Often on the road to recovery and health, people become overwhelmed. They don’t know what to do first. They may believe there are too many complex things to be done, medications to take or professionals to see. Do not be discouraged. There are some simple things you can do to help keep yourself on the road to recovery and feeling better. You can reduce worry and anxiety by getting answers to basic questions.
Since I’ve quit using, why do I feel so badly? After going through detox and withdrawal, you may feel confused because you still feel anxious, lost, out of control or even depressed. You may have insomnia or emotional and physical symptoms. You are craving drugs and alcohol. You are worried. There is a strong temptation to return to using because you think if you use you may just feel better. It’s important to keep in mind that the drugs you took were toxic to your mind and body. Alcohol is a poison. Drugs when abused are toxic to your body. The damage caused by months or years of use takes time to heal. The longer you used and the more different kinds of drugs you used, the longer it will take for your body to heal and return to full normal functioning. Drugs and alcohol changed how you felt by physically altering the chemistry in your brain. Depending on the route you used to take the drug and the side effects of the drug, there was also damage to you physically. Your brain, lungs, nose, veins, skin, heart, and digestive organs may each have been affected. Just like a broken bone, the damage done by drugs and alcohol takes time to heal.
During this time of healing, you may be under a lot of stress. You now experience the stress of coping every day without using drugs and alcohol. If you are attending a rehabilitation program or counseling, you have emotional, mental, and even physical fatigue from learning new things as you work on yourself. Change is stressful, even if you are moving toward success. It’s hard work getting up every day and working to change your life. And to make it even more challenging, during the first few weeks and months, you may experience some disturbing symptoms (Ketcham, & Pace, 2003).
1. Foggy thinking, difficulty concentrating, and some memory problems may occur: Drugs or alcohol disrupted the normal balances of chemicals made by your brain that are essential to healthy brain functioning. A return to normal balances takes time.
2. Difficulty learning new things: The more drugs you have used, the more likely you will experience some short term memory loss. Here’s the good news: for most people, short term memory is restored. The more drugs you have used, the longer you used, the longer it may take to recover. For most people short term memory returns in six to eight weeks. Short term memory loss means you may not be able to learn new skills easily. It does not mean you are incapable of learning new skills. However, you may not remember all the details as easily as you once did. Give yourself extra time to learn.
3. Over sensitivity: You may find yourself reacting strongly to things you never would have blinked an eye at before. When a little thing happens such as your zipper won’t go up on your jacket, you find yourself filled with rage. This is a side effect resulting from the damage the drugs have done in your brain. As you are going through these ups and downs, you may even find yourself on the verge of tears. Then suddenly you will feel okay. This is also a normal part of recovery and will end with time and abstinence.
4. Sleep problems: Lack of sleep is often a big issue for people who have come through withdrawal and are in recovery. Erratic sleep patterns are one of the side effects of the drugs you have taken and of the erratic lifestyle you led when drinking or using. During recovery you may experience disturbing dreams and the inability to fall asleep. When you do fall asleep, you may wake up frequently throughout the night, and be unable to relax. Again, these are the result of damage caused by the drugs, and the lifestyle of addiction. You can learn ways to reduce your sleep problems.
5. Physical coordination problems: You may experience difficulty with hand and eye coordination and balance. Your reflexes may be slower. Be a little more careful during the early weeks of recovery because coordination could be a problem particularly if you used alcohol heavily.
All these symptoms may make you believe you are not making progress. In reality your body is going through physical changes to adjust to the lack of a high level of toxic chemicals in your body. Knowing that you are experiencing a normal recovery process can reduce anxiety.