Quitting drugs or alcohol is the most stressful thing an addict or alcoholic can undertake in their life. It takes a strong combination of positivity, counseling, and moral courage to finally quit, but even when you do your darndest – things don’t always work out. In recovery, this is called dealing with life on life’s terms. Just because you quit drinking or popping pills life will not lay down to make your experience any easier.
Stress and personal challenges will always happen whether you’re actively using or not, but you need to mentally prepare for dealing with stress in recovery.. Inpatient treatment can be a great place to prepare for challenges and stress. While In active addiction you use drugs or alcohol to deal with stress but when that’s no longer an option, what can you do? Let’s learn about dealing with stress in recovery including stress-busting strategies, the Pink Cloud vs PAWS, and what else to be mentally prepared for.
The Pink Cloud
Pink Cloud Syndrome or the Pink Cloud is a term used to describe a euphoric like feeling when first quitting drugs or alcohol. For the first time in months or years, there are no drugs in your system, and you feel clean, happy, and energized. What’s so wrong with feeling good? Most of the time the Pink Cloud is artificial and temporary. Someone on the Pink Cloud might say to themselves, “Wow, I feel great, of course, I’ll never use drugs again.” They quit attending 12 step meetings, talking to their therapist, or taking little steps to insure their house is in order.
Then comes the stress. When you ride high on the Pink Cloud, you haven’t been properly teaching yourself stress management or relapse prevention techniques and don’t how to handle new issues. These people are much more likely to turn back to their drug of choice when the stress becomes unmanageable. You can enjoy the Pink Cloud, but only if you’re prepared for what comes after, like PAWs.
On the opposite end of the stress spectrum is post-acute withdrawal syndrome, known as PAWs in the recovery community. PAWs is a collection of symptoms experienced by many addicts and alcoholics after acute withdrawal that can lead back to addiction if not managed.
While acute withdrawal can involve dangerous symptoms like seizure or heart attack, PAWs’ symptoms are less dramatic but undoubtedly a burden. The most common symptoms for PAWs include trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety, and irritability.
PAWs can make you question why you quit in the first place if you’re not ready. You can use the strategies below to help deal with PAWs and other daily stressors.
Strategies for Dealing with Stress in Recovery
Stress will never disappear, even when you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do. Your goal is not to run away from stress or problems but to confront it and deal with it in a healthy way. Use one or several of the stress-management techniques below to help center your mind.
Exercise and Diet
More addiction specialists subscribe to a holistic approach to recovery than ever before. A holistic approach believes all parts of the body need to be treated and the health of one area affects other areas. This is why exercise and diet are so important. Diet and exercise are important for your physical body, but it can also help emotional issues like stress.
What is the best thing for a stressed body and mind? Sleep. Sleep restores both body and mind and is one of the best stress-busters available. Practicing techniques can improve sleep and lower stress levels.
Journaling has several benefits to recovery. Journaling can help you track your recovery, vent about issues, and help paint a picture of your stress and what it causes it. Read back on journal entries during stressful days to help you figure out why stress comes and what you can do about it.
Most addiction treatment centers teach self-psychology techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT.) CBT involves learning to recognize negative thought patterns and changing your mindset before those thoughts turn to actions. Use your journal and CBT to pin down your stressors and how you can think about them differently.
A grateful addict makes progress in their recovery. If you can’t learn to appreciate the world around you and its daily gifts, you won’t be able to handle the daily stresses. There are always things to stress about, but you can balance that stress with gratitude.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation, mindfulness, and the breathing techniques that come with their practice are amazing stress busters. Mindfulness helps you enjoy the subtle parts of life while meditation can help slow things down to a more manageable situation. Proper breathing techniques associated with meditation are not fake science.
Arm yourself with several phone numbers and people you can talk to when the going gets tough. Someone with more sobriety can talk you through stressful times and teach you how they deal with stress in a healthy way.
Let Yourself Have Fun
Recovery is important and many times deadly serious, but don’t shy away from fun – embrace it. It’s pointless to be sober if you’re not sober and having fun. Indulge your hobbies, take a trip, and reward yourself.
Comfort in Dealing with Stress in Recovery
You will never escape the daily stresses of life, even after you’ve gone through the struggle of quitting drugs or alcohol. In recovery, you don’t run away from stress but confront it with proper management techniques found above.