling our needs along the way, we can make it to the top!

While engaging in addictive behaviors, we may have neglected some of our most basic needs while surviving day by day. We may not have been looking forward and have only been fulfilling our basic needs without addressing all of our needs to achieve all that we are capable of. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can guide you in your recovery by understanding what you may need to work on to begin working towards becoming your best self. What are you capable of? What is the best that you can be? Self-discovery can be difficult, but even if you are lost, you are not alone! Many others are also seeking care and treatment for their addictive behaviors that have been holding them back from living their best lives. Enlightened Solutions has been helping others like you achieve their goals with an emphasis on finding your fulfillment. Call us at (833) 801-5483 today to begin your journey toward self-actualization!

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