Your mind is just as important as your body, and it is be severely damaged by drug and alcohol addiction.
Recovering addicts often have low depression, self-esteem, guilt, shame, and anxiety. They are also prone to cravings to return to their old habits. In active addiction, the addict uses substances to cope with life problems, emotions and other issues. In recovery, the addict needs to learn to use other coping skills to deal with life. There are a lot of things the addict can do to help heal the mind after an addiction. A few solutions to work on these issues:
- Self-esteem – You can improve your self-esteem by changing negative thoughts about yourself. When you notice yourself thinking things like, “I’m stupid” or “I can’t do anything right” make a conscious effort to change these thoughts to something more neutral or positive. Positive self-talk can help improve self-esteem. Positive self-talk is simply reminding yourself of your good qualities and your strengths. Try this exercise to improve self-esteem. Write down five to ten of your good qualities. Pick a couple of these qualities and write a paragraph about why these qualities are important and how they help you in life.
- Coping Skills – An important part of healing the mind after active drug and alcohol addiction is developing healthy coping skills. There will be times in recovery when life doesn’t go the way you want it to go. Or you will feel things that you don’t want to feel like pain, anger or sadness. Coping skills are the tools that will help you deal with life’s problems. Some examples of coping skills are talking to someone, distracting yourself, doing something active or physical, doing something fun, finding a creative outlet and spending time with family and friends.
- Guilt and Shame –While they serve a purpose, the sisters named guilt and shame, are not meant to be held onto for long periods. Shame is felt when we internalize guilt and feel we are a bad person because we have done something wrong. Guilt and shame help us to do the right thing in moral situations. To alleviate guilt and shame, try making amends for the wrongs you have committed. Amends can be more than just an apology. They can involve doing something good for the person harmed or the community. Amends do not have to be made directly to the person harmed to be effective. It is not always possible to make amends directly but indirect amends, like doing volunteer work or helping someone anonymously, can help too.
- Depression – People who are in active drug and alcohol addiction are depressed tend to dwell on the past and think more negative thoughts than happy people. Try this exercise to let go of the past. Write down all the things that you are dwelling on. You can symbolically let go of the things you wrote down by burning the paper or by attaching it to a balloon while imagining the past floating away with the balloon. Remind yourself that you cannot go back and change the past so you need to let go of it. There are obviously some forms of depression that are more serious and cannot be relieved so easily. If your depression persists, interferes with your functioning or you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, seek professional help.
- Anxiety – Anxiety happens when people focus on what could go wrong in the future. They live in fear and are fixated on negativity. Staying in the present moment and learning about living in the present here and now can help relieve anxiety attacks. Positive self talk, telling yourself that everything will work out, and declaring blessings and positivity over your life will stop anxiety. Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and being still in mediatation can help alleviate anxiety symptoms. Calling and connecting with a friend or sponsor and talking out your feelings helps too.
- Cravings – It is normal for the addicted person to have cravings for their substance of choice. Having a good support system can help because cravings can stop when you talk about them. 12 Step groups have a saying, “secrets keep you sick.” This means that when you don’t verbalize a craving and you keep it a secret, you are more likely to act on it. The need for support is why many addicts choose to go to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Other recovering addicts understand cravings and can help you cope with them. Thinking through the bad consequences of returning to active addiction can be a good tool as well. Keep a list of the negative things that could happen if you return to your addiction. You can include things on your list like health problems, getting a DUI, losing a loved one, jail, arguments with family members or your spouse and losing material possessions.