Around 20 million adults battle a drug use disorder. With numbers like that, it’s not too crazy that you’d wind up meeting a person who’s battled drug addiction. Perhaps you’d even date one.
As any person who’s formerly struggled with an addiction knows, you’re never a “former” drug addict, just a recovering addict. You can go through productive time at a rehabilitation center and live a sober life for years, but you’re never truly free from those old desires.
This is both a blessing and a curse for people suffering from addiction. On one hand, it hurts to have the same feelings after years. On the other hand, it keeps you vigilant about your health and safety.
But how are those dating a recovering addict supposed to handle this? It’s not a good idea to date someone who’s currently in the throes of addiction and using, but how do you navigate dating someone who’s currently clean?
This article will all you through everything you need to know about dating someone who’s recovering and teach you a bit about addiction along the way.
Avoid Dating in Early Recovery
Before we cover the “do’s”, we’re going to have to look at some things to avoid”. The first of which is to avoid dating in early recovery.
Early recovery isn’t a scientific term. It’s simply used to describe the first part of recovery when someone’s still adapting to a sober life. Generally, it refers to the first six-twelve months of recovery; however, it can go on longer.
Someone going through early recovery might seem like a completely changed person — and indeed they are. They’re living their life more healthily.
However, these new lifestyle choices are still fresh. They haven’t sunk in yet.
New love usually comes with intense feelings. This can wind up feeling euphoric and uncontrolled, just like a drug. Without even realizing it, you might get this recovering addict addicted to you.
While you’re not going to hurt them the way that a drug will, problems can arise. They may expect too much of you. They may want you to provide the experience a drug formerly provided.
In the stage of early recovery, addicts need to learn to live without the easy stimulation they had before. If they replace it with a new stimulation right away, they’re not truly growing, just deflecting the problem.
Again, you’re not going to do them as much damage as a drug. But what if you two break up or what if you simply go away for a weekend? There’s a good chance that this recovering addict simply won’t have the tool to face life without you, and slide back into addiction.
Find Out if Their Past Relationships Fuel Addiction
Different people have different triggers to their addictions. If the stress that sometimes comes with being in a relationship caused your partner to lapse into addiction, this person should perhaps avoid dating for a while.
You should also find out if any of their exes also suffered from addiction. While it’s unlikely that your partner would expect you to behave in a similar way, they may subconsciously just think that’s how relationships go. They may not be accustomed to relationships that aren’t codependent and focused on addiction.
However, take care to not make them feel ashamed about their past. If they’re in recovery, there’s a good chance they made some decisions they’re not proud of.
At the end of the day, it’s always best to ask questions to try to learn more about your partner’s life.
If you’re someone who engages in drug use, it’s probably not best to date someone who’s in recovery.
Recovery is a test of will. However, it’s best for an addict to put themselves as far away from temptation as possible. Willpower isn’t just saying no, it’s staying away from people and places that will make you say yes.
This can become especially difficult if you’re dealing with a partner who’s battled alcoholism. Alcohol is an important and widely excepted part of almost every culture. Your casual after-work beer or during-dinner glass of wine might seem innocent to you, but it can cause vast internal conflicts with your partner.
Sacrifice is a key part of relationships. Especially when two people live together, they both have to give up parts of their daily routines in return for what the other partner can offer them. It’s a give-and-take.
However, if you’re dating a recovering addict, you might just have to give more than you take — at least for a while. Understand that recovering addicts might need more sacrifices, more alone time, and more patience in order to make sure they don’t slip back into addiction.
If you’re not in recovery yourself, you might find it tough to understand exactly the kind of life an addict faces. To you, your priority could be your relationship. But to your partner, there’s only so far they can go before they worry about slipping back into addiction.
If you’re not ready to deal with this, you should stay away from dating a recovering addict.
However, there’s only so far you can go.
It might hurt to imagine your partner this way, but consider that your partner may manipulate you if things go wrong. If you’re a gullible person who has a tough time telling when you’re manipulated, you might find it best to stay out of this relationship.
Your partner can be an angel right now. They may act that way for years, However, if they relapse — and relapse is part of the process — they may become very difficult. They may well relapse to who they were before they met you.
Make sure that you understand the signs of relapse, so you can know when this is happening.
Set boundaries for yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll leave the relationship if a relapse starts. It can mean having talks, only tolerating certain types of behavior, and setting rules with your partner.
If the relapse is minor, and the relationship has gone on a while, you can very well work through it. However, if it’s earlier in the relationship, or the relapse is more severe, you should strongly consider leaving the relationship. You don’t want to get sucked down into the hole of addiction.
Don’t Do Too Much
It’s easy to wind up with a savior complex when you’re dating someone who’s recovering from an addiction.
This isn’t your fault. You’re dating someone who’s a little more vulnerable. It may feel as though you need to take extra care of them.
However, while you will need to give a certain amount of sensitivity, you shouldn’t act as a spiritual advisor, therapist, or doctor to your partner. Your partner has other people who will perform these tasks for them.
Likely, your partner entered a relationship with you because of what you naturally provide as a person. If you’re a reader/writer, you probably recommend great books. If you’re a cook, you probably make great meals.
These things are enough for your partner. Don’t feel as though you need to be more than what you are.
If your partner starts to treat you as some sort of expert, you may have an issue.
Again, this is likely not your fault. It’s likely not even the fault of your partner. Their addiction status means that they’re going to seek as much help as they can get.
It’s easy for your partner to fall into a codependent relationship with whoever they end up with. Try your best to work to help them become their own individual, without letting them constantly relying on you.
The balance is tough to strike. You don’t want to give them so much independence that they feel all alone. Ultimately, the only thing that will teach you how to walk this line is time.
Understand the Link Between Mental Health and Addiction
Often, addiction problems and mental health problems are linked closely together. You have to understand that when your partner suffers from a mental health issue, they’re in extra danger of relapsing. That relapse would certainly lead to their mental health plunging once again.
Addiction has many causes. Certain people use drugs because they have a family history. Other people develop addictions as a way to cope with mental illness.
To treat addiction properly, these people need to have their underlying mental health problems dealt with. In fact, most people who develop addiction most likely have some sort of mental health problem without knowing it.
Because of this, we highly recommend you only date someone who’s receiving mental health treatment along with their addiction problem. If your partner isn’t receiving this sort of treatment in addition to their support groups, they may not have the tools to deal with things when life gets hard. They may also not understand and have a tough time coping with the more difficult parts of relationships.
There are many different types of therapies that your partner can explore. They should strongly consider dialectical behavioral therapy.
Dialectical behavioral therapy lets two ideas exist in the brain at once. Rather than sorting out which idea is better intellectually, you let the ideas take their own shape, and follow the path that comes out dialectically.
Do Some Soul Searching
Trust and forgiveness are key parts of a relationship. The initial shock of love and lust can make you underestimate some of the problems that you might face down the line.
You might think that you’re comfortable with some of the things your partner has done in the past. They could hurt and cause you to doubt, but your love might steamroll that feeling.
However, after the initial positive shock of falling into a new relationship wears down, you might find yourself bothered by those ghosts from your partner’s past. At that point, it’d be tough to back out of the relationship since you’re already invested. It also wouldn’t be fair to your partner, who would’ve assumed you were okay with their past by then.
Do some soul searching at the beginning of your relationship before all of those intense feelings find their way in. Ask your partner questions in a respectful way, and let them know exactly what problems and concerns you have with their past.
They may be someone who lives with “no regrets”. They may also want to leave the past behind. However, history repeats itself — you’re very responsible for wanting to ensure that these things don’t happen again.
Stay cautious. As stated before, your partner is going through a good time right now. They may slip back into old ways in the future.
Do some soul searching yourself to ask yourself some tough questions: are you willing to put up with your partner’s past? can you forgive them for some of the things they’ve done? what are the chances they will do them again? could you put up with it if they do these things again? do they understand exactly what they’ve done wrong?
No one can answer these questions but you.
Stay in Contact With Rehab
You may find it tough to think about because things are going well right now. But things may well get bad again. Stay in contact with a great Addiction recovery program to get your partner the help they need when things go wrong.
Stay honest with your partner about this. They’ll likely be pleased that you care about them and that they have such a strong and sure support group.
Dating a Recovering Addict is Tricky — But Not Impossible
As you can see, there are a lot of complicated problems you may run into when dating a recovering addict. These situations need to be treated case-by-case; every addict has their own experiences, and they meet people at different points in their lives.
Consider how long they’ve been sober, how their old relationships went, what their triggers are, what your own boundaries are, and what you’re willing to forgive, and you’re far more likely to keep yourself safe and happy.
For more information, check out our “get help” page.
According to a 2015 report from the National Institute of Health, 10% of American adults have struggled with a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.
Addiction to drugs and alcohol can wreak havoc on an individual’s life. It can have negative implications for a person’s health, finances, relationships, and more.
Attending a rehab center can help people who suffer from addiction to begin their recovery process and get their lives back. However, treatment programs can vary quite a bit and it’s important that you find the program that fits your needs.
Are you wondering what to consider when choosing a San Diego addiction treatment center? Let’s take a look at the most important factors to incorporate into your decision.
The Different Types of Treatment For Addiction
There are a number of different philosophies and approaches when it comes to treating addiction to drugs and alcohol. For this reason, it’s a good idea to thoroughly research the treatment options at a variety of facilities to determine which program would be best for you.
Some of the types of treatment that are commonly used to treat drug and alcohol addiction include:
- Behavioral counseling
- Medical applications and devices to deliver skills training or treat withdrawal symptoms
- Evaluation and treatment for mental health disorders that are co-occurring
- Relapse prevention with long-term follow-up
You can usually find the treatment programs of different facilities listed right on their website. If this information isn’t available online, you can call the San Diego rehab center to request more information.
The Types of Addictions Treated
Many addiction treatment centers will treat substance use problems that involve both drugs and alcohol. Some programs are also equipped to treat mental health conditions which can commonly co-occur with addiction. Certain treatment centers might specialize in certain substance abuse disorders and you might consider finding a rehab that is particularly equipped to help you recover from your addiction.
Outpatient Vs Inpatient Treatment
When you are searching for a San Diego drug and alcohol addiction treatment center, another factor you will want to consider is whether they offer outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, or both. Depending on your specific needs, you might find that one of these treatment styles is preferable for you.
In outpatient treatment, the individual goes to treatment programs during the day but stays at home. This can be a more affordable option for people and it allows people to maintain a more normal daily routine while they are undergoing treatment.
Typically, outpatient treatment involves somewhere between 10 and 12 hours each week. Since it is less intensive and doesn’t remove the patient from their environment, this is thought to be better for people with addictions that are milder.
On the other hand, inpatient rehab involves the patient staying at the San Diego addiction treatment center. While this is a more expensive option, inpatient treatment has a higher success rate than outpatient rehab.
This type of treatment removes the individual from their daily life and offers round-the-clock medical and emotional support. By removing the distractions of everyday life, people can focus on treating their addiction so they are best equipped to move forward in recovery. This type of rehab is designed to treat serious substance abuse issues.
You can also find some facilities that offer Partial Hospitalization Programs. This is ideal for people who have recently gone through inpatient treatments or detox and are looking for a transitional step.
The Location and Facility
You will also want to consider the location of the drug rehab center you attend. Everyone’s needs are different, and some people might find that it is preferable for them to seek out treatment where they live where others might want to attend a treatment program far away from their normal stomping grounds.
People also might have preferences when it comes to rehab centers in rural areas versus those in more urban areas. You will also want to take a look at the facilities to make sure that they provide an environment where you will be able to feel comfortable.
When you attend a rehab program, the staff that you’re working with can have a major effect on your recovery. For that reason, it’s a great idea to get a feel for the staff at a few different locations to get a sense of the program that might be best for you.
One thing you will want to look into is whether the staff-to-patient ratio is adequate to ensure that you will get the attention you need. In general, a good staff-to-patient ratio is considered to be roughly 5:1.
You will also want to ask about which staff members you will be specifically working with. You might even have the opportunity to talk with these staff members to see if you feel like the relationship will be productive for your needs.
Lastly, research the types of staff members that will be available at the facility you’re looking into. Drug rehab centers should have a variety of medical staff including physicians, nutritionists, psychologists, and nurses.
Cost, Payment Options, and Insurance
Cost is also a very practical consideration when choosing a rehab center. Some are more costly than others and you will want to make sure you find a facility that fits within your budget.
Substance abuse addiction can cause a lot of havoc in an individual’s life, including financial strain. While a patient’s health and wellbeing are the most important things, it’s a good idea to think about the financial implications of the program you choose.
Some rehab centers might accept insurance so that you won’t have to pay much if anything out of pocket. You will want to look into what your insurance covers and look for an appropriate center that takes your insurance. Some centers also might help you access Medicaid or Medicare if you don’t have insurance.
Other centers might offer scholarship options or in-house financing. These are all important considerations before you sign up for a program because there can be a big range for how much addiction treatment costs you.
Duration of the Treatment
You can find rehab facilities that offer a variety of treatment durations. You’ll want to consider the length of the program that would work best for you in your recovery. The responsibilities and comfort level can vary for different people, and some people might prefer a shorter program while others might require more care.
There are treatments that last as long as three months and others that are only a week or two. As discussed above, some programs allow you to live at home while undergoing treatment while others require you to stay at the facility for the duration of the treatment.
Licensing and Credentials
When you are entering rehab, you are determined to make a change in your life for the better. This means that you want to have access to the most competent and experienced professionals during this time. Take a look at the accreditation of the facility to ensure that they are equipped to give you the help you need.
Reviews and References
The internet can be an amazing resource when looking for a rehab center. Take a look at the reviews online for your top options to get a better sense of the experiences that others have had there.
Some rehab centers will have reviews and testimonials on their social media pages and on their website. You can also do a simple search in a search engine to find reviews posted elsewhere online.
Some treatments might focus on one particular type of addiction rather than having a more general approach. For example, you might find centers that specialize in only treating cocaine addiction and another that only treats heroin addiction.
For this reason, you’ll want to look closely at each of your treatment center options. The treatment necessary for different addictions varies greatly, and it can actually do more harm than good to receive the wrong type of treatment.
Many rehab centers understand that your journey really begins once you leave the facility and return to your everyday life. For this reason, it is common to offer both planning and guidance for living a sober life. Guided post-rehab programs can help individuals stick with their recovery even when the stressors of daily life have returned.
Programs that don’t have an aftercare option of their own might be able to help you find a suitable program for once you have left rehab.
What Are the Signs of Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol?
If you are concerned about a loved one and their relationship with drugs or alcohol, sometimes it can be hard to know what signs to look for. Different individuals might experience different symptoms and exhibit different signs when they have a substance addiction. Some common signs to look out for include:
- Changing social groups, having odd phone conversations, unusual and new friends
- Having stashes of drugs
- Drug paraphernalia including cigarette papers, unusual pipes, small scales, etc.
- Frequent outings that are unexplained and often seem to be done with a sense of urgency
- Financial unpredictability, such as having large amounts of cash sometimes and other times no money at all
Some of the common symptoms of drug addiction include:
- Extreme mood changes
- Difficulty controlling or cutting down the addictive behavior
- Sleeping a lot more or less than usual
- Sleeping at different times of the night or day
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Changes in energy, such as being extremely and unexpectedly extremely energetic or tired
- Seeming unwell sometimes and better at other times
- Pupil size seeming larger or smaller than usual
- Preoccupation with the addiction, spending much of their time planning, engaging in, and recuperating
- Activities becoming more focused on the addiction
- Jeopardizing important social and occupational roles in favor of the addiction
- Building tolerance, where the person has to increase the addictive behavior in order to get the effect they desire
- Experiencing withdrawal when they don’t have the substance
It’s important to understand that many of the signs of addiction are not exclusive to substance abuse issues. There can be other explanations for these warning signs that don’t have anything to do with addictive behavior. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use caution before you jump to any conclusions about a loved one.
If you find any paraphernalia or drugs, talk to an addiction specialist or counselor or your primary care provider. They can help to guide you regarding the best way to deal with the situation.
Are You Searching For a San Diego Addiction Treatment Center?
Have you decided to enter a San Diego addiction treatment center? If so, you’re making an incredible first step towards regaining your life from the grasp of drugs or alcohol. However, everyone is different and therefore should consider their specific needs in relation to what different treatment facilities offer.
If you are one of the millions of Americans that suffer from a substance abuse disorder, it’s important to know that there is help for you and recovery is possible. Living with an addiction is a truly brutal circumstance, creating unmeasurable problems in a person’s life that can ripple out and touch every aspect of their experience.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can get help and you can recover. At Sober Life San Diego, we are dedicated to giving you the care you deserve. If it’s time for you to get your life back, contact us today.
There are a lot of situations where a person may need treatment, but they aren’t interested in the traditional method. Maybe they don’t have the ability to dedicate the time to an inpatient program.
Maybe the person has had experiences with treatment before and knows that an alternative method of rehabilitation would work better for them. If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place.
We’re going to take a look at some rehab options that don’t fit into the traditional idea of recovery. Hopefully, we can give you a little inspiration to explore whatever method will best help you to recover.
The Point of Rehabilitation
At the end of the day, the goal is for you to recover from addiction or mental illness. Your aim is to get your life to a point that you’re comfortable with, allowing you to move out of the predicament you’re in and into a state of health and wellness.
It’s silly to think that there’s only one way of doing that. The way that you get there depends on your preferences, your interests, and the state of your illness.
It’s important to note, though, that the traditional way of going about rehabilitation is popular for a reason. It’s a method that reaches the highest number of people and allows the process of detoxification and recovery in a safe environment.
The normal treatment combines a number of different elements into one environment. For example, options for group discussion, individual counseling, monitoring of withdrawal symptoms, and informational classes are all available in one space.
Those areas of recovery are important but don’t have to come in the standard ways. The only that might require professional attention is the experience of withdrawals.
A Note On Withdrawals
The symptoms of withdrawal can be intense and very painful. In some cases, the combinations of symptoms can be enough to overwhelm your system and cause death.
In those cases, stopping abruptly is unadvised unless there’s medication involved to curb the symptoms. That said, it’s important to stop using dangerous addictive drugs as soon as possible to prevent the chance of an overdose.
In a delirious state of withdrawal, the desire to relapse can be strong, and the person’s decision-making abilities are altered in that mindset. So, while it’s always possible to recover without traditional rehab centers, it’s smart to consider professional guidance while you’re going through withdrawals.
That said, it is possible to detox at home in a safe way. Make sure that you prepare a comfortable environment that you don’t have to leave for the period of a few days.
Do your research to anticipate what to expect at your level of drug use and how that process will feel as your body cleanses itself. You can invest in a detox kit that aids the process as well.
If you can, it’s a good idea to have a trusted friend there to support you through the process. This person can care for you if you reach a point where it’s hard to leave the bed, for example.
Further, they can be there in case you need to take a trip to the hospital if withdrawal symptoms are more intense than you expected them to be. Everyone’s body is different, so your symptoms could be more intense than other people’s in your situation.
Alternative Rehab Options
Now let’s look at the alternatives.
Note that it’s always going to be a challenge to overcome addiction. Just because you’re not in a facility doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy to push through.
One method of recovery that a lot of websites and influencers suggest is the substitution of healthy habits in exchange for the habits that surround your addiction.
This might require an overhaul of your lifestyle, and that requires a lot of determination. The primary tenets of this approach are diet, exercise, rest, and spiritual practice.
These foundations, in theory, will reorganize your schedule and provide your body with what it needs to maintain your healthy approach to life. The spiritual practice element doesn’t have to be anything theistic, just some way of accessing the parts of yourself that lead to peace and contemplation.
Mindfulness meditation and yoga are great options for tuning your body and mind into a healthier place. This is why they’re both great companion therapies for individuals who are also taking the traditional route to rehabilitation.
Mental Health Counseling
After you’ve passed the initial detox phase, it will be helpful to have some guidance on how to manage the thoughts and feelings you’re having. Setting up appointments with a professional counselor is a great way to keep yourself in check.
Not only will they have insight into the way you’re feeling now, but you can start to chip away at root issues. For example, why did you start using drugs in the first place?
People don’t tend to generate an addiction for no reason. There are often historical, environmental, and personal factors that lead them to find release through drug use. A counselor is a great help in identifying those issues, helping with changes, and getting you to a point where you don’t want to use the drug again.
Personal Study and Reflection
It’s essential that you have an understanding of addiction, your drug of choice, and what it does to the body. Further, it’s important to take in enough data to appreciate the risks that you’re taking when you choose to abuse a drug.
There’s also information on recovery rates, practices in recovery, and more that will be helpful as you try to go through the process alone. The more you know, the more insight you’ll be able to bring to the practice.
Need Some Help Getting Better?
While it’s possible to find rehabilitation on your own terms, it never hurts to talk with a professional to see what you should do. There’s a lot to be gained from the insights of people who work in rehab centers.
We’re here to help. Contact us for more insight into recovery ideas, rehab centers, and all the ways that you can recover.
One of the reasons that recovery of any kind can be so difficult is the belief that it’s impossible, or that we’re not strong enough.
From the outside in, anyone who knows you is well aware that you can pull yourself out. When you’re going through addiction or mental health struggles, though, it can be very hard to see what you’re capable of.
We’re going to take a look at some recovery ideas to keep in mind today, giving you a little inspiration and perspective. Hopefully, the ideas below can give you the little push you need to shift in the direction of hope and change.
1. You Are Capable of Recovery
A big shift can occur when we think of our progress in objective terms.
Is there anything in your situation that actually prevents you from recovering? Addiction and mental illness are diseases, but there are very few things that actively prevent an individual from breaking an addiction or coming to a healthy place with a chronic mental illness.
No ogre is guarding the bridge, and there aren’t any chains around your ankle. It may feel like those things exist, but they don’t. Objectively speaking, there aren’t any definite obstacles that would prevent you from recovering if you gave it a true shot.
Let’s take the example of smoking cigarettes. What would it take to quit smoking cigarettes? It would take the resisting of every urge that came your way.
It’d be very hard for the first few weeks, but things would lighten up after that. If you have the ability to resist one strong urge to smoke a cigarette, you do have it in you to fight off the rest.
So, it’s possible. It isn’t easy, but you have the strength to make it happen.
2. Imagine Life When You’re Out of The Dark
Another hindrance to progress is a narrow view of life. You may have been suffering for so long that you’ve forgotten to think about what life was before. Further, you might have stopped imagining what life could be.
So, take a moment to think about what recovery would look like. You’re healthier. Your relationships are deeper. Plus, you’ve got the knowledge that you overcame one of the hardest things that anyone could overcome.
Keep in mind that recovery is hard, but there isn’t anything more rewarding than clawing your way out and into a healthy life.
3. Few People Succeed Right Away
Have you tried and failed a few times?
Well, you’re not alone. Most people have a hard time turning their entire lives around on a dime. That’s okay.
It’s like riding a bike, or trying to play a sport, or playing an instrument. It takes time to get your legs under you and start walking. It’s alright to offer a little compassion to yourself as you try your best.
How would you view someone else in the same situation? Would you critique them as your brain criticizes you when you slip up? Probably not.
Instead, you’d offer the support appropriate to their situation. You can give yourself permission to hold a forgiving attitude and reduce the immense pressure you might be facing.
That isn’t to say that it’s alright to relapse or slip back up, but it’s saying that your best is something to be applauded. You know when you’ve given it your all, and sometimes we fail regardless of our effort.
Over time, though, that effort will shine through and lead to pure recovery.
4. You Are Not Alone
Know that there are other people out there right now who are experiencing very similar situations to your own. Other people are out there writhing and struggling to find the light to keep them going.
They’re doing it, and you can do it, and it’s worth knowing that you’re not alone. The idea that nobody understands or that you’ve got it far worse than all of the others isn’t always productive. In fact, it can keep you from feeling well enough to make progress.
Making contact with other people in the situation you’re in might be helpful to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction in your own mind. It’s something that happens, and one constant factor is a particular feeling that you’re alone.
It’s a mental construct that keeps us from changing. It magnifies the issue beyond reason and invalidates the insight and help that the people around you might want to give.
You think, “nobody could ever understand.” That makes it easy to deflect the incoming love that might prompt you to recover. Know that the feeling of perceived isolation is the symptom of what you’re going through, not the cause.
5. Things Can Be Repaired
Experiencing true rock-bottom or mental turmoil produces a grim view of one’s life. Everything seems beyond repair, ruined, forever changed.
No matter what your circumstances are, you still have the ability to produce a healthy environment around you. The things that scare you now will ease up and become points of enjoyment in your future life.
The relationships that took some damage are still there, waiting to be tended to. The lens that addiction and mental illness can offer is dark.
So, take whatever that lens tells you with a grain of salt. You just have to wait and see what things look like with a healthy brain. Odds are that they’ll look a lot brighter.
All you need is a little time to let things mend. Whether that’s a few weeks, months, or years, it’s a beautiful thing to know that your situation isn’t beyond repair. You might just need a little help getting there.
Need Recovery Help?
Working through recovery can be one of the most challenging obstacles in a person’s life. We’re here to help you get through that process and wind up safe and sound on the other side.
Contact us for more inspiration, insight into recovery, pricing, and more. There are resources out there to help you find the footing to get out of addiction and mental illness.
For people that have never battled addiction, it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s actually a disease of the brain. Clinically, addiction is referred to as a substance use disorder. But, physically, it hijacks the brain and alters its chemical processes.
This is what makes addiction so difficult to overcome. It’s more than the sum of a person’s poor life choices and uncharacteristic behavior. These are side-effects of what addiction does to the brain.
Looking to further understand addiction and the brain? This is the blog for you.
Addiction and the Brain: The Science Behind it All
One of the most common misconceptions is that addiction is about a lack of self-control. It’s perceived as a moral issue or a choice. But science says otherwise. While a lack of self-control and poor moral choices are common among addicts, these are just symptoms of addiction — not what causes it.
Addiction is a complex disease because of how it physically alters the brain on many different levels. Substances such as alcohol, nicotine, opioids, and stimulants are comprised of compounds that alter the chemistry of the brain. And as a result, our actions.
When the brain is exposed to these compounds on a regular basis, it affects the reward center of the brain. This leads to a loss of control, cravings, and eventual substance abuse.
The Brain’s Reward Impulse
Feeling good is an addictive feeling in itself. Whether it’s from achieving a good grade on a test, sexual pleasure, eating certain foods, or ingesting certain substances. The reward center of the brain works the same way for everyone.
The effects of a substance, such as opioids, for example, provide a sense of euphoria. The substance enters the bloodstream and immediately stimulates the brain’s reward system, making you feel on top of the world. The more you use a substance, the more your brain craves the intense stimulation.
Understanding the Biochemistry
So, what exactly powers this reward system in the brain? Chemicals, also known as hormones. Addiction develops over time based on a number of factors such as the type of substance, the frequency, and the duration of use.
But the key mechanism behind it all is the chemical change that takes place in the brain during this time.
Many addictive substances have a psychoactive effect on the brain. This has a lasting effect on our pleasure and motivation responses. But it’s the release of dopamine that spurs on these feelings. A large release of dopamine is what causes a number of physical symptoms such as pleasure and euphoria. But also, paranoia, hallucinations, and a rapid heart rate.
The more you abuse a substance, the more your brain releases this hormone, and the more you begin to crave the side effects of dopamine. And so the cycle continues into addiction.
The Spiral into Addiction
The brain is responsible for almost every single process that takes place inside the human body. But it’s also sensitive and easily influenced. It’s our only major organ that dictates physical sensations such as moods, emotions, habits, and impulses. But even this fine balance is susceptible to change, thanks to harmful, addictive substances.
When you abuse drugs, alcohol, or nicotine, these important functions of the brain become deeply impaired. The spiral into addiction hinges on the brain’s limbic system and the release of feel-good emotions. This constant cycle of feeling ”on a high” motivates an individual to continually pursue this feeling. Eventually, the brain begins to reward itself and becomes reliant on dopamine to function.
This is what causes the downward spiral into addiction — the pursuit of the next euphoric feeling, as dictated by the limbic system. Eventually, an individual reaches a threshold where substance abuse is no longer about the ”high” any longer. But rather, it becomes about feeding an addiction in order to feel ”normal”.
The Brain and Withdrawal
The irony about addiction is the fact that it’s all based on a reward system. When in reality, there is nothing rewarding about battling addiction. Addiction develops due to a major change in the brain’s biochemistry — it has nothing to do with willpower.
Addiction also centers on a constant loop of highs and lows — a cycle of reward and desperation without the addictive substance. During an addiction, your brain becomes hardwired to receive a constant flood of those chemical compounds. And it adapts to the mental effects of a substance.
When you stop flooding the brain with these compounds, this is where withdrawal comes in. An individual may experience harsh mental, physical, and emotional side effects. Some common symptoms of withdrawal include intense cravings, anxiety, depression, sweating, and more.
In essence, your brain which has become hardwired to react in a certain way, over an extended period of time, goes into shock. It then has no choice but to reduce its production of chemical messengers, i.e. dopamine. The end result is a barrage of physical, mental, and emotional side-effects.
Cognitive Therapy for Addiction
While detoxing your body is a huge and important part of recovery, the real work lies in correcting the function of the brain. Most of the time, both inpatient and outpatient recovery centers offer an array of cognitive therapies for addiction. Some of the most popular and effective therapies include:
This is a common therapy used to soothe and stabilize the brain after withdrawal and a number of years of addiction. In short, a biofeedback therapist monitors the brain in order to better understand brain activity. The end goal is to help them understand the effects of addiction on the brain and any unhealthy impulses a person might have.
Biofeedback hinges on the use of electroencephalogram, or EEG technology. With electric sensors place on the skin, a therapist can help to reduce stress and involuntary functions. All while monitoring the brain, too. Biofeedback also includes meditation, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery as part of the therapy.
Also known as EEQ therapy, this is another form of biofeedback. It centers on training the brain in order to improve how it functions. It also monitors brain activity in terms of how addiction has altered neural pathways.
The point of neurofeedback is to reduce instances of anxiety and stress, in order to get a handle on addictive compulsions. The end goal of both biofeedback and neurofeedback is to teach the brain how to re-reward itself in a healthy way and recover its function.
Get Your Life and Mental Health Back on Track
As you can see, addiction and the brain are both intricately linked. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and need professional help, then Sober Life Recovery Solutions is here to offer just that.
As one of San Diego’s premier in-network recovery providers, we offer a robust clinical program, backed by science-based practices and a team of supportive staff. Learn more about what our addiction recovery entails.