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What's the Rush? Early Recovery Lessons
With Time, Our Brains Can Heal
In our use, we altered our brains. However, it can and will heal if we do not relapse. Many people falsely believe that they functioned better on drugs. We call those types of people, high functioning individuals. They got up, went to work, participated in PTA, attended school and made good grades, and were the Soccer Mom.
On the outside, they looked like they were not using; at least had it together and seemed to function. However, if we look at their first uses of drugs and alcohol, even they did not function well. Got drunk and threw up. Snorted cocaine and talked everyone crazy, or missed a vein. The list goes on.
Eventually, tolerance developed and they could function. Enjoying the experience, they continued using and their brains adapted. And in some cases, they fooled people into believing that they were not using.
Our Hijacked Brain and How it Heals
Look at Functioning Differently
There are many examples of functioning:
- A hat functions as protection for the head.
- Computers operate by storing information
- The purpose of a watch is to tell time
Each of these examples functions but each is limited. It is the same for us on drugs and alcohol. So, what can happen to functioning people when they remove the chemicals? They can seemingly fall apart. As one of my clients said recently, "I can't seem to remember the important things; it wasn't this way in my use."
I knew that she was embarrassed by her memory problems, and the thoughts of relapse were frequent. During this readjustment period, it was overwhelming, embarrassing and frightening for her. She began to think that she operated better on chemicals than she was now. And to some extent, she did, only because her system had developed a tolerance for the substances.
I reinforced for her that healing would not happen overnight. I also encouraged her to give herself the time necessary to let her brain catch up with itself and to not have unrealistic expectations too soon into her recovery. We talked about how her brain had gotten used to using drugs and alcohol and that now her brain needed time to learn to operate without chemicals. Rather than feel inadequate or incompetent, could she process it from the healing perspective and be gentle with herself.
Are you patient with yourself when going through life changes?
Healing Takes Time and Patience
Healing is a process; the brain and body of alcoholics and addicts need time to heal, regroup and learn to cope without chemicals. My client and I talked about using a small memo book to remember the important things in her life:
- Words to live by, said at her recovery supportive meetings
- Phone numbers of supportive people to call
- Using her phone, she keeps an agenda of appointments
- Recording her feelings throughout the day; later transferred to her nightly journal
- Jotting down her feelings throughout the day, transferred to her journal at night
Patience is not passive waiting. Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.” ― Ray Davis
Small Steps During the Process of Healing
When my client made minor changes, she was less ashamed and overwhelmed. By making progress in the areas that caused her distress, she felt proud that she was learning to more than just function.
All of these early reactions to life without chemicals are normal, they should not embarrass us any more than a child learning to walk, and falling a few times.
They are learning to do something equally important – walking, and we are learning recovery. We are learning to live without chemicals.
Just as a child learns to walk, we learn to live without drugs and alcohol. We are patient, loving and kind to ourselves during this learning time.
Be Patient and Encouraging Of Yourself and Your Peers
Are you patient with yourself when going through life changes? To make this transition during your healing phase easier or more manageable, you will need to have an attitude of acceptance. For instance:
- Accept that the changes are about healing can make it easier
- Acknowledge that it might take a few months to be present in conversations is a small price to pay
- Demonstrate some patience towards yourself, your actions, and your thoughts are appropriate
- Let the feelings out – share them in a meeting, group, with a sponsor, accountability partner or trusted friend
- Write about the feelings and thoughts
Ask Others for Help
Ask others how they adjusted to early recovery issues, how they developed patience with themselves, or how they got over their embarrassments. Most people will be willing and eager to talk about their early struggles and solutions. They may even laugh about it. They are not laughing at you or your difficulties; they are probably remembering their struggles.
And most, if not all of your peers in recovery, will be happy to help your change, grow and thrive in your recovery. Just as there was someone there to help the child learn to walk, there will be helping hands for your recovery. Accept their help and support and realize that someone helped them learn to walk and taught them how to recover, and demonstrated patience to them while they healed.
© 2013 Marilyn L Davis