RECOVERY AND STRESS
AND I THOUGHT ADDICTION WAS STRESSFUL
Family and relationship conflicts are among the chief causes of stress for all people, along with financial problems, job concerns, health troubles and other issues. These are especially pronounced for those of us recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Stressors like these are extremely dangerous for those of us trying to stay clean and sober. Studies indicate that stress is the number one cause of relapse among drug and alcohol abusers. Staying sober can be very stressful. Being the loved one of someone in addiction or recovering from addiction can also be very stress inducing. For the newly sober, in particular, the more the stress, the more the desire for escape, oftentimes back to drugs and alcohol.
If we can reduce our stress, we can reduce our chances of relapse. To do so, we have to know the signs of stress: headaches, muscle tension, dry mouth, upset stomach, loss of appetite, too much appetite, sleep problems, fatigue, getting colds, can’t concentrate, memory problems, jitters, irritability, short temper, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, chest pains.
Stress is inevitable. But there are things we can do to defuse these daily stressors before they can get the best of us. The most effective stress management often comes from making healthy lifestyle changes.
Manage Your Time. Especially in the first 90 days or so of recovery, when most relapses occur, it’s very helpful to have a structured day. Obviously, your counseling and 12 step needs come first. Beyond that, a list or schedule for the day can be very useful. Being busy is good. Being too busy is bad and stress inducing. Keep the day orderly and simple. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Identify Stressors. Can you identify things that might cause stress before they arrive? Is there a possible confrontation brewing that can be avoided ahead of time? Are there little things, like rushing to get ready in the morning you can ease by getting up a little earlier? Identifying stressors before they pop up could save a great deal of aggravation.
Mindfulness. Self-criticism and self-judgment are a common source of stress for people in recovery. Mindfulness training, or the experience of paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and cravings without judging yourself, is one way to make peace with that inner voice. In other words, those voices in your head are normal. Just pay attention to the positive stuff.
Deep Breathing. It’s simple, can be done anywhere and at any time, and it can work. Breathing exercises don’t need to be done just when you feel something coming on. “Deep breathing breaks” a couple of times a day can become a part of your daily health regimen.
Yoga/Meditation. The stress reducing benefits of yoga and meditation are well documented. More things you can do pretty much anywhere and both are great for body and mind.
Healthy Body/Healthy Mind. It goes without saying that a good diet and exercise are powerful tools in the fight against stress. Even just a little exercise, folded into your daily schedule, can yield tremendous benefits not just on your physical health, but your mental health as well. Rising endorphins are linked to a positive mindset. A good diet creates the foundation your body needs for healthy physical and emotional well-being.
Talk About It. Bottled-up emotions can lead to frustration and stress. Whether with a friend, family member, counselor, sponsor or medical professional, talk about it. Harboring feelings of resentment, fear, anger, or other troublesome emotions can be a certain trigger for relapse. Try journaling, or other forms of expression. There is a whole world of addiction and recovery related blogging and art out there.
Go to a Meeting. For many of us, that’s a surefire way to knock down some stress and pick up some contentment. Highly recommended.
Sources: www.drugabuse.gov, www.samhsa.gov, www.addiction.com.