Mental Health Month: Why Drinking While Depressed Leads Downhill

Depression & Drinking - Transcend Recovery Community

The great English poet G. K. Chesterton wrote: “drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.” More than just a saying, there is a profound and applicable truth to this, even in the modern day. Depression and drinking go hand in hand, and one makes the other worse. It’s a terrible relationship, one you would never want to entertain – and just as abusing alcohol can make you miserable, abusing alcohol because you’re miserable will only make both worse.

Alcohol is a common coping mechanism for the simple reason that it does, to a degree, make us happier. To be more precise, it makes people worry less. As an anti-anxiety drug of sorts, alcohol soothes the mind and calms the spirit – but at a cost. Not only is alcohol addictive, but it is poisonous. Too much at once, or over one’s life, will kill you.

And despite alcohol’s ability to make you forget for just a moment, nothing will have changed once you wake up. The way out of misery – the way out of depression – is by fighting through the pain and pushing against the problems. Therapy and treatment are in preparation of these two things – and drugs like alcohol will present you with setbacks in your depression, and other problems. Here’s why.

 

Alcohol And The Brain

Anyone who’s had more than a few drinks knows that alcohol clearly has a perceivable effect on the brain – one that does not take long at all to kick in. From slurred speech to difficulty thinking and slower reaction, the consensus between all drinkers is that it makes you slow – regardless of whether you are a happy drunk, a sad drunk, or an angry drunk. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and reduces anxiety, with the specifics differing from person to person based on their history with alcohol, and their genetics.

Outside of the effects of a single binge drinking session, alcohol also leaves lasting effects on the brain – negative ones. Alcohol slowly eats away at the brain and at several of your organs, primarily your heart, liver, and kidneys. But in the brain, rapid and severe drinking will lead to memory loss, slowed cognition, and increased risk-taking – followed by problems with decision making, caused by a combination of nerve damage and grey matter damage.

 

Why Does Alcohol Worsen Depression?

This all goes hand in hand with mental health issues, as alcohol not only induces brain damage, but worsens the effects of depression by increasing feelings of guild and helplessness and presenting a risk of addiction.

The damage is long-lasting, but not permanent. Abstinence can give your body enough time to heal, but the process takes years. Just like the battle against alcoholism, improving your brain and organ health after excessive drinking takes time.

 

Finding The Motivation To Do Anything

Depression is more than occasional sadness. Sometimes, it is defined as the inability to feel joy or pleasure. To paint a picture, people struggling with depression are fighting an existential battle that, from an outsider’s perspective, is completely invisible. They struggle with thoughts of suicide, and some days, getting out of the bed can seem like an impossible task – let alone getting a change of clothes, taking a shower, or cleaning up.

There are ups and downs for everyone, but for people with clinical depression, the downs slip far below the limits of the chart, off the board, into unseen realms.

Telling someone with depression to simply feel better is asinine, but the ultimate goal of treatment and therapy is to make this very task possible. Fortunately there are treatments for depression available, including new depression treatment methods like TMS, that can help without feeling the need to drink due to depression. People with depression sometimes lack the motivation to do what most would consider the most basic things – and they feel all the worse for it. Friends or family may tell someone with depression to just do it – regardless of whether it means getting dressed, walking the dog, doing the dishes, or making coffee – and finding themselves unable to, the feeling of worthlessness grows, and the disease becomes crushingly difficult to shake off.

There are days when things are better, and the depression is not as dominating. Days when a person might wake up and have just enough energy to start the day.

These are the most important days, especially if your depression is coupled with a dangerous habit like drinking. When you wake up, make it a goal to immediately jump up and out of bed. Summon as much visceral vigor as possible to complete the most basic and fundamental task of the day – before your mind can find a way to talk you out of it. In most cases, depression manifests as a long list of self-defeating thoughts and voices – by starting the day quickly before the voices can take hold, you can get dressed as hurriedly as possible and get to the first task of the day.

That task should always be something therapeutic. Exercising, walking in sunshine, listening to music, or starting your day with a comedy podcast are all quick and easy ways to achieve an initial mental boost, right out of the gate. Choose something depending on how you feel that day and make it a morning ritual to infuse your day with a spark of joy.

With time, you can set up a more complex schedule, and draft some goals. It can start with something like completing two chores in one day, or folding laundry faster. It may be something like increasing the time you spend walking, finishing a project for one of your hobbies, completely reading a book, or progressing to a harder exercise. Accomplishing things – no matter how small they might seem – can feel like adding notches to your belt, as well as improving both your physical and mental health. There may be times when motivation is harder to come by – but in the long-term things will get better if you work at it, and get help for addition and mental help.

 

Dealing With The Mental Effects Of Prolonged Addiction

Mental Effects Of Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

It’s much more than a choice. Addiction can best be described as a mental illness or a brain disease, a powerful compulsion that pushes patients to seek out drugs even if they know it’s detrimental and carries heavy mental effects and consequences. Drug users will go out of their way for the next high, to the point of risking something like prison again – repeat offenders prove that even a correctional system as harsh as America’s isn’t an effective deterrent for many.

What does help, however, is treatment. But to understand why treatment helps, it’s important to understand what addiction does to you – and how mental illness and the mental effects of long-term addiction play into why it’s so hard to stay clean for many.

There’s more to addiction than the fact that you feel the urge to get high. Prolonged drug use can physically harm you and cause mental damage, and the financial consequences of addiction can be ruinous.

 

What Mental Effects Drugs Have On The Brain

Drugs interact with the brain in many ways, but most of them work on the same basic principle. The best way to simplify how drugs work is to think of them as impostors of existing crucial neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals. They hijack the receptors in your brain’s cells and act as certain neurotransmitters, transmitting specific signals throughout the brain to elicit feelings of joy and happiness, but also other reactions, such as weakened coordination and slowed movement, as with alcohol, or a numbing effect that reduces the body’s ability to feel pain, like opioids. Whichever one is used, the mental effects are always negative.

All drugs have something in common, and that is their addictiveness. From nicotine to heroin, drugs elicit a response in the brain that is unnatural – this effect causes the brain to adjust. Most drugs invoke mental effects that condition the brain towards further usage, to the point where you begin to crave a drug. But as you take it more often, its effects are also severely diminished, causing you to need to take more. The two effects go hand in hand, making addiction particularly dangerous as the risk of overdosing is built into the nature of the disease.

Over time, it becomes harder to quit. Not only do most drugs cause physical damage to the brain and other organs, making it harder to think rationally and fight against the addiction, but as the brain normalizes drug use, it becomes reliant on it. Suddenly quitting can elicit painful withdrawal symptoms – sometimes, these mental effects can be fatal.

Aside from these complications, perhaps the biggest deterrent to recovery is the fact that drug use actively diminishes a person’s ability to think clearly, make informed decisions, and be critical. Drug use is also seen as a very effective short-term coping mechanism, drawing in people with high levels of stress caused by work or mental illness. At other times, due to its very poor performance as a long-term coping mechanism, and the fact that it can be mentally and socially ruinous to get addicted, addiction also leads to mental health problems including depression due to the consequences of getting addicted. A person who experienced years of loss due to their alcoholism may find it harder to quit because of the emotional (and physical) pain they endure while sober because of their drinking.

The only way out is through. One of the harder truths about recovery is that the mental effects and emotional pain are something everyone must process and overcome if they want to stay sober and successfully abstain for the rest of their lives.

 

Addiction, Anxiety, And Depression

Research shows that people with mental health issues – particularly forms of anxiety and mood disorders like depression – struggle with addiction more often than the general population. This is because people with mental health issues often try to self-medicate to deal with their issues without seeking out help or treatment, either to avoid stigma or for other reasons.

In other cases, excessive drug use may lead to the development of depressive symptoms and a diagnosis of major depression, because of the mental effects of addiction and the events that followed.

 

Seeking Comprehensive Treatment

Addiction treatment and mental healthcare have come a long way. Even though we’re not the best in the world at tending to our mental health, we do have a great understanding of the detrimental effects of stress and emotional pain, and the correlation between addiction and mental illness.

That is why many addiction treatment facilities utilize the knowledge of in-house experts to recognize the mental effects of addiction and formulate a comprehensive treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all in addiction treatment or in mental healthcare. But a treatment plan that addresses both issues as one – and even tackles physical issues through proper diet and exercise – can achieve wonders.

 

The Importance Of Strong Support

Ultimately, a person’s sobriety is as strong as they are – but when your strength falters, it’s important to have people in your corner backing you up, ready to help you get back on your feet and back into the ring. Some wrestle with addiction much longer and much harder than others, but regardless of your story or your circumstances, having people who love you and want you to stay clean and healthy can make a world of difference. A solid support system will give you a shoulder to lean on, an ear to speak to, and a fresh perspective whenever you feel the negativity catching up with you.

It’s one thing to have people around you ready to help you stay clean, but it’s another to be willing to ask them for help at the right moment. It’s important to recognize when you’re slipping and get the help you need to stay on the straight and narrow.

Beyond your support system and immediate circle of friends and family, consider sanitizing your relationships and removing yourself from relationships that you feel hurt you, or pull you down. Sometimes we retain friendships from the old days before the treatment, hoping to help them as well, but some people won’t accept help and have to find their own way to recovery. Knowing when it’s time to move on is important both for staying sane, and for staying clean.

In the end, it is possible that you will be struggling with the aftermath of addiction for the rest of your life. But that doesn’t have to impede on your ability to lead a colorful, exciting, and awe-inspiring life. Once you’re clean and the reigns are in your hands, it’s all up to you.

 

How Can Mentorship Help After Sober Living?

Sober Mentorship | Transcend Recovery Community

The point of mentorship is to define a path for someone, and to give them a light to shine through the darkness. They exist to cut through the fog, bring clarity to uncertainty, and provide the kind of guidance that lets a person grow without robbing them of the pain and challenge needed for growth.

In addiction treatment, sober mentoring provides that same function, in a professional setting. For millennia, humans have existed and co-existed, passing knowledge on through tutelage, training, and mentorship. Overcoming addiction is as much a matter of willpower as it is a matter of knowledge – and who better to train someone to overcome their own addiction than someone who has done it before.

But to understand the good a sober mentor can do for someone in the early and middle stages of recovery, it’s important to understand what sober living is, and why it plays a role in a crucial part of the recovery timeline.

 

Explaining Sober Living

Sober living is a treatment philosophy that emphasizes recreating an honest and realistic setting for tenants to live out the every day responsibilities of life without the temptation of drugs. Tenants are asked to pay rent, have a steady job/go to school, and engage in community activities and events, while having individual and group therapy and regular drug testing. Drugs and other illicit substances are strictly forbidden in sober living facilities, and tenants can stay if they like.

The point of a sober living community is to replicate the challenges and difficulties of real life, letting tenants explore the stressors and confront their responsibilities without the temptation of falling back into old habits. For many, this is invaluable – it teaches them self-sustainability and gives them the tools they need to fight their cravings and focus on the task at hand.

Sober living facilities are traditionally a perfect fit for people looking for an intensive treatment program after their initial treatment from addiction. Many have trouble transitioning back into the real world after residential treatment. Adjusting to the world after rehab can be difficult, and sober living is meant to ease people into that world without the risk of relapse.

It’s not perfect, of course. A sober living community is still an addiction treatment center, and the outside world brings with it many old memories and more powerful triggers for cravings and the like. The solution is to continue your treatment, but in a way that remains minimally invasive and allows you to face the struggles of sobriety in the real world head-on – by having a sober mentor.

 

Professional Mentorship vs. Sponsorship

Support in recovery can come in many forms, and one of the more classic forms is the sponsor from a group meeting. Twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have been around for decades, espousing the importance of keeping away loneliness by facing addiction in pairs and groups.

Yet there is a marked difference between having an assigned sponsor and a sober mentor. Sober mentors are professional therapists with a background in addiction and sobriety, a passion for treatment, and a long repertoire of treatment methods. They act as your mentors to living life in sobriety, equipped with a greater understanding of addiction than most people, and an emphasis on how every individual can experience recovery in their own way.

 

The Mentor-Mentee Relationship

The mentor-mentee relationship is a professional one, but that does not mean that it cannot result in friendship. It’s critical to be in therapy with someone you like and can trust – and this is even more crucial when picking a sober mentor. Sober mentors are not just people you call when you have a problem, or therapists you check in on once a week to get some peace of mind. Their job is to help you on every step of the way throughout early and middle recovery, giving you advice, watching your progress, and telling you off when you’re about to do something regrettable.

Life can become drastically difficult out of nowhere. No one in the world has perfect control, and anything could happen to plunge us into misery and make our old habits look extremely attractive. Fighting against temptation when motivation is extremely sparse is just one of the many things sober mentors tackle with fervor. At the end of the day, they’re not just a potential friend. A sober mentor is a coach, someone with the energy and the insight you need to look yourself in the mirror and understand where you want to go, even when life is at its dimmest and grimmest.

 

Becoming A Mentor

Research shows that giving is better than receiving, not only from moral viewpoint, but from a psychological one. Giving to others can have a profound impact on you, especially when what you give is a meaningful service. This is an important lesson for people in recovery, because it helps support the idea that if you’ve gone through addiction and survived recovery, then the personal insight you have, as well as the general knowledge you have accumulated, can be invaluable for people struggling with addiction and looking for help in early recovery.

Treatment is hard for everyone, and everyone struggles in their own way – but one person’s struggles can be inspiring, insightful, or helpful to another person, if only to provide a fresh perspective and to motivate.

The first step to becoming a sober mentor for others is to be confident and happy with your own sobriety. The second step is to develop a passion for helping others in the community achieve their sobriety and maintain it. And finally, there are programs and certifications for achieving professional mentorship status that help you further your knowledge on treatment applications, family dynamics, crisis prevention and intervention, motivational techniques, psychology, and addiction science.

 

Recovery Is An Ongoing Process

Sober mentorship proves that the recovery process is an ongoing one. Even after treatment, there are many obstacles that make staying sober incredibly difficult, from triggers to unexpected circumstances and unforeseen challenges. Life is full of curveballs, and regardless of whether you catch them or dodge them, dealing with them straight out of treatment can be difficult.

Sober mentors and other professionals work to help guide you through the first few months and years after treatment, setting you and your friends and family on a path to keep the addiction in check forever.

 

6 Tips To Resist Temptation

Resist Temptation

When all traces of a drug leave the body, a certain legacy is left behind. That legacy is the physical effect drugs can have on the brain, and the psychological scarring left behind by addiction and its consequences. To many, a marked and powerful aspect of that legacy is the craving and extreme difficulty to resist temptation.

Cravings remain long after rehab, and the only thing that helps them wane is time. But until they do, trying to resist temptation and fighting the urge to use again is central to any one person’s addiction recovery – and everyone has a different approach to ignoring the temptation.

Regardless of what your drug of choice was, cravings are a natural part of the recovery process. They come to you when you least expect it, and when you’re at your weakest. Anyone entering recovery must be prepared to resist temptation of these cravings, and you’ll need both short-term and long-term strategies to resist temptation and fighting off an urge when it appears. Here are a few applicable tips.

 

Find Something Else To Do

Addiction is tied intimately to the reward center of the brain, affecting what motivates us and makes us happy. Reclaiming that is an active process – finding new hobbies and spending time engaging in them can help people in recovery resist temptation and avoid struggling with cravings by instead focusing on other passions, such as painting, music, or sports.

From creative endeavors to intellectual pursuits or workplace ambitions, it’s important to find something that satisfies you, makes you feel accomplished, and keeps you busy and motivated.

 

Understand Your Triggers

Relapses rarely come out of nowhere, especially after early recovery. If you have been clean for a while, then the urge to use comes mostly during times of great stress, or when you are somehow reminded of your drug use. Positive memories of previous highs, places and things that remind you of the past – everyone carries different emotional triggers, based on memories or feelings.

It is important to recognize these triggers when they appear, resist temptation, and find a way to avoid them in the future. For example: even if you move to a new neighborhood, you might still take a similar route to work. That route might bring back memories, making it hard to focus and giving you a craving. Avoid that route and try to get to work through a different path.

Not all triggers can be avoided, and no one wants to live their life running away from places and people out of fear of certain memories. Understand that this is a temporary measure, and that with time, you can desensitize yourself to certain triggers and, with the help of therapy, eliminate their effect on you completely. However, this takes a lot of time and effort, and it is best to minimize the work you have to do by first taking the steps to resist temptation and avoid triggers wherever you can.

 

Talk It Out

Over the course of time, it is normal for events, feelings, and thoughts to weigh heavily on us. What might just be a passing casual thought in a fleeting moment could turn into a major issue in retrospect, an instance you feel ashamed or worried about.

Talking it out with others going through addiction recovery and hearing their perspective on it can help you better understand and accept your cravings, and learn to overcome them with time, rather than live in fear of them.

Sharing such moments with others also creates the opportunity to hear from them how they deal with their urges, learning new things that you might be able to apply in your own life.

It’s okay not to be entirely open to others at first. It is difficult to talk about addiction to others, especially early on. But something as simple as getting your worries and negative thoughts off your chest in a group can help you feel better, and even round up a few ideas on how to dispel and debunk those thoughts.

 

Try Therapy To Help Resist Temptation

Cognitive behavioral therapy allows patients to learn how to better control their thoughts, defeating negative thinking and replacing it with more positive, logical thinking. Cognitive behavioral therapy is not based on hearing what you want, but it is based on helping you create mental bridges to come to logical conclusions to eliminate negative bias.

Addiction can often bring with it shame and self-doubt, and cravings can make you further feel bad about yourself. But through cognitive behavioral therapy, you learn to resist the temptation of a craving by living out the consequences in your mind, being mindful of what you risk and what you care about, and helping you make a calm and sound decision to resist temptation and ignore the craving rather than give into it.

 

Overcome Your Past

Early addiction treatment relies on avoiding certain triggers to prevent recurring urges, but that does not mean that facilities or treatments advocate avoidance in the long-term. The only thing you need to avoid is drug use – but it is critical to confront your past, your actions, and their consequences.

Making peace with past events and coming to terms with everything that has happened over the course of the addiction is important. It gives people peace of mind and allows them to ultimately forgive themselves after asking others for a little forgiveness.

The urges and cravings are not just tied to events and places, but to mindsets as well. Being in a certain state of mind not only due to external stressors but due to an internal argument can cause a relapse. Coming to terms with your past and overcoming it – growing past it – is an important step in long-term recovery.

 

Learn How To Surf The Urge

Urge surfing is a therapeutic technique based on mindfulness, developed by the late Dr. Alan Marlatt. When urges begin, they can last up to half an hour depending on the intensity of the urge. Feeling an urge is accompanied by certain physical reactions, including sweat, jitters, shallow breathing, and an increased heart rate.

Urge surfing recommends taking an outsider’s perspective on these physical reactions, focusing on your breath, and taking note of every sensation and change that occurs as your urge begins. If you find yourself getting angry or otherwise emotional over the urge, stop and refocus on your breath. In, and out.

With time, the urge will subside – your controlled breath will help normalize your heartbeat, and by staying calm rather than reacting cholerically, you do not let the urge linger.

The reason surfing applies so well to this technique is because urges and cravings come in waves. They crash over you, steadily and powerfully. But by taking a deep breath and by riding it out on top of the wave rather than under its wrath, you can observe it from a safe distance and wait for it to subside. The key is not to do battle against the urge.

Research suggests that the longer someone stays sober, the lower their chances of relapse. This rests on the idea that as you continue to stay away from drugs, you develop ways to keep yourself sober and happy, limiting and even eliminating the need for drugs in your life, and resisting any urge to go back. To get to that point will take time, but with support and proper treatment, it can be done.

The Science Behind How Drugs Affect the Brain

How Drugs Affect The Brain | Transcend Recovery Community

While human beings are generally complex in nature, there is a refreshing simplicity to the way we perceive things as pleasurable and uncomfortable. Food, sex, and exercise = good. Boredom, pain, and social exile = bad. Drugs affect the brain by taking that system, and exploiting it, cutting down the full list of what we enjoy doing and replacing it with one powerful high: the drug itself.

 

A Crash Course In Pleasure

By observing the biology of the brain, we can see exactly how our brains react to certain stimuli, thus determining how we derive pleasure. Foods rich in sugar and fat (thus, high-calorie meals) trigger the release of neurotransmitters, which seek out their respective receptors, triggering a specific kind of emotion. Dopamine and serotonin, two common neurotransmitters related to pleasure and enjoyment, are released when we’re in the middle of enjoying a particularly tasty donut, for example.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Our brains not only crave calories and reproduction, but they also crave music, cuddling, bright skies, positive social interaction and praise. These are just a few of the ways to get a “natural high”.

The idea here is simple: as a species, our goal is to develop and grow both individually and collectively. We derive pleasure from doing things that ensure our survival, tribal unity, and reproduction. However, this mechanism is also central to why drugs affect the brain, and are so addictive, playing a significant role in how they affect us and change our entire brain chemistry.

 

How Drugs Affect The Brain

Through the previously-explained reward system, a drug can become immensely addictive. Our brain has developed an affinity towards certain substances and behaviors and has associated them strongly with positive things, such as survivability and genetic reproduction – thus, these things trigger a massive release of pleasure neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Sex, food, music and entertainment – when we are enjoying ourselves, eating or reproducing, we’re typically at our happiest.

However, there are limits to how much dopamine our body produces and utilizes when we’re indulging in these natural rewards.

Those limits are entirely broken when drugs are involved. Substances such as cocaine and heroin drugs affect the brain with a potency of 200% to over 1000%. They do this by being structurally like dopamine and other neurotransmitters, hijacking them by making it through the blood-brain barrier and attaching to their respective target receptors.

Different drugs affect the brain in their own way. Alcohol, for example, triggers the sedative effect of the GABA synapses. However, it also releases dopamine. Heroin and other opiates bind to the same receptors as the body’s own natural pain-inhibitors, creating both a euphoric effect and numbing discomfort. Cocaine blocks the reuptake of neurotransmitters associated with happiness and excitability, thus increasing and amplifying your energy, confidence and pleasure. Amphetamine cuts the body’s natural breaks on dopaminergic activity, effectively eliminating fatigue.

Drugs affect the brain in their own way, but have two things in common: the ability to hijack and modify an existing process in the brain, and their role in manipulating or releasing dopamine.

Imagine the brain’s receptors as being of a specific size. The stimulation of pleasure comes from having dopamine match the size of the receptor, fitting perfectly. However, drugs flood the receptors, changing the way they work. The dopamine released by natural rewards then no longer cuts it, and the brain no longer responds to certain rewards as it previously might have. Your threshold for pleasure, so to speak, has been blown through the roof. The result is that instead of feeling content with tasty food, great experiences and sexual gratification, your brain begins to crave the drug as a means of experiencing pleasure. That is how a physical addiction begins – by quite literally teaching your brain to rethink what it means to feel good when drugs affect the brain.

Drugs affect the brain in a physical way as well. Methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin all can deal considerable damage to the brain’s tissues, even going so far as to make near-permanent changes to the way your brain processes glucose, its main fuel source. These changes can be reverted more quickly with a healthy lifestyle, but the process can still take years, and in some cases, some damage is inevitably unhealable.

Some people are genetically more prone to this change in brain chemistry than others. Some people experience the full euphoria of a dose of heroin, but don’t develop the change in brain chemistry as rapidly as others. Yet with prolonged drug use, addiction becomes an inevitability.

 

Explaining Physical Dependency

Drugs hijack the brain’s natural reward system by introducing massive amounts of artificial pleasure, sometimes forcing the brain to rewire itself to accommodate this sudden change. This effectively cuts into natural rewards and their ability to help us manage stress, emotions, and live a normal life, putting our drug of choice on the top spot for stress management and problem coping.

This change is also the beginning of a physical dependency. Once the brain begins to accommodate a drug’s intensity as the new “normal”, it will fight to decrease the effects felt through that drug to further return to a normal level of pleasure. This, called tolerance, often drives addicts to seek out larger and larger dosages to maintain the same feeling of intense pleasure.

Tolerance is followed by withdrawal. After a while, the brain simply ceases to perform certain functions properly without drugs in the system. Withdrawal from alcohol, opiates and stimulants all manifest differently, but share a few symptoms: feverishness, shivers, mood swings and heavy nausea. Withdrawal can be overcome after a period – in some cases, it can take up a month, although this heavily depends on how addicted a person is, how strong their constitution is, and what kind of substance they are addicted to.

 

How Physical Dependency Can Be Broken

Both withdrawal and tolerance begin to diminish after a certain period of abstinence, although the exact timeframe changes from person to person. Rehab clinics and other treatment centers begin their program with detoxification, a medically-supervised process by which a patient undergoes a natural transition into a drug-free state. After withdrawal has ended, it can take several months to several years for brain damage when drugs affect the brain to revert.

However, drug addiction itself is also behavioral – this means that, after the effects of tolerance and withdrawal have ended, breaking free from an addiction requires an additional psychological approach to treatment. CBT and related therapies, group/community efforts, and a healthy lifestyle consisting of quality food, regular exercise and at least one passionate hobby are all a part of a solid recovery plan. These are all meant to help you normalize pleasure again, and return to a life where you can enjoy living without addictive substances.

Like a steep slope, addiction is a path that is easily stumbled upon, and difficult to escape. But the pain and effort needed to scale it is worth every single step and sober living programs are there to help you do it.

 

Why Is Community In Recovery Important?

Community In Recovery | Reanscend Recovery Community

Addiction recovery is a multi-faceted challenge, one where every case requires a unique and justified answer. What might work for some will not work for others – but the one common denominator in nearly any kind of treatment is the community. Without community in recovery, addiction recovery and the road to sobriety lead nowhere.

The notion of being a “lone wolf” appeals to some, especially among teens in their rebellious years, but any functioning human being ultimately needs a place to belong to, and people to be with. This is especially important in addiction, where a lack of connection can be the primary cause behind it, making a sense of community in recovery especially important.

To understand this, it is important to understand how addiction works, the difference between chemical dependency and emotional dependency, and how some people can use drugs for decades without withdrawal symptoms, while others can become alcoholics within a week of drinking. With that in mind, understanding the power of community in recovery and real human connection can give you an insight into why sober living communities and similar treatments work so well.

 

A Community In Recovery Means Enduring Motivation

Community in recovery helps you recommit yourself to sobriety, even when your own will to stay sober begins to falter. There’s no shame in accepting that life after rehab is hard, and staying sober can be very, very hard. There are days when sticking to the program just seems like such an impossible task – and having others to help you stay honest and stay clean is an absolute godsend.

Addiction recovery is so much more than a 30-day program and a few group meetings. It’s a lifestyle, it’s learning to live a fully-fledged and fleshed out life without drugs, learning to be happier with time.

Remember: there is absolutely nothing wrong with having an off day. But when days like that swing around, having community in recovery is exactly what you need to make it through and do so entirely without drugs.

 

A Community Helps In Re-Establishing Connection

Aside from helping you stick to the program and practice abstinence even on days when you cannot be bothered to do anything, living in a Los Angeles sober living community and enjoying the perks of being around a lot of different people again can help you re-establish what it is like to connect with others, and build meaningful relationships that can last years – or even lifetimes.

Addiction itself can wreak a lot of havoc on some of the most important relationships in our life, while simultaneously introducing us into new, toxic relationships we may not want to pursue in the long-term. Cutting yourself out of those toxic relationships, and pursuing healthy, beneficial relationships both old and new is a vital part of the recovery process.

Aside from reconnecting with your family and old friends, a vital part of making it in the first few months is making entirely new friends. Some of them might be through sobriety – others would just be people you meet through other pursued interests. In a sober community, there is plenty of opportunity to meet new and interesting people, and find out more about them.

At first, opening to others can be quite difficult. However, by being open to sharing the details of your sobriety with others going through their own troubles, you not only can help others with your perspective, but you gain the trust and respect of those around you, and begin a bond that can, in some cases, lead to life-long friendship.

Connecting with others is more than just making comments or superficial remarks. Some argue that the advent of digitized social interaction has begun reprogramming the way we interact with one another, killing the conversation and instead focusing on just talk. By taking the time to connect with others on a face-to-face basis within a sober community, you not only relearn what it’s like to have conversations, you also get the opportunity to step out of your own comfort zone and tackle entirely new perspectives.

 

A Community Is Vital For Affirming Self-Love

Self-love is a critical aspect of successful addiction treatment; however, it is a concept that is entirely misunderstood. Instead of a kind of narcissistic self-worship, self-love entails being your own champion, staunchly fighting for your right to help yourself.

Guilt, shame, anger – these are emotions that have their place in life, but typically only fuel self-destruction in the life of an addict. Through self-love, you are telling yourself that you are worth getting better for, and that recovery is something you must go through not just for your family or your loved ones, but so that you yourself can enjoy life once again.

Feeling optimistic about yourself while in recovery can be very difficult. For some people, it can be a challenge to jump into addiction recovery and make a commitment towards themselves. Community in recovery, however, can make you see the value you have. It can make you realize that you are worth more than you think. And it can reinvigorate your sense of self-love, or help you develop one.

 

We Always Need Others

A human being can survive alone, but the human spirit cannot. Without others, without the stimulation of conversation and the benefits of being around others, we go stir crazy. We lose hold of ourselves. Loneliness begins to set in, and soon thereafter, the depression kicks in hard.

People are not built to be lone wolves. Even if we can’t get along with others, we need them in our life for one reason or another. Some people cannot connect with others on an empathic level, but they need other people around them to manipulate to remain sane. Other people cannot function without someone else to talk to, confide in, grow alongside of. Even the introvert in a bustling village must take the time to be among people.

If we put ourselves through extreme isolation, we mentally dissolve. We’re more likely to develop dementia. Our immune system goes haywire, unleashing stress hormones and triggering inflammation. Just being lonely can be the trigger for a major depression, and anxiety issues. It’s no wonder, then, that one of the many common causes and root factors behind a heavy addiction is a loneliness and a lack of connection. And following that logic, the only way towards a successful long-term sobriety is through connection; through community in recovery.

Many paths run through to sobriety. There are several treatment types, programs and therapies available for all sorts of people going through addiction. Some require a physical approach, others struggle with mental illness, and for some, only one-on-one therapy does the trick. However, in all instances, success relies on the strength of the community and the support you surround yourself with.

 

Trauma And Addiction Are Often Linked

Trauma And Addiction | Transcend Recovery Community

As our understanding of trauma and addiction improves, so do we understand more thoroughly why people are drawn towards drugs. No one chooses to be shackled under a case of severe addiction – but sometimes, life has us act against our better judgment, making mistakes we regret, and fueling a cycle of guilt and shame perpetuated both internally and by society around us.

At the heart of addiction for many lies pain – and there is no greater pain than trauma. Trauma is a reverberation of past pain, a mental and emotional scar created by a form of pain so severe that it couldn’t be digested all at once. When our mind is confronted with a pain like that, regardless of whether its physical or emotional or both, the structure and growth of the brain is affected. Our memories, thoughts, feelings are shaped around this scar, like scar tissue deforms around a terrible wound.

Resolving trauma takes time, and often, the help of a professional. Traumas are delicate and approaching one means delving into highly sensitive areas, areas most people spend their lives protecting through habits and personality quirks designed to keep them safe from that experience. Overcoming trauma and addiction are often two sides of the same coin – but both need to be understood separately, first.

 

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is caused by an especially painful experience. It’s an individual matter –experiences may be traumatic to some people, and not traumatic to others. Childhood trauma is common, but trauma can also be experienced in adulthood. Common causes of trauma are sexual violence, war, and death. Trauma doesn’t have to constitute of a personal violation: witnessing the graphic death of a loved one can lead to trauma, as can seeing people die in battlefield.

Trauma can be recognized through the amygdala, which is the part of your brain dedicated to threat analysis, fight and flight. When traumatized, a person’s amygdala may be overactive, constantly seeing threats and making you feel excessively anxious and paranoid. This is because traumatic experiences have real physical effects on the brain, and how it works.

In addition to being more anxious and prone to feeling threatened, your hippocampus – dedicated to memories – may show symptoms of being stuck. It’s healthy to move on – but after a traumatic experience, your brain will be hung up in the trauma. This can manifest in flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and repressed memories.

Finally, the emotional pain of trauma will affect the way you make decisions – instead of long-term, rational thinking, someone who suffered a trauma is more prone to making short-term decisions, meaning you’re more prone to addictive and compulsive behavior.

In a way, all this is because your brain is trying to protect you from another similar experience to what you had. It becomes hyperaware of threats, acts in an instinctive manner and keeps you focused on the painful memory rather than letting you move on. While this is a self-preservation mechanism, it’s self-destructive more than anything else. Overcoming this instinct isn’t done overnight – especially when coupled with addiction. However, it’s highly treatable with the right help.

 

Why Trauma And Addiction Are Linked

As mentioned earlier, no one consciously chooses a life of addiction, knowing the long-term consequences. Addiction is the result of making a short-term decision, one with good intentions. Pain can make it harder for us to make well-informed decisions – and when you’re dealing with a particularly bad symptom, such as a panic attack or a moment of deep depression, the pleasure and temporary comfort of a common drug might be the “best option”, especially when other options are a lot more final.

Addiction develops as part of a cycle, where you take a drug to escape harmful emotions and thoughts, only to crash back down after your brief respite, looking for the next opportunity to get away. When you’re not emotionally drawn to drugs, long-term use can create a relationship between drugs and the body, where abstinence results in painful withdrawal. The reason drugs do this is because the body seeks out anything that gives us pleasure as a good thing – instinctually, pleasure is good. Especially when the alternative isn’t.

There are better options of dealing with trauma, of course. However, they require the guided help of a professional, and there are circumstances that prevent that help from being administered. Some people prefer not acknowledging their trauma, due to the deep stigma around mental health issues. Some fear that it’ll affect their careers and aspirations. Others have trouble seeking out help due to severe self-esteem issues, and feelings of depression. Trauma creates an environment where your own mind doesn’t feel safe anymore, and trusting others to help you and have your best interest in mind can be extremely difficult.

At the end of the day, self-medicating through an eating disorder, alcohol, painkillers or half a dozen other options seems easier, and can be kept a secret – at first. But with time, that secret will always fall apart, and picking up the pieces requires help and support.

 

Getting Help With Trauma And Addiction

If you’re in a situation where you’re struggling with trauma and addiction on top of a buildup of fears and anxieties, then seek help immediately. Go to close friends and trusted family members, speak to professionals, and see what options you have for recovery. Many paths to treatment for both addiction and mental health are covered by insurance nowadays, so explore your options.

Support can be found anywhere. Even the Internet is a major source of support, and you’ll find many small communities online where like-minded people come together to seek a healthy and private environment to share thoughts and make friends. Local group therapy and sober housing programs are wonderful places to go to after rehab, or after a detox, to learn how to live in sobriety and stay happy while being away from drugs.

Addiction is a coping mechanism, and we all need coping mechanisms. However, we can cope in much healthier ways. It all starts with acknowledging your trauma and addiction, and then taking the steps to explore it. From there, it’s a question of individual circumstances.

 

Coping With Insomnia In Recovery

Coping With Insomnia In Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

In 2013 alone, nearly 9 million Americans reported regularly using sleeping pills to get a good night’s rest. The body needs sleep, and it will force it onto you if need be – but there are many situations wherein, out of one reason or another, that sleep simply refuses to come. Insomnia is the dangerous condition of sleeplessness, caused by emotional trauma and depression, pain, stress, and addiction. When someone suffers from insomnia, they have trouble sleeping when they should – which leads to irritability, a constant state of drowsiness and an incapability to function on a normal daily basis.

Understanding insomnia – and understanding sleep in general – is impossible without first understanding how and why your addiction recovery can cause severe restlessness.

What Is Sleep?

We are not entirely sure what sleep is, even after decades of research. However, we do know the basics: sleep is a condition wherein consciousness is suspended, the nervous system takes a break, and many important metabolic processes take place. In a way, sleep is a daily “refresh” button that takes several hours to fully run its course. Sleep is more important for growth early on in life, to the point where children are expected to have at least 10 hours of sleep a day in earlier years. Adults, on the other hand, seem to typically function best with anywhere from 6 to 9 hours of daily sleep, with individual variance.

These extended periods of sleep are made up of several cycles of distinct stages, from light sleep to REM sleep, segments of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement. It’s during this stage of deep sleep that infants and children develop the most, due to how it stimulates the brain regions used for learning. Research also shows that REM sleep is the most important stage of sleep for protein production, and thus muscle growth. A cycle takes about 90 minutes, and we drift in and out of these sleep cycles all throughout an average 7-9 hour sleeping schedule.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

We don’t know why – but we can guess. Most guesses estimate that there are functions the body and brain can’t complete during consciousness, due to how much energy and processing power consciousness takes. Sleep is a chance for the body and the mind to rest and hit a soft reset button. Sleep is typically controlled by your adenosine receptors, which cause drowsiness over the course of the day and are “flushed” over the course of sleep. Caffeine blocks these receptors, thus blocking drowsiness and preventing sleep.

Sleep can either be scheduled as a daily reoccurrence, or in segments throughout the day. Some cultures work into the night, rise with the sun and take naps – shorter instances of sleep – several times throughout the day. Hunter-gatherer societies slept when they could, and it’s believed that we evolved to sleep in the night simply because we’re just not very good at seeing much at night, and sleep might just be the most efficient thing to do at that time.

In other societies, like Japan, napping during the day is a normal part of a work life – it signals that you’re exhausted from hard work and that you practice a devout dedication to your career.

Regardless of how you sleep, it’s unanimously agreed upon that daily sleep is important. The body and mind both undergo several crucial metabolic processes during sleep – and not sleeping causes your body to begin inadvertently drifting in and out of consciousness. This is what makes insomnia, the inability to sleep normally, so dangerous.

Not only do you become irritable, sluggish and are trapped in a state of tiredness, but eventually, insomnia will cause you to drift into microsleep, unintended periods of unconsciousness lasting just a few seconds to a few minutes, at any given point in time. This narcoleptic symptom can manifest in the worst of times, such as on the road.

Overcoming Insomnia

Insomnia occurs when you’re incapable of sleeping, and there are many reasons for this. The biggest is stress. Emotional or physical stress will keep your mind too busy and too distressed to relax, and relaxing is the most important part of getting a good night’s rest. While depression and oversleeping are often tied together, anxiety and addiction are often conflated with insomnia.

Overcoming insomnia can be done chemically, but it’s not recommended. To truly get to the root of the issue, you must consult a professional and figure out what’s going on in your mind. Addiction can often mask the symptoms of insomnia due to addicts using their substance as a sleeping aid – scheduling their use to force a crash, or using depressants to knock themselves out. Without those substances, many recovering addicts will discover that they have trouble relaxing and enjoying a good deep sleep. In early recovery, this is normal, and something that might simply be treated with a temporary use of sleeping aids. But if it persists, it may be a sign of a deeper emotional issue.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Addiction is a disease that affects you in mind and body – it carries with it symptoms and comorbidities that affect the way you think, feel, behave, and function. In turn, to successfully overcome an addiction, you must tend to both the mind and the body. One can’t be healthy without the other, and in recovery, working on your mental health means working on your physical health as well.

It all ties in together – good sleep, healthy food and fewer vices will improve your ability to think, to reason, and even to tackle things like depression and anxiety. A balanced diet and regular exercise can change the way your brain functions, bringing balance to your moodiness and even reversing the damaging effects of certain drugs like methamphetamine.

Meanwhile, a healthy body can’t hide a troubled mind. If you’re still at unrest about something – if you catch yourself overthinking, worrying needlessly, getting anxious and panicking over unlikely scenarios, or waking up and having days of doubt and a total lack of feeling, then reach out. Talk to somebody. Find a friend to confide in, tell a therapist about your feelings, and seek out ways to discover what it is that bothers you, and why. Mental health issues are often the symptoms of repressed memories, thoughts and complexes that originated at some unfortunate point in our lives.

In other cases, people are born with it, and therapy exists to help them figure out how best to cope with it without breaking down under the pressures of mental illness.

When you start down the road to combat addiction and remain sober, you’re opening yourself up to a journey of self-discovery, and ultimately, a transformation. Not everyone’s addiction is a symptom of something else, but often enough, an addiction can deeply affect your overall mental health anyways. Getting sober again means confronting every effect the addiction has had on you, while coming to a good conclusion. It means forgiving yourself for past failures and mistakes, and believing in your own ability to stay sober, and live a meaningful life.

Practicing Spiritual Superchargers: Forgiveness & Gratitude

Practicing Forgiveness & Gratitude | Transcend Recovery Community

Addiction recovery often isn’t just about whether you can stay sober for a year, but whether you have a reason to. When people quit an addiction, it is typically because they begin to realize the effect their bad habits have had on those around them. Most people decide enough is enough, and they begin the road towards improving themselves.

Yet as that road goes on, many come upon speed bumps, imposed by their own intrusive thoughts. Doubt and guilt creeps in, and some people struggle with finding a reason why they should really deserve staying sober.

It’s no secret that there is an abnormally high correlation between addiction, depression and anxiety. Whether as a cause or an effect, mental anguish and substance abuse go hand-in-hand. Coming out of that dark hole and beginning a new life is hard, not only because it’s a demanding and challenging task in its own right, but because people often dissuade themselves out of making the progress they could be making.

That’s where the role of forgiveness plays such a huge role in promoting sobriety and a drug-free lifestyle. Guilt, anger – volatile and negative emotions help induce and strengthen the urge to use, making avoiding a relapse especially difficult early on in recovery, when emotions are at their most tumultuous. You cannot simply ignore these feelings and hope that they’ll go away – instead, you must work through them.

Forgiveness Is More Than a Buzzword

Forgiveness, higher power, spirituality being in-touch with yourself, making the best of things – there are a million phrases and terms and words in addiction recovery language that some patients may simply be sick of. It’s important, however, not to let these words become dull and lose meaning. Forgiveness in particular seems like such a naïve concept, especially in the face of how unjust things can be in the “real world” – yet it’s not just about forgiving others. It’s about being able to look in the mirror and smile at yourself, without feeling self-conscious, shameful, or angry.

It’s about being okay with who you are. If you can’t do that – if you can’t forgive yourself – then your recovery is simply doomed.

There’s more to wanting to recover from an addiction than just wanting to do it for the sake of others. You have to be able to convince yourself that you deserve being a happy and sober person, and that you, as a happy and sober person, have a place in this world – among family, among friends, among people who love you and whom you choose to be with. Even forgiving someone else isn’t necessarily about lending someone else a hand – it’s about showing yourself that it’s more important to be able to look forward than it is to be stuck in anger.

However, that’s easier said than done. So here are a few concrete steps to help prepare you for forgiveness, and gratitude.

Cultivating an Attitude for Gratitude

Forgiveness and gratitude can be put into practice through concise (but not necessarily simple) steps.

1. Examine and Understand Your Perspective

Perspective matters a lot in life. There are often times when the proper perspective changes everything – it allows you to turn a massive loss into a win of a different kind, and allows you to tackle a challenge in life and see it as an opportunity to do something else.

There are times when a situation is terrible no matter what perspective you approach it with – but even then, the worst thing to do is lose all hope. By examining your mind set in the face of the challenges and problems life throws your way, and by examining how you’ve shaped up – if at all – to those challenges, you can best determine how you need to change your mind set in order to overcome the challenge of addiction.

When it comes to being grateful, it’s simply a matter of making that conscious choice in your mind to focus on the good, rather than the bad in life. The reason why is simple psychology. If you enter a room and are asked to scan every blue object within the next five seconds before closing your eyes, you’ll be stumped when asked to name all red objects. If you focus on one thing, you’ll lose sight of other possibilities.

Human beings prioritize. Prioritize the good in life, and you’re more likely to notice opportunities for new things – you’ll meet new people, make new friendships, find new hobbies, and create new experiences in discovery.

2. Think About the Things You Appreciate

To maintain a sense of gratitude, you need to actively remind yourself of the things you appreciate in life, both the old and the new. Think about your relationships with the people who stuck by you on the road to recovery. Think about the taste of your favorite dish, or your favorite season and the way it manifests in nature. Think about a childhood experience you hold dear.

We begin to lose track of why life becomes worth every second of it when we forget to remember the greatest parts of it. Reminding yourself why it is you get up in the morning, and looking forward to new opportunities to create more such memories, is a powerful way to practice gratitude.

3. Promise to Think Better of Yourself

As you continue to focus on the things in life that actually matter to you – the experiences you found most wholesome, the times you felt the most touched and connected to others – you have to make it a point to channel your gratitude inwards. Thank yourself for quitting, and for sticking through your program. Support yourself in dire times, such as when you feel weak. Encourage yourself to think better.

Only when a person truly believes that they’re worth the efforts of sobriety, can they give it their all on the road to staying sober.

Fostering Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not just a word with a lot of religious and spiritual context – it is something that requires real practice. Think of it as a manifestation of “fake it till you make it” – at first, forgiving yourself and others is something you have to force yourself into. It’ll feel unnatural, and you’ll have a thousand inner instincts telling you that you’d rather continue feeling bad about how things are.

Now, you may have every right in the world to complain. You may have been born into severe disadvantage, with socioeconomic issues and a set of genes prone to alcoholism – but if you want the best shot at sobriety, you have to let the anger and the guilt and the negativity produced by years of exterior stigma go.

That begins through practice. Every single day. Take a step at a time to let go of the emotions that chain you to the seabed and keep you from really learning to feel better about yourself.

Journaling: How Writing Heals

Addiction Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

The act of journaling is simple and can help immensely in the addiction recovery process. You sit down, have a think, and try to pour your heart out. You might fail to find the words you need at first, going over and starting several paragraphs to no avail, until it comes gushing out of you in the right way. And afterwards, once it’s all spilled out on paper, you’ll come to realize that you feel a little better.

Some people get around to writing an entry in their diary once or twice every five years. Other people do it religiously. And others yet have never touched the idea of keeping a journal. But for those struggling with their addiction recovery, journaling can be a safe way to:

  • Keep track of your emotions.
  • Express yourself.
  • Understand your own thought process.
  • Explore the recesses of your mind.
  • Release stress and relive unpleasant memories.
  • Go over happy memories and remember what life felt like when you were in love with it.
  • And much, much more.

Effectively, if an addiction like alcoholism occurred out of a subconscious need for numbing the mind and self-medicating yourself in times of stress, alienation and loneliness, then journaling is a form of self-therapy, where you sit in a couch with yourself and your pen, and pick at your own mind until you come to the conclusions you need to come to. However, like any good addiction recovery plan, journaling won’t produce results immediately. It’s something you must give time – but if you stick to it, you’ll discover things about yourself that you might never have figured out.

Journaling as an Aid to Recovery

Keeping a journal is an introspective exercise. Just like meditation and mindfulness exercises, journaling allows you to pose a question, and give an answer. It allows you to direct your own self-inspection, and because of its introspective nature, journaling gives you pause to think and consider your life before a major decision. It allows you to remove the urge to be rash or make hasty decisions by encouraging you to actively confront and question the way you feel.

Addiction, on some level, occurs because we continuously feel the urge to run away from something. In many cases, it may be a feeling of loneliness, or some other painful emotional state. Journaling instead helps you safely and painlessly live out that emotion, and find closure.

This also helps you organize your life. Life is, by its very nature, chaotic. There’s an overarching order to things that seems almost poetic, especially when you’re looking at the world in a macro-scale – but down on the ground, the details get muddy, dirty, grimy. Things rare go the way they’re “supposed to”, and a good chunk of being happy relies on knowing how to improvise in life, rather than plan.

Yet despite that, using journaling to organize your thoughts can help mitigate a lot of stress while undergoing addiction recovery. It allows you to allocate the proper time for self-reflection and creates an outlet for a lot of frustration or confusion, instead of letting yourself be overwhelmed and preoccupied with these feelings daily. This way, you can concentrate on functioning – at work, with your family, with your friends.

Finally, journaling can be used to pinpoint an issue and get down to the root cause of emotional discomfort. When you’re feeling down, depressed or just not great at all and you aren’t sure why, then sitting down with a pen and some paper and thinking long and hard about all the reasons you might be upset can help you find out what’s really bothering you, and help you start the process to being at peace with that.

If you’re going through group therapy or living in a social therapy setting like a sober housing program, then having the time to tackle your deepest issues alone and in privacy can also be a source of comfort. There’s nothing wrong with opening to others – in fact, it’s important that we learn how to do so – but there might always be things we keep to ourselves, thoughts and memories we’d rather go over and resolve on our own.

How to Start Journaling

Like most things in life, journaling is something you get into by starting it. The first step is to look at your schedule and consider just when in the day you have the five or ten minutes needed to collect your thoughts and write out a few words. You don’t have to write a novella every time you sit down to do some journaling – and you don’t have to beat yourself up when there are days where you manage nothing more than a single sentence.

It’s typically best to journal at the end of your day, when you’ve collected your thoughts, but some journals (such as dream journals) are typically updated in the mornings. It’s a matter of preference, and what you’re trying to achieve with your journal.

You also must consider that there are several ways to write a journal. It’s not just about sitting down and chronicling your daily thoughts, or asking yourself a series of questions. You could do:

  • Stream-of-consciousness: This is the simplest and rawest form of journaling. You sit down and let your thoughts loose, without proper rhyme or reason. You might write in prose, in the form of a poem, or just a single run-on sentence of a few hundred words. Your writing may not even have to make sense at first, as long as you’re saying what you really want to say.
  • Daily writing: Like most things, journaling is something that should be done daily – but daily writing specifically implies a diary-style chronicling of your days in recovery. It’s up to you whether to leave the “dear diary” out of the equation, and the only rule for this type of writing is that you give a daily update, taking the time to reflect on what you enjoyed today, and what might have annoyed or worried you.
  • Prompts: These are either questions you might ask yourself, or they’re prompts given to you by a therapist. Think of them like homework – you start with a question or two, and take your time giving the most comprehensive answer possible. If you’re recovering without a therapist, then there are many online writing prompts for those journaling in addiction recovery.
  • Gratitude: Often used in the treatment of depression, gratitude journaling involves making a short little list of all the things you’re happy about in any given day. The idea is to help you focus on the brighter and more worthwhile parts of your life, rather than succumbing to negative emotions.

Sticking to the Journal

There’s no easy way to stick to journaling, but there are a few things you could do to help you ensure that it becomes a regular habit. First, tie it to a point in your existing schedule.

If you have a regular routine that has become habit for you, then things will go over much smoother if you choose an activity that you can replace or supplement with journaling. For example, if you switch the TV on after work every night, then consider leaving it off for another 10-20 minutes until you finished your daily entry.

Journaling doesn’t have to be a life-long endeavor – but it’s a good thing to pull out of your pocket and get back into when addiction recovery begins to get overwhelming.