Withdrawal is, without question, one of the most difficult parts of long-term recovery. We get clean during detox, and hope that the worst of our symptoms are over, but those who have been battling addiction for years know that they follow us for some time after. Day in and day out of living with the pain and sickness of lingering withdrawal symptoms causes many of us to relapse, despite our best efforts to stay clean. It just gets to be too much, too often and we wind up running back to drugs or alcohol to get a sense of relief at any cost.
While withdrawal can be overwhelming, even months after we complete our treatment programs, there are a variety of clinical and lifestyle mechanisms that may be able to help us defend ourselves against symptoms, including:
Maintenance Medications – Part of a larger overall treatment program, maintenance medications like buprenorphine and Vivitrol® can help reduce cravings, diminish withdrawal symptoms and gradually enable users to manage their lives without drugs and alcohol. These drugs are available only to those who are clinically eligible, but have proven to be a valuable resource in facilitating long-term abstinence. Use of maintenance medications should be discussed and approved by users’ physicians and treatment professionals.
Meditation – Believe it or not, numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of meditation in the treatment of chronic pain, a condition from which many recovering opioid and heroin addicts suffer along with 15 percent of the American population. In one of the more recent studies, conducted at Wake Forest University, researchers took MRI scans of participants’ brains while they were experiencing pain. Four days later, after they engaged in mindfulness meditation with a certified practitioner, subsequent MRI scans revealed 40 percent reduction in pain-related activity in the brain. While medication is certainly not a cure, it can be an effective means of pain management.
Holistic Therapies – These are therapies that allow us to properly align our brains and body to live balanced and healthy lives. They can include a variety of clinical and lifestyle techniques, like yoga, tai chi or chiropractic services. Holistic therapies allow us better take ownership of our bodies and manage our long-term withdrawal-related chronic pain.
Exercise and Proper Nutrition – Our bodies want rebound and function properly. It’s up to us to help them along and make sure they have all the resources to operate at their full potential. This starts with making sure we’re eating right and getting some level of physical activity each day, whether it’s a walk or a full workout routine. There are certain foods that can actually trigger addictive tendencies and render us vulnerable to relapse. By educating ourselves on proper diet and fitness habits, we insulate ourselves that much more from withdrawal pains and the possibility of a setback.
By exercising simple everyday mindfulness and educating ourselves regarding the withdrawal-relief options available to us, we can empower ourselves to overcome the worst of our symptoms.