Guest post written by: Michelle Peterson
Kicking the Habit: Health Tips for People in Recovery
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a US federal agency tasked with preventing deaths, illnesses, and disabilities that result from drug use and untreated mental disorders, recently released a report from its 2016 Survey on Drug Use and Health, and the results are bleak. About 21 million Americans 12 and older suffered from a substance use disorder, while only about 10 percent received professional rehabilitation.
More unsettling still, some people have questioned the efficacy of rehab clinics. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse, while maintaining that “lapses” do not equal “failure,” concedes that 40-60 percent of patients seen for drugs will relapse at some point. For people in recovery, staying sober may be a struggle you wage for years, but incorporating these habits into your routine should help center you during your worst bouts with the disease of addiction.
Years of substance abuse saps your brain’s ability to produce adrenaline, endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin—chemicals that spur your energy, boost your confidence, stifle your sensations of pain, and drive reward-seeking behaviors. These neurotransmitters are essential to cultivating enjoyment in what we do, which can motivate us to thrive at our jobs or act on healthy risks like starting a business. But when they’re released in excess—as with cocaine or methamphetamines—those high-on-life feelings can also result in injury, overdose, and depression, which the brain has been depleted of any molecular reprieve to recover from.
One of the benefits of exercise, then, is that it provides stability. Sticking to a schedule can prove soothing for people who have long been jarred by chaos. First, wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time every day. (Moreover, good sleeping habits are linked to lower weight, sharpened memory, and a longer life span.) Second, when figuring out your regimen, choose what you like to do. Whether it’s shooting hoops, swimming laps, canoeing, fencing, or sailing (whatever you know will get you out of bed and keep you active), commit to a set block of time to do it. Exercise heals the body and restores your brain’s production of chemicals that drugs inundated it with, only now in quantities that revive your energy and resuscitate your sense of tenacity and joy.
Just as important to recovery as exercise is maintaining a diet, but think of “diet” in this case less as a systematic plan of starvation than a way to supply your body with the nutrition it needs. When people abuse substances, they often binge eat (or drink), go days without eating, or eat cheap or processed foods. Moreover, not only do drugs and alcohol deplete the brain’s neurochemical levels, they also corrode the body’s function of absorbing nutrients. People in rehab often overeat to supplement the demand for chemical stimulation that their body has become accustomed to, or they develop anorexia or other eating disorders that cause malnutrition. An indispensable lifestyle strategy to maintaining long-term recovery, then, is to consume a diet of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates.
While a range of other habits are essential to renouncing the habit of substance abuse—including making new friends, developing a hobby, or journaling out your anxieties—eating right and exercising regularly are crucial for people wrestling with recovery. Those lifestyle choices may not guarantee sobriety, but they can at least carve out a path toward achieving a sense of mental and physical balance.
For individual guidance and nutritional advice and support, consult our qualified Naturopath at True Medicine – call 07 5530 1863 for an appointment.