(We welcome Jill Anderson from Overdosewatch.org today with her excellent article about staying healthy as a way to also stay sober. We appreciate her continuing to make a strong contribution to the mental health of people with addiction disorders).

Drug and alcohol addiction rates have reached epidemic levels in the United States. Since 1990, drug overdoses have tripled. And kicking an addiction is one of the most grueling things you can go through. According to figures from 2014, 80 percentof patients who were addicted to alcohol relapsed within the first year. If you’re trying to get clean and maintain sobriety, the odds are stacked against you. Seek medical treatment, professional counseling, or a support network that can help you during recovery. To supplement those strategies, here are tips on how to incorporate healthy habits for people in recovery.

Exercise

Many illicit drugs release excess amounts of neurotransmitterssuch as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in your brain. These are the “feel-good” chemicals that reduce pain levels and increase your sense of pleasure and happiness. Once you get off drugs, however, your body may still crave those chemicals, and exercise has been shown to supplement those neurotransmitters, only in healthy doses. Exercise helps you manage stressors, triggers, and cravings, as well as lose weight, lower blood pressure, stave off depression and anxiety, and have more energy. In addition, physical fitness reduces inflammation and spurs the growth of new blood vessels and brain cells. In short, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, whether you’re in recovery or not.

Eating Well

One of the healthiest steps you can take on the road to recovery is to maintain a healthy diet. Eating well provides a variety of physical advantages. First off, you lose weight and keep the pounds off over time. Plus, nutritious food helps lower the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes and wards off the possibility of being diagnosed with certain cancers. If you have decided to eat right, don’t starve yourself on a fad diet. The foods we were meant to eat have never really changed. These include water, some whole grains, plenty of fruits and veggies, and lean meats like omega-3 fish.

Staying Around Healthy People

Drugs and alcohol damage your organs and rewire the circuitry in your brain. Reversing that damage requires a massive undertaking. However, when you’re going through recovery, you often have to rebuild your social group, as well, because many of the people you used to associate with may have been abusing drug and alcohol, too. That’s why many recovering addicts seek out a community of people like themselves. Twelve-step programs like AA, with its sponsors and regular meetings, and group therapy help anchor people and alleviate their loneliness. Also, being around people who don’t abuse drugs and who care for themselves will help to normalize your strategies of staying sober.

Taking Care of Yourself

Self-care essentially means caring for your physical, mental, and emotional health. The ways that people can take care of themselves are universal, but you might use different activities at different points along the road to recovery. When you’re in the early stages of getting clean, one helpful activity you could try is to keep a journal. Carve out some time to be alone, unplug from your iPad or iPhone, and get inside your mind. Stay around people who are positive and can support you as you’re going through recovery. When you have some more sobriety under your belt, get into a routineof exercising, eating well, finding hobbies that you love, and being around friends and family. Also, read books and do crossword puzzles so that your mind stays sharp.

To implement a long-term recovery plan, you should seek medical attention or professional counseling. However, it’s also crucial to exercise, eat right, build your support network, and journal your thoughts and feelings so that you can root out the source of your addiction. You can do it, just one day at a time.

 

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