For many people in drug recovery, happiness is an issue they struggle with. Although it may not always feel that way, people who are actively battling substance use disorder are making positive strides toward health and well-being. Yet many people in drug recovery report feeling unhappy.
This can come as a surprise to the person in recover as well as to their loved ones. They’ve been able to quit the drugs they were using – a major accomplishment – so why don’t they feel happy about it?
The answer to this question might surprise you, and it is more complicated than you may think. The answer has to do with human brain function and how drug use impacts those processes.
Life In Drug Recovery
Many people imagine that once they stop using drugs that their lives will drastically improve. While this is true is a variety of ways, one area where change doesn’t occur as quickly as some of the others is the brain and its functions.
Right after you stop using drugs, you may experience some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms on a physical level, but those symptoms can be emotional too. You may experience mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Some people even report feeling a bit hopeless right after they stop using their drug of choice, which can be a stark contrast to the way many people felt when they were using.
This period can be a bit scary, which is why it’s crucial to have support in the journey toward a healthier, happier you. But it’s equally as important to understand what is actually going on inside your body so you can deal with it and know that one day, you will feel happy again.
The Brain on Drugs
The brain is a pretty amazing organ that functions for a single purpose: to keep you alive. That’s why the brain has pleasure centers – to reward you things you do. When you do something pleasant like eating a piece of cake, your brain’s reward systems light up and release feel-good chemicals.
The brain does this to ensure that you seek out things crucial to your survival (like food), but it can be hijacked by other substances such as drugs and alcohol.
Using drugs and alcohol also stimulates the brain to release feel-good chemicals, but in much higher levels than other substances. This essentially hijacks the brain’s reward system. Over time, the drugs become less and less rewarding, which is why addicts have to use increasingly more drugs or alcohol to have the desired effect.
People who have an addiction disorder continue to seek out the substances that give them these rewarding feelings, even when it has negative consequences in their personal lives.
How Drugs’ Influence on Brain Function Affect Behavior
Drug use can lead to changes in brain function – and, in turn, changes in behavior – such as the following.
Trouble controlling impulses – When you’re grappling with addiction, the brain will put out strong impulse reactions, which can lead to risky behaviors.
Difficulty controlling emotions – Many different types of drugs can make it difficult to control your emotional response in situations. When your high has run out, you may find it challenging to control your emotions, leading to the use of more drugs or lashing out emotionally.
Trouble with memory – Many drugs impact the hippocampus in the brain, the part that helps you to memorize information. For many people with substance abuse issues, this contributes to forgetting important things such as paying bills, meeting obligations for work, and social or family obligations.
Trouble processing information – Drugs can have an impact on the way the brain processes information. Some people struggling with addiction find it more difficult to learn, change behavior, or adapt to new situations – as well as difficulty overcoming harmful or bad habits.
Trouble with mental health – Your brain is responsible for your mood and many drugs acts as depressants that slow down the activity in the brain. Stimulants have the opposite effect but can make it more difficult to sleep. All of this can cause you to develop a mental health disorder that impacts mood.
The good news is that it is possible for the brain to recover from addiction. It takes time, but your brain will balance out and you will derive pleasure from things unrelated to drugs and alcohol once again.
The chemicals in your brain will balance and return to normal function, but it can take several months to years for this to occur. You have to hang in there and seek support from friends, family, and professionals to keep you on track and working toward recovery.
How You Can Feel Better in Drug Recovery
The most important thing you can do to help your brain repair is to detox from the substances you are abusing. It’s difficult, but with the right support from drug recovery in Boise, it is possible.
While you’re waiting for your brain to recover from addiction, there are things you can do to help yourself feel better – you don’t have to simply wait around to feel happy again. In fact, actively working toward finding enjoyment and satisfaction in life can help you brain recover. So, even if you’re feeling down, you can participate in activities that can help you find a little happiness.
Consider activities you enjoyed before addiction took hold, such as:
- Spending time with friends and family who support your recovery
- Watching a favorite funny movie or a television show that makes you laugh
- Getting enough sleep and exercise, and eating healthy meals
- Enjoying nature by going for walks, swimming, boating, or simply being outside
- Starting each morning by thinking about the things you’re grateful for that day
- Attending therapy to help you identify and overcome destructive thoughts
- Meditating or doing mindfulness activities that help you find your center
Remember, your brain has an amazing ability to repair itself. No matter how much you may feel challenged in recovery, or how it might feel like you’ll never be happy again, you will. Your brain is constantly working to improve its ability to function, regenerate cells that may have been lost, and improve functionality. But, just as with overcoming your addiction, it’s not going to happen overnight.
Go easy on yourself and give your brain, along with the rest of you, time to heal.