Recovery and the Hierarchy of Needs

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!

I Can't Even

“I can’t even” is in your mind

“I can’t even”. It’s a popular term in the internet world. As a culture we have decided to attach ourselves to a certain exhaustion. Much of the world today is exhausting. Conflict reigns everywhere. Yet somehow, we persist in our beliefs that we simply cannot. We can’t deal, we can’t cope, we can’t even pretend to muster the enthusiasm to pretend that we might have the motivation to make it seem like we can. Though it is probably we could, we just aren’t going to. Whatever it is we aren’t doing, we aren’t doing it because we really believe we couldn’t, even if we tried.

For recovery from drug and alcohol addiction this is an essentially interesting mindset during treatment. Considering the extreme that comes with, quite actually, one who cannot stop drinking or using drugs, it is interesting when they cannot participate in treatment. Learning to deal with reality, or “life on life’s terms” as it is called in recovery, is critical. Coping skills, emotional regulation skills, and mindfulness skills are necessary to be able to let go of the need to control life. When we “can’t” we’re really trying to control. Going into a default mode of resistance or exhaustion is in itself a coping mechanism, a way to try and avoid life. We may not always have to, but there will be times when we need to. It is important to our recovery to try and be as present as possible in our lives. Being is much different from doing. Can or cannot is a matter of doing. Being able to do or do not is a different situation entirely.

Recent research has discovered that the brain decides it is tired long before the body itself is tired. Alcoholism is a disease of the body, mind, and spirit. Though the spirit is torn and the brain is off track, the body persists in pursuing more and more alcohol. Most fatigue is a perception. Alcoholism skews that perception. According to the research, there’s no reason physically that we can’t. However, the mental exhaustion is what makes us feel that way. When we are new to sober life, we are really new to life sober. Trying to keep up with the constant influx of emotions and stimuli can be exhausting, leading us to feel like we can’t even.

You can. You will. Getting yourself into treatment to start the journey of recovery means you already are. Sobriety is one giant can. By staying sober everyday you are doing and being the sober miracle of recovery.

Enlightened Solutions is committed to helping you learn how to live a fully fulfilled life again. We offer multiple levels of care in a compassionate and comfortable environment. Fusing evidence based treatment with holistic healthcare and 12 step philosophy, Enlightened focuses on curing body mind and soul. Please call 833-801-5483 for more information.

This is Your Daily Reminder: You Have a Purpose

Close your eyes. Notice your thoughts. See that? You have thoughts. You are thinking. Despite their painfulness, the horrible things they are saying to you, the dreadful memories of the past they are replaying or the stressful worries of the future they are burdening you with- these are your thoughts. That means, today you woke up with the ability to think. We all have days when we wish that would just turn off. Thinking and being able to notice your thoughts means your brain is making connections. It might feel like today your brain is working against you. By simply noticing your brain’s ability to notice, you’ve found a secret loophole. Today, your brain is capable of learning. That means today you are capable of changing your thoughts. Changing your thoughts can mean changing your entire day, even your entire life. It might be working already.

Now, notice your breath. Are you breathing? Be very concerned if you notice you are unable to breath at all. Breath is a sign that we are alive. Move your awareness from your breath to your heart. Place your hand on your chest and feel it beating. Notice how your diaphragm continues to rise and fall, breath naturally flowing in and out, as the heart continues to beat. Perhaps your heart is beating very fast, full of anxiety. Still, it beats. See that? Your heart is beating. That means today you are alive. Your heart is beating, pumping blood into your body and your brain.

You Have a Purpose

Your brain is working, noticing it’s own thoughts and learning to choose them mindfully. All of this has one simple, conclusive meaning: you have purpose. What is it, you might be eager to know. Vague and frustrating, one recovery mantra holds vast trauth to this inquiry: more will be revealed. The fact that here you are, heart beating, brain thinking, life still being lived, means that you have a purpose. How that purpose looks is yet to be revealed. Years could pass before today’s purpose is revealed. Stay in the mystery, the wild perplexing mystery of being alive.

You’re here for a reason. Believe it.


Enlightened Solutions honors the dark suffering which stems from drug addiction, alcoholism, and co-occurring disorders such as depression. WE believe in the pervasive power of hope. We see your purpose and potential for this lifetime. It starts with hope. Start your recovery journey with us.

For more information, call 833-801-5483.