When Will I Feel Better?
We didn’t recognize it at the time because the changes happened subtly over time. Our bodies went through a long and progressively worsening downturn over time with prolonged exposure to alcohol or other drugs. Our organs were assaulted and the intricate functions of the brain were adversely affected.
So feeling “good” or “back to normal” takes time in early recovery. Beyond the organs affected, your brain needs time and behavior changes to rebuild neural pathways — connections vital to healthy living and thinking. This is why early recovery is a time when triggers and cravings occur at their highest level. Substances altered the connections and created their own destructive paths. Recovery is the re-creation of healthy routes, kind of like paths in the woods that can only be made or re-made by walking a lot and over time.
A little knowledge goes a long way. Understanding what your mind is going through and what you can do to combat triggers and cravings will help fight against these recurring feelings. Here are a few tips.
- People changes. Forge new paths with new people. Spend your time with people who support your recovery, not those who pull you down or tempt you to trod back onto the old destructive paths. There may be people who are emotionally toxic for you. You probably know who they are. It’s okay to avoid them or maybe even disassociate from them altogether.
- Change places. Instead of the neighborhood watering hole, try the gym. Better: Go to dinners, movies or other events regularly with other people in recovery. Best: Go to meetings held by Anonymous Fellowships such as AA or NA. Your neural pathways will forge new destinations, creating your new destiny.
- Situational changes. Avoid situations associated with substances. Certain social situations like holiday parties at work may be better to forego for a time. There will likely come a day when situations like that don’t have the pull they used to, but in early recovery you’re better off avoiding them completely. If you really want recovery, you’ll find creative alternatives. Consider any situation that triggers you potentially as dangerous as the substance itself.
- Be upfront about your history of drug use when seeking medical treatment. If you need a medical or dental procedure, be honest and find a provider who will prescribe alternatives, especially for pain. Painkillers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety meds like “benzos” all form bad pathways.
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