You’ve done what you thought was the impossible. You have completed drug and alcohol rehab, and are now living a life of sobriety.
Life is finally beginning to look up for you. You are doing well at work, and in your family life; you have even made some really good friends who are also in the program. These blessings are all a direct result of continuing to work on your inner self and righting your wrongs.
While maintaining your mental, emotional, and spiritual health are all necessary for lasting sobriety, taking care of your physical health cannot be forgotten. Drug and alcohol addiction affects our lives in many ways, including our health. It is imperative to remember that just because you are now living a life of recovery, things may not be perfect.
There are many medical conditions that can occur from long-term drug and alcohol abuse. So, once you have completed treatment, it is crucial to make your physical health a priority once more. Here are some of things you should know, and what could be done to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
How Addiction Can Affect Your Health
When things are going well in the life of someone who has achieved sobriety, it is easy to forget that addiction is a three-fold disease. Yes, you may be doing well emotionally and spiritually, but what about your physical health? Are you doing everything you can to ensure your physical wellbeing?
If you or someone you know has struggled with chemical dependency, it may be no surprise the toll it can take. From dental health, to organ damage, to infectious diseases, addiction can ravage a person’s body. Sometimes, there are even conditions that the person is completely unaware of.
Drug and alcohol use has both short-term and long-term health consequences, which vary from one person to the next.
Short-term Health Effects
- Poor nutrition
- Erratic sleep patterns
- Changes in heart rate & blood pressure
- Overall mood
- Energy Level
Overall, these short-term effects get better over time, and as you progress in recovery. The longer that drugs and alcohol are removed from your body, the better you will feel. Be patient with yourself. You may have been using for years, or even decades, so you will not feel better overnight.
Getting plenty of nutrition, through healthy foods and vitamins, resting when you can, and including exercise into your daily routine are all things you can be doing to help with these symptoms. If you continue to experience these symptoms, with no relief, you should consult with your primary care physician immediately.
Long-term Health Effects
There are many long-term health consequences one can endure due to drug and alcohol addiction. Again, these conditions can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of use, and which substances were abused. Here are some common health effects caused by addiction.
- Poor Dental Health/Decaying Teeth: This is extremely common in individuals who were addicted to methamphetamines, heroin, prescription opiates, and cocaine. When mixing these drugs with your saliva, it can create a very acidic environment within your mouth, causing the teeth to erode, and for bacteria to be produced. Furthermore, teeth grinding and dry mouth are common side-effects from these drugs, also causing dental issues. After completing treatment, it is important to make a dental appointment as soon as you can. Many dental concerns can be treated and/or reversed with the proper care from a professional.
- Cardiovascular Issues: Studies have found that drug addiction can cause many cardiovascular issues including, abnormal heart rate, collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, and heart attack.
- Kidney Damage: Some drugs, including heroin, MDMA, PCP, and synthetic cannabinoids, can cause kidney damage. This can occur directly or indirectly, from dehydration, increased body temperature, and muscle breakdown.
- Liver Damage: Liver damage is another medical condition caused by addiction, to both drugs and alcohol. After years of prolonged use, a user is susceptible to Drug-Induced Liver Injury (DILI), Drug-Induced Hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver.
- Infectious Diseases: Communicable diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C, are unfortunately common among intravenous drug users. This is due to risky behaviors associated with addiction, such as unprotected sex and sharing needles. When not treated properly, these conditions can progress into more severe health concerns, such as AIDS and cirrhosis.
Taking Care Of Yourself In Sobriety
While many of the conditions we have discussed are certainly alarming, many of them are treatable. First and foremost, it is important to become aware of any health conditions you may be suffering from. Attempting to avoid potential health concerns, or “putting it off” until a later date, can only make matters worse.
Making An Initial Appointment With Your Doctor
After completing treatment, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician for a routine physical. This should also be done with your family dentist. When you arrive at your scheduled appointments, your physician will ask the reason for your visit. While it may be difficult, it is important to be honest with them regarding your addiction and time spent in treatment. This is to ensure the best quality of care possible. Remember, your doctor is not a mind-reader!
After reviewing your history, and performing an evaluation, your doctor may recommend you go for further testing. This could be for a variety of reasons, but mainly to rule out any of the conditions we have previously discussed.
If you are diagnosed with a health condition, be sure to follow all of the recommendations made by your doctors. Again, many health concerns can be treated and/or managed when dealt with properly.
If your doctor has prescribed you any medication, be sure you know what you are taking. It is okay to ask about the medication, its potential side-effects, and if it has the potential to become addictive.
This is not a time to be modest. You must protect yourself and your sobriety before all else. If you are uncertain about a particular medication or what to do, you should also lean on your sponsor and support group for advice in the matter.
Many times, drug users and alcoholics enter into sobriety with poor eating habits, or are down-right malnourished.
Now that you are in recovery, it is vital to give your body the nutrients it has been craving for years. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies, and foods that are high in protein and calcium will help you begin to feel better. And, when you feel better physically, you will be more spiritually sound and mentally focused.
While it may not be your favorite thing to do, exercise of some kind is essential in sobriety. With that said, you are not required to become a body-builder or marathon runner. Going for daily walks, playing basketball with friends, or attending a yoga class a few times a week will go a long way.
Most certainly, physical activity will give you a sense of accomplishment and improve your overall health. Additionally, exercise has proven to make chemical changes within the brain, which can aid in depression, insomnia, anxiety, stress, and other symptoms brought on by addiction and early sobriety.
Studies show that when a person exercises, their body releases endorphins. These endorphins interact with receptors in your brain, which reduce the perception of pain. By doing so, they trigger positive feelings within the body, that are often referred to as a “natural high.”
Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle
These recommendations are not intended for a certain period of time. Getting an annual check-up, attending scheduled doctor appointments, eating healthy, and exercising should all be incorporated into your new lifestyle of sobriety.
Just as going to meetings and working with a sponsor should be done continuously, maintaining your physical health should become a part of your daily routine.
Contact Clearbrook Today
If you or someone you know and love is currently struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, help is available.
For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing treatment solutions that have proven to be effective.
If you are in need of treatment today, please give our Admissions Specialists a call. We are available 24 hours a day to assist in all of your needs.