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Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster of Addiction Recovery

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If you completed rehab and are now in addiction recovery, then you have every reason to be proud of your accomplishments. Addiction damages lives, and now you are on the road to rebuilding yours. You have every right to feel good, and feeling great for several days or weeks during early recovery is not uncommon.

You have probably also heard of the post-rehab “pink cloud,” or the feeling of being high on life, where everything feels wonderful and the future looks brilliant. It is at these times when sustained recovery feels effortless, yet you still face risks. Perhaps the greatest risk of the pink cloud period is that you stop putting real effort into recovery because it all feels so easy. This overconfidence can be dangerous when you experience life’s inevitable challenges. Here are some thoughts about the emotional rollercoaster of addiction recovery and how to ride it successfully.

Your Body Is Changing

Depending on how long your active addiction lasted, it can take weeks or months for your body to readjust to life without your substance of choice. In some cases, the brain has to “re-learn” how to achieve good equilibrium in terms of the neurotransmitters that keep depression at bay, because the brain has become used to being soaked in the chemicals from the substances to which you are addicted. It is no wonder most people in early addiction recovery experience mood swings. They are normal and to be expected. 

Your Life Structure Is Changing

Think about the sheer amount of time you used to spend in service of your addiction. This may have included time spent with others with addicts, time spent procuring your substance of choice, and time spent financing your addiction. Now that you have completed rehab and are in addiction recovery, you are no longer using your time that way, and you may have left many people from your old life behind. It is good, but it can also be daunting. What do you do with the time that has opened up in your life? It can take a while to find the best answer to that question.

You Must Look at the Future with a Different Perspective

No longer are you looking at the future through the myopic lens of active addiction. The future looks surprisingly different from the perspective of addiction recovery. It is no longer as limited as your next fix, and that can be scary as well as exhilarating. Just like starting any new phase of life, addiction recovery offers almost limitless possibilities, as well as its share of the risks that go along with living life. Getting used to this new perspective takes time. 

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Tips for Keeping Yourself Centered

When electricians wire a new structure, they install neutral wires as a way to direct unused current to return to the ground most efficiently and safely. This is what causes a circuit breaker to trip instead of causing bigger problems like a fire.

Likewise, you have to create your own methods of “grounding” as you navigate addiction recovery, to mitigate the risk of out-of-control emotions causing bigger problems. Here are some tips:

  • Go to your 12-step meetings regularly, even if you don’t really feel like it
  • Keep appointments with your therapist or addiction recovery counselor
  • If you have a 12-step sponsor, have their number programmed into your phone
  • Remind yourself that in most cases, bad days are nothing more than bad days and do not portend danger or disaster
  • Take some time every day, even if it’s just half an hour, to do something you enjoy, for no other reason than that you enjoy it
  • Recognize that the emotional rollercoaster of early addiction recovery does level out over time if you continue to work on your recovery

Early addiction recovery can be a heady time when you experience non-drug “highs” that you may not have experienced for a long time. No one wants to kill your joy at having done the hard work of addiction rehabilitation, but it is important to remind yourself that your body, mind, spirit, and day-to-day lives are all in a state of flux in early recovery. It is important to monitor your emotions and reach out if they feel like they are spiraling out of control in any direction. If you have questions about managing all the changes involved in addiction recovery, we invite you to contact us today!

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