Dopamine and the early recovery process go hand in hand. When you’re recovering from opiate addiction, your brain is going to experience a lot of changes.
Unfortunately, many of these changes can lead to the recovery “blahs.” That can leave you feeling unmotivated, uninspired, and even depressed.
The more you understand about dopamine and the early recovery process, the easier it will be to take active steps to make your recovery go as smoothly as possible.
First, let’s look at why dopamine affects the brain so much when you have an addiction. Then, we’ll talk about how you can beat the early recovery “blahs.”
Dopamine, Drugs, and Your Brain
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter within the brain. It affects everything from sleep to concentration. What it’s most widely known for, though, is mood regulation. When you experience something good, dopamine is released into the brain. This might be something like getting a raise at work to something as simple as having your favorite dessert.
Certain drugs, like opiates, also typically cause a spike in dopamine. It creates a fast sense of satisfaction and gives your brain the message that you should feel rewarded for what you’re doing.
Because certain drugs make people feel so good, it’s not difficult to become addicted. The more you like something and the better it makes you feel, the more likely you are to do it again and again.
Unfortunately, over time, the brain becomes used to the drug and the surges of dopamine decrease. As a result, you might find yourself needing to take more of the drug or doing it more often.
Why You Experience the “Blahs”
Finding yourself in a rut during recovery is normal. It typically comes after a few weeks of abstaining from a substance. For others, though, it can happen a few months into your recovery period.
The problem with the recovery “blahs” is that they can sometimes lead to a relapse. Your brain isn’t getting the same release of dopamine that it once was, and it’s very easy to miss that feeling of pleasure, even if you’ve been off the drug for a while.
When your brain is recovering from that consistent increase in dopamine, it can be harder to feel it naturally from positive events or occurrences in your life. Additionally, you might start to feel the rush of success wearing off.
When you first start on your recovery journey and you’re committed to making a change, it’s easy to get a “high” from that. After several weeks, though, you might not get the same rush from it that you once did—even if that feeling of accomplishment is still there. Life might not feel as exciting to you as it did when you were using.
Beating the Recovery “Blahs”
So, what can you do to counteract dopamine and the early recovery problems you might face?
One of the best things is to find ways to boost dopamine in healthy ways. Create excitement for yourself if you’re feeling low or if it seems like your life is “boring” compared to what it used to be.
You don’t have to make huge changes or plan anything extravagant. Try some of the following things to get a boost of excitement:
- Start a new hobby.
- Go for coffee with an old friend.
- Play a sport.
- Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
- Go to the spa.
There are endless possibilities for finding healthy ways to increase the pleasure sensors within your brain. When you’re dealing with the recovery “blahs,” these simple things can make a big difference.
If you’re still struggling with recovery and you feel like it’s not getting easier, please contact me.
Opiate addiction is serious, and it takes time and support to get through it. Together, we can work on different ways to make the recovery process easier for you.
Visit here to learn more about how I can help.