From the moment you start getting clean, managing withdrawal symptoms becomes a struggle. Alcohol and drug addiction hijacks your brain’s chemistry and alters your central nervous system’s function, tricking your brain and body into thinking you need to drink or use drugs to feel good and function normally. Even the most determined and focused people in recovery can wind up succumbing to their physical and psychological symptoms, which is part of the reason why withdrawal is a primary driver of the estimated 40-60 percent rates of relapse in the United States.
Although medical detox can help you get past the acute stage of withdrawal, and may relieve the worst of your symptoms, the physical and psychological effects can last for weeks and even months after you get clean, depending on the scope and duration of your substance use. In order to make sure you’re feeling your best and continuously ready to embrace long-term recovery, here are some tips for effectively managing withdrawal symptoms in everyday life.
Look on Your Plate
Managing your withdrawal symptoms often starts with eating and drinking right. For example, those dealing with alcohol withdrawal often have depleted levels of vitamins B1 (which helps prevent complications in the nervous system); B2 (which breaks down carbs, proteins and fats to produce energy, and increases oxygen flow); B6 (a vitamin instrumental in healthy body and brain development), and folic acid, which helps the body create and keep new cells. Talk to your doctor about increasing your intake of foods rich in these items.
People battling drug withdrawal, particularly opioids and stimulants, routinely encounter digestive health issues. To counteract these symptoms, regain your energy and feel less sluggish, try eating a fiber-rich diet (leafy greens, beans, vegetables, etc.). It may also be a good idea to up your intake of lean proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. A well-balanced diet, low in sugar and sodium, will increase your energy, improve digestive health and may even reduce lingering pain and inflammation.
Get Up, Get Moving, Get Better
Exercise: is there anything it can’t do? In addition to being a cornerstone of a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle, working out has been repeatedly proven to improve symptoms and conditions commonly associated with the withdrawal process (stress, anxiety, depression, pain, digestive issues, etc.). It also releases endorphins, which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to morphine. You don’t have to be an iron man to reap the full benefits of exercise. Start at a comfortable level and push yourself a little more each day. Try something fun like beginner yoga, boxing or pick-up basketball.
While many use it as a way to the end of the work week or a “just-for-me” treat when time allows, massages can also help you manage your withdrawal symptoms by providing targeted and effective relief of chronic pain-affected areas and increasing circulation and blood flow. This can help you to flush out the last of the residual toxins that still may be affecting the way you feel every day. While it may not be easy to just go for a massage right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some safe and simple self-massage techniques you can perform for quick relief. In addition to massage, other holistic pain-management techniques can include chiropractic care, acupuncture, meditation and others. Talk to your doctor about the benefits of these techniques.
The benefits of proper sleep, in any context, can’t be understated. For those battling withdrawal, a regular and healthy sleep schedule helps reduce cravings, control shifts in mood, improve weight loss and increase energy levels. You can improve your sleep hygiene by making sure you go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day; not eating or drinking for at least three hours before bed, and making sure your room is kept properly lit and at a comfortable temperature.
Before managing your withdrawal symptoms, however, you have to get help for them. If you or your loved one is battling continued alcohol or drug withdrawal, Recovery Unplugged is ready to offer comprehensive medical detox and rehab.