sobriety

Sobriety: Steps to Recovering from Substance Abuse

Why did you decide to get sick?

Can you imagine, going up to someone with a cold, or flu, and asking them that? The absurdity of choosing to be sick applies to people who are struggling with addiction.

Addiction isn’t a choice, it’s more like a complex illness. The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that struggling with substance abuse is actually a type of brain disease. One that affects multiple brain circuits, including the ability to control behavior.

While addiction is involuntary, sobriety is absolutely a conscious decision. Individuals who decide to get sober, usually come to this decision in a time of need. Things in their life keep going badly, and they know in their heart they need to make a change.

Are you or a loved one beginning their journey into recovery? Staying clean may be a simple step to take, but it’s anything but easy. Read on to learn how to set yourself up for success.

Allow Yourself to Feel in Sobriety

Because so many people think addiction is a choice, many will try to change by gathering up their will power. With the best of intentions, friends and family members might even offer advice like, “you got this!” or “you’re going to beat this thing!”.

It’s wonderful to have a lively spirit and encourage yourself as you enter sobriety. Sometimes, you do have to fight, warding off cravings, or temptations to use. Yet, being sober, isn’t one long fight, or battle, requiring you to stay strong.

In fact, if you really want to heal inside and out, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Allow yourself to feel everything, the good, bad, scary, and unknown. Don’t try to block out certain thoughts, or emotions because they aren’t “strong” or “warrior-like”.

Instead, try to approach each day with little to no judgment. Everyone’s journey to recovery is going to be different.

While one person may struggle at the beginning, someone else might not have trouble until day 5. Be patient, and continue to not use, no matter how strange being clean may appear at first.

Preparing for Pink Clouds

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “pink cloud”, in reference to recovery? This phrase references a phenomenon that frequently occurs during the early stages of sobriety. The pink cloud describes a magical, “all is right with the world”, feeling that can happen when someone starts their journey to recovery.

Once an individual decides to get clean, their life will start to change. For some, the changes happen gradually over a period of time. While for others, major positive changes seem to happen almost overnight.

As the pain of active addiction starts to lessen, the pink cloud starts to sink in. Individuals will report feeling like they are high on life, and nothing can stop them from staying clean. Now, recovery doesn’t feel like a chore or burden, but instead, it feels like a miracle.

Be careful, the pink cloud phenomenon is a temporary way of being. It’s not uncommon for people to start creating unrealistic expectations for recovery because of pink cloud feelings. They start to think things are always going to feel this good, simply because they aren’t using.

Yet, in reality, life can hurt everyone at times, whether they’re addicts or not. Part of recovery is being able to accept that life will have both highs and lows. Yet, this doesn’t have to be a depressing aspect to consider.

Remembering life has highs and lows can provide comfort for when you’re feeling down. It can also help prepare you that nothing will ever stay exactly the same, things are always changing.

Avoiding Triggers or Cues

The American Society of Addiction Medicine considers addiction to be a chronic brain disease. One that involves an individuals inability to control substance abuse. Since you can’t completely cure addiction, it can always pop back up at any time because of a trigger, or cue.

When a trigger occurs, a sober individual can find themselves desperate to use again. There are certain cues addicts won’t be able to avoid, like feelings or memories. Sometimes even a dream about using can make sobriety feel twice as hard as it was the day before.

Since there is no long term cure, individuals who battle addiction, have to stay vigilant in their recovery. Part of setting yourself up for success is controlling the things you can. Specifically by avoiding people, places, and things that can trigger, or cue, your addiction.

People and Places

Do you have a friend or family member who is still using? You might feel tempted to reach out to them through a phone call, or maybe even visit. 

Unfortunately, they might end up convincing you to jump back into active addiction. Without even meaning to, an offhanded comment, from someone still using, could start your track back to using.

They might mention how much fun they had the other night, or how well they are doing. You’ll start thinking to yourself, “hmmm, is being clean really worth it?”.

Avoid the places you used to use at, as well as the people you were using with. A phrase you might hear in recovery rooms is, “if you stay at a barbershop long enough, you’re bound to get a haircut.”. Meaning, if you stay around people or places where using occurs, you’re eventually going to join in.

Lifestyle Changes

There are so many different things that could send your addiction to go into overdrive. One of the biggest things that threaten your sobriety is the music you listen to. This is especially true for addictions to “party drugs” or substances used in a social setting.

The partying type of music you may have listened to while using drugs or alcohol will send messages to your brain that it’s time to use again. The phenomenon is similar to the way an ice cream truck’s tune can send kids running for a treat.

Your mind remembers what it felt like to have pain taken away because of a substance. In an attempt to make you feel good, your brain will try to convince you it’s time to start using again.

Instead of torturing yourself, find new types of music you can enjoy. You could also try listening to music you used to enjoy before you started using. 

Sana Lake Recovery Center is proud to be able to assist you on your road to recovery. Our mission is to provide families with the support and guidance they need, to feel whole again.

If you’re ready for a change, or just have some questions, we’d be more than happy to help. Just reach out to us.

References:

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.

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