Perhaps the least-discussed topic in addiction recovery is the process of handling withdrawal. As a person’s body begins to adapt to functioning without the presence of drugs or alcohol, there can be a very painful process of readjusting to a chemical-free life.
Withdrawal can be the strongest force drawing an addict back to substance abuse. The pain is real, and the misery is so deep that even the strongest willpower can give way simply in search of relief from the withdrawal symptoms.
When a person is making progress in a 12-step or other program to conquer addiction, withdrawal must be managed to help solidify the gains being made. If these symptoms are left untreated, the entire process can fail.
There are several ways that addicts can combat withdrawal symptoms.
Getting Monitored Medically
The most important thing throughout the entire withdrawal process–both acutely and over the long term–is to make sure that health is monitored and maintained. Because withdrawal can last for months, there may be multiple withdrawal episodes that require medical care.
Bear in mind that most addictive substances being dealt with today are not conducive to “cold turkey” treatment. Cigarettes and other milder addictions can largely be conquered with this mental approach, but opioids and many other hard narcotics have chemical triggers that cannot be overcome with sheer willpower. As a result, certain medical interventions may be needed to treat withdrawal effectively and keep recovery on track.
Because most people take on a very poor diet while in the throes of a chemical addiction, most are badly malnourished. As recovery begins, the addict needs every bit of strength available to be able to withstand the withdrawal process, as well as to maintain the energy needed to sustain the psychological elements of recovery.
Eating a diet with appropriate levels of needed nutrients and adequate fiber, water, and vitamins can be very helpful. Proper hydration and fiber intake encourage good excretory function, which in turns helps to eliminate substances of addiction from the body. Vitamins and minerals help improve overall health so that the person is as strong as possible in this battle for life. The combination of a balanced diet and therapy for the psychological demands of recovery can give a person a good chance at sustaining the withdrawal process.
Often it’s simply the need to get the addict’s mind off the withdrawal symptoms that is necessary to get through the process. Obviously, it takes more than a crossword puzzle or a game of Frisbee, but an activity that requires a lot of concentration and activity can do wonders for helping the person push through. And exercise in between withdrawal flare-ups can strengthen the body to fortify it for the next episode.
It doesn’t take intense exercise if the person is unable to do it. Yoga, stretching, or simple aerobics can be enough. These activities build physical strength, improve cardiovascular health, and pull mental focus away from addiction and onto something more constructive.
Withdrawal is an inescapable process. For some people, it can be incredibly difficult. A good detox process and a strong recovery program, accompanied by skilled medical monitoring, can help the addict conquer all the powerful side effects of overcoming addiction. The key is to find what works and to stick with it.