If you’ve never attempted sobriety, then it doesn’t take very long for you to figure out that it’s tough. Hard. Excruciating on the mind and the will. Early recovery from addiction is a period that will test you and test your mettle, and determine whether or not you have the stones to keep going. Nearly anyone who’s gone through it will tell you the same.
Of course you do. Biologically at least, the body and brain are almost always capable of walking back on addiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s a smooth moonwalk – it’s a painful stumble over hot coals.
Your Body Hates You
Addiction happens on a physical level. At first, the substance you take is counted as poison, a foreign matter – but it causes you extreme joy, or a beautiful mellow feeling. With time, your dependence on this substance to undo some of the emotional hurt and worry you’re going through turns into tolerance – your body has learned to metabolize what you’re throwing at it, and it declares no more.
So you take more, anyways. In answer to that, the body decides to adapt instead of struggle – and tolerance turns into dependence. Suddenly, what was at first something the body was fighting against to diminish its effects has become essential for you to even feel at all.
Without your drug or drugs of choice, you’re left in pain. So you keep taking another hit to keep the pain at bay, both the pain that made you take the drugs to begin with, and the pain of not feeling any happiness at all.
When recovery begins, your body basically has to undo everything it did to get used to your drug use. It starts with hefty protest – withdrawal, which can be so bad it can get fatal when unsupervised. And after that initial painful detoxification, you’ve only taken the first step through a series of trials and tribulations – your body might be free of the drugs, but your brain is still craving, screaming.
You’re an Emotional Wreck
Everything is fast. Faster. You become impatient and erratic and angry, and staying calm is a very difficult thing to do. When you’re not feeling sick or craving, you’re incapable of focus and your thoughts are a fleeting mess. Your mood is all over the place, and your perception of emotion seems horribly mended.
Aside from the way your mind is reacting to the withdrawal, becoming sober usually also means sacrificing everything you used to know as part of the old life that lead you to this state of rock bottom. That means undergoing hefty personal changes outside of losing your access to drugs. In hefty withdrawals, you may even need to take temporary replacement drugs like methadone before you can completely go cold turkey.
Brain Reversals Are Tough
With time, the brain will begin the process of healing itself and reverting to normal – undoing the influence of drugs. It’s a long process, and not one that just occurs magically or through time – you’ll have to replace your drugs with healthier coping mechanisms, the kind that don’t leave you addicted or on the brink of death or suicide.
Addiction is a maladaptive coping mechanism. In other words, your brain considers it to be a great idea in the short-term, and sort of ignores the long-term – because really, isn’t life just a bunch of short-term smashed together? The issue with that of course is that it puts you into a destructive, vicious cycle – hence maladaptive, because it’s not a positive place to be in life. Adaptive coping mechanisms are harder to implement – like exercise – but they offer lasting benefits that let you diminish and combat the symptoms of whatever you’re coping with, instead of just hiding them.
Things like proper sleep, good eating habits, a passionate hobby, physical exercise and eventually a new job. None of these changes are simple to implement, and the job can be hard to keep at first. But with time, you’ll come to truly love the new you.
The Darkness Will Come Out to Play
Not a lot of people get addicted for the hell of it. Sure, there are cases where you’re just vulnerable to getting addicted to a certain drug, be it crack of alcohol – but most people when they take drugs are doing something called self-medicating.
Self-medicating is basically our mind suffering under the pressure of a lot of pain, anxiety and depression, and drowning it all with an immense amount of “uppers.” Opioids like prescription drugs are very popular right now.
The result? Your issues turn into symptoms, and that develops into a full blown mental illness living and festering like a rotten wound underneath a hardened case of addiction. The second you crack open the shell, a bit of a smell emerges. Defeat the addiction, and you’ll have an infection to deal with.
How many of us decide to cover it all back up again? Probably quite a few. Sobriety is hard enough to achieve on its own – imagine doing so while dealing with insecurities, a low self-esteem, body issues, low confidence, and crippling levels of anxiety to the point where social interaction actually slightly terrifies you.
It’s not quite so severe for everyone – but most addicts suffer from one or another symptom of depressive thinking. Getting past this after beating the initial addiction is the real key – because you don’t just “beat” a depression with sheer will. You use positive thinking, healthy coping mechanisms, and if you’re lucky enough, a powerful support group of new and trusted friends.
In the End
In the end, you’ll discover a new you. You’ll understand the joys of hard work, and you’ll be proud of your accomplishments. For the first time in life, you’ll feel like your efforts are actually rewarded. You’ll have a purpose, and a place in the hearts of your new posse. Life was hard, and it’ll have its moments still, but you’ve seen rock bottom and pushed yourself off despite all the debris and rubble on your shoulders.
You have every reason to be proud – and zero reason to break your sobriety. This is the dream – it’s the goal for everyone on the path to getting better. And no matter how many times you might fail to finally achieve that goal, you’ll only truly lose the fight if you stop standing up again. So never ever stay down.