drug addiction

Will I Ever Feel Normal? Healing Your Brain After Drug Addiction

 

Drug Addiction: The word “addiction” comes from a Latin term that means “bound to” or “enslaved.”
If you or someone you love has struggled to overcome drug addiction, you certainly understand this concept.

In active drug addiction, I not only felt painfully helpless against this monster that had awakened inside of me, but the more I learned about the repercussions, the more I began to feel like it was a life sentence, even if I broke free. 

Medical research told me that my brain had been permanently damaged with no hope in sight. “So, I’ll be sober, but mentally altered…forever?” This was not an option for me. If this was true, and the very structure of my brain was permanently damaged, I might as well give up. This may not be how you view this kind of information, but it most definitely is how I see things.

First of all, I did not want to go from one drug dependence to another, so for me, Suboxone maintenance or something of that nature was just not a choice. If I was going to break free I wanted to be all the way free from drug addiction…and I wanted to be able to heal and recover what was lost.
Maybe I have watched too many hero movies, but I wanted a triumph that didn’t feel like I was settling.

People said I’d have wet brain. Research showed I’d feel “raw” and possibly live in a state of permanently depleted dopamine and serotonin levels. So, in regular terminology, I wouldn’t be able to really be happy, because I had damaged the part of my brain that produces happy, feel good neurotransmitters.

How to Repair Your  Brain After Drug Addiction

Thankfully, I have worked with some really good people during the process of my recovery and I have learned how to slowly yet methodically turn around or “undo” the damage caused by addiction. Working with the team of professionals at Gracious Care Recovery Solutions has tremendously helped me to understand what I’ve been doing and why it’s working. They are more than just a drug rehab. Gracious Care staff is concerned about your “whole self,” mind, body and spirit. The road to true healing and recovery has to be paved with a plan that includes a struggle free life. This means your life in recovery has to be BETTER than the high or euphoric effect of the drugs you were taking.

Is that really possible?
Absolutely!

Here is the path I followed to repair my brain after ten years of active alcohol and drug addiction:

Undoing the Damage of Drug Addiction

So, what exactly are the secrets to healing your brain during addiction recovery?

#1- Therapy

Therapy can help you uncover the root problem that started you on the path to addiction. For many, addiction began as a way of self-medicating other issues, like bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. For others, it’s a way to escape from the fragments of pain and memories attached to past trauma. Others begin using drugs because they consider it to be normal after seeing a family member use them.

Therapy offers a safe, supportive environment where you can face the issue, no matter how difficult, and begin to understand how to overcome it.

#2- Active Forgiveness

When we think of forgiveness, we often think about forgiving others. While this is one hundred percent true, the most important person you have to forgive during addiction recovery is yourself. During addiction, you may have done things you’re ashamed of or said things you regret. In order to move on and truly heal, you have to forgive yourself. Acknowledge your wrongdoing, apologize and cancel the debt. Move on and don’t punish yourself any more. Studies show that doing so can awaken and heal specific parts of the brain.

After we forgive ourselves and experience healing, forgiving others becomes a natural byproduct. We naturally want to extend to others the very things we are experiencing. My past is marked with sexual abuse and neglect, but it is as if all of that happened to another person. It is worlds away from me now.

#3- Nutrition

Alcohol consumption and drug use can result in nutritional deficiencies, so when you’re in recovery, the right food choices are essential to experiencing a state of well-being.

A diet rich in protein and the right amino acids (L-Tryptophan, GABA, L-Tyrosine and L-Glutamine) will help your brain heal. You’ll also want to include some brain-healing nutrients in your diet, like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Cut out sugar completely. Yep, I said it. In the brain, sugar is proven to cause the same effects as cocaine and can greatly increase your chance of a relapse. Sugar is not only highly addictive, but it also helps foster irrational thought patterns, afternoon brain-fog, and even irritability.

#4- Exercise

During recovery, your brain may not be able to produce positive hormones like endorphins on its own. It’s been trained to respond to drugs or alcohol. As a result, it’s very easy for depression and anxiety to kick in, which also heightens cravings. To combat this and help your brain recover- exercise. This will not only help your brain release endorphins so you feel better but will also help detox your body and brain.

If you want a double-shot of goodness, exercise outside in the sun. It is medically proven that 15 minutes of unfiltered sunlight per day will immediately raise your neurotransmitters and produce feelings of happiness and well-being. Ever notice that summer is associated with fun and freedom? That’s why!

#5- Prayer

Prayer works. In fact, studies have shown the impact of prayer on healing the body. Relying on your Creator to help you with your recovery is one of the smartest choices you can make. He can touch you and heal you in many ways.

Those are just five things that are helpful to a healthy, happy state of mind. Of them, I would say the most important is your relationship with God. On top of these, I have found that, being creative, writing, listening to positive music, having a life purpose beyond yourself and even owning and caring for a pet all contribute to a healthy happy state of mind.
Yes…Your brain most certainly can be healed. The first step is putting down the drink or the drug. Are you ready?

Start your recovery process with a foundation of healing that can be found at Gracious Care Recovery Solutions. Individuals who attend a minimum of 30-day treatment program are 50 percent more likely to avoid relapse.

This article was written by Robin Bright, a person in long term recovery, an author, mom and recovery advocate.

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. I’ve been battling addiction for 22 years. I have good days and bad. I’m sober now but just recently coming off a backslide after being sober for 17 months. My biggest struggle is my happiness. I feel lonely even when surrounded by people. I could easily go weeks without talking to a soul (outside of general communication with my wife and children) and even doing that is a chore sometimes. Going to try some of these ideas in your article. Thanks so much

    1. Joseph, I totally “get you” when it comes to your inner pull toward internal isolation. We have to force ourselves to be in community, because that’s where a happy, well rounded life happens. We weren’t meant to do life alone. I’m so glad you are taking steps in the right direction. Also, nutrition will affect moods and the desire for isolation as well so make sure you’re getting plenty of hydration, exercise and a diet that promotes good health and mental clarity.

  2. THANK YOU so much!! I’m now clean from a year and half heroin addiction. Have only been clean LESS THAN a week but I’ve wanted it for months! I made it through the physical illness, but have horrendous depression and self loathing (I’ve struggled with depression for 21 years at least). I don’t have any professional help or guidance currently but have reached out. I DO have an amazing family support system, including my husband.
    You sharing what you have learned through your recovery gives me much hope. I’d LOVE to have a support group, but I don’t want anyone to know that I had the addiction to begin with. Therefore I don’t feel right sharing with others, and maybe it getting repeated that I was there and that I too am a drug addict. I’m ashamed! Most of all, I don’t want my kids’ friends and their parents knowing any of my struggles with heroin, opiates in general.
    Just wanted to briefly explain my struggle and thank you!

    1. Beth, I’m so proud of you for taking that first step. I know it can feel overwhelming to do life completely clean and sober, especially when your emotions feel raw in early recovery, but I promise you that it will get better one day at a time! Your brain will heal and so will your emotions. Make sure you have that God-component. Recovery without a spiritual foundation can be difficult. Reach out to us anytime. My email is: robin@graciouscarerecovery.com

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