The secret to a successful, long-term recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism isn’t really a secret at all. While some people have certain rituals they follow or memberships in certain groups or even the use of “non-addictive” substances in order to maintain their recovery, most of these are secondary tools that can enhance recovery or a person’s perception thereof. But because the biggest threat to recovery is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, there are a number of practices that a person can incorporate into their daily activities that will not only mitigate the symptoms of PAWS, but also deeply enrich the life of the individual. Most of these practices are things that everyone should do in order to live a healthy life – including those who are not in recovery.
According to the Many Hands Sustainability Center, substance abuse and alcoholism have the following effect on diet and nutrition during active use and on through the various stages of PAWS or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome:
- Depleted or malfunctioning brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
- Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, that causes a wide range of symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, depression and panic attacks, as well as poor adrenal function.
- Digestive problems such as the overgrowth of yeast, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and the malabsorption of nutrients.
- Food allergies or sensitivities to common foods such as corn, wheat, sugar, and dairy products.
- Nutritional deficiencies of key amino acids, vitamins.” (1)
As a result, proper nutrition must be a fundamental part of any recovery program. Excellent diets for recovering addicts and alcoholics include low-sodium, low-sugar and carbohydrate, high protein and all-natural foods. Additionally, proper water consumption is imperative, as all of the body’s digestive and protein building processes require copious amounts of water to function and provide the body with the nutrients it needs to manage stress and symptoms of PAWS.
Exercise not only stimulates the production of healthy red blood cells, it also keeps organs and tissues functioning properly. Exercise has been shown to boost cognitive function, eliminate disease and help control urges to use drugs or alcohol. Exercise is also a critical part of a healthy diet – without proper exercise even the best nutritional program will only achieve minimal results. According to Alcoholics Victorious, exercise provides the following distinct benefits that can greatly improve a recovery program:
- Increases the metabolic rate so that calories are burned more efficiently even when we are at rest.
- Burns fat stores and builds up muscle tissue. Muscle cells are metabolically active and burn calories, whereas fat cells are inert.
- Increases free fatty acids, which better enable the body to process and utilize dietary fats.
- Decreases total serum cholesterol and increased levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the “good fats” associated with lower risk of heart disease.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases the levels of mood-elevating neurochemicals–such as the endorphins, so that we feel better mentally as well as physically.” (2)
- Work a Daily Recovery Program
People who are successful in recovery do something every day to continue to develop as a person and examine their disease and its effect on their life and the lives of those around them. This could be something as simple as writing down some daily affirmations, keeping a journal, attending support groups, therapy or counseling sessions and constantly evaluating their behavior and intentions honestly and regularly.
Indulge in the Spiritual
Religion isn’t necessarily the same thing as spirituality, but many people think they are close. Whatever you believe, spirituality is one of the most overlooked parts of recovery. Many experienced addicts or alcoholics report that when a person stops working on the spiritual part of their recovery they are in very great danger of relapsing. Working a daily spiritual program can include attending religious gatherings, meditating, reading, philosophizing, or helping others to do the same.
Give Back to the Community
Many addicts and alcoholics notice that a great deal of rehab staff, treatment counselors, sponsors and mentors, psychiatrists, clinicians and others all have personal experience with substance abuse or alcoholism. These people are often so touched by what others did for them that they enter the field to give back to their communities. This process can be instrumental to a lifelong, one-day-at-a-time recovery.
If you’re suffering from addiction and you don’t know what to do – stop – and call us right now. Regardless of where you are or how bad your problem is, we can help, and we are here 24 hours per day for you. Why wait any longer?
(1) Rebecca Place Miller Nutrition in Addiction Recovery
(2) Alcoholics Victorious The Benefits of Exercise in Recovery