“People with the most success in staying sober tend to get involved in a range of pleasurable activities and do them frequently…Just like the rewarding feelings that follow the use of drugs or alcohol in the early stages lead to forming a damaging habit, rewarding healthy behaviors can establish positive habits.”
~Dr. Suzette Glasner-Edwards, Ph.D., author of The Addiction Recovery Skills Workbook: Changing Addictive Behaviors Using CBT, Mindfulness, and Motivational Interviewing Techniques
Many of the typical people you might find in the average Colorado alcohol or drug rehab program spend a great deal of time during early recovery in abject misery, mistakenly believing that the “fun” part of their life is over, because from now on, they will have to deprive themselves of the only thing that made them feel good.
Consciously, most people starting a journey of sobriety understand that their efforts are a cause for optimism and celebration. On a biological level, however, those same people might find themselves temporarily unable to feel positive or happy about anything.
Addiction Disrupts the Ability to Feel Pleasure
When an addiction is active, dopamine—the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward—is released in massive quantities every time drugs or alcohol are consumed. Over time, the body becomes virtually unable to produce or release dopamine without the presence of the intoxicating substance. This is one of the factors that drives addiction.
So, when the drug/alcohol is discontinued, for the next several days, weeks, and often, MONTHS, the person new to recovery will find himself physically incapable of feeling happy—or even normal. Even hobbies and activities that used to be enjoyable will bring little to no happiness.
It can be easier to deal with this emotional lassitude when the person understands that these negative, blunted feelings are perfectly normal. It will take time for the brain to adjust to the absence of the drugs and alcohol.
The Positive Alternative to Misery During Recovery
In her recent book, Dr. Suzette Glasner-Edwards, who serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, describes a new strategy in the battle to treat addiction—Behavioral Activation Therapy.
What is Behavioral Activation Therapy and How Does it Help in the Treatment of Addiction?
Depression is often associated with substance abuse, either as a causal factor, a co-occurring disorder, or as a temporary condition resulting from dopamine disruption. Behavioral activation therapy is one of the best ways to treat depression.
During addiction treatment, this type of therapy focuses on “jump-starting” body’s production of dopamine by having the patient to focus on engaging in healthy, pleasurable activities.
“Just Get Out There and Do It”—The Motto for Treating Depression During Addiction Recovery
In the best addiction recovery programs in the Denver, Colorado, area, patients are encouraged to resume any previously-enjoyed activities and hobbies or take up new ones:
- Begin an exercise program
- Attend plays
- Visit local museums
- Host a sober party
- Take up a new sport—bowling, roller skating, rec league basketball, etc.
- Go back to school, or even just enroll in a class—for fun
Of course, these are only suggestions. It can be any activity, as long as it is expected to be enjoyable.
At the onset, these new activities won’t be very fun because of the dopamine disruption, but over time, they will become more enjoyable. In the meantime, there are ways to make sure that they don’t seem like “chores”.
How to Make Behavioral Activation Therapy Work for You
People in recovery always benefit from structure, so the FIRST thing to do is pick a specific, scheduled time for the activity.
SECOND, keep a journal of your feelings about the activity —before and after—and rate how happy/good you expect to feel while doing it. “More often than not, an activity is more fun than you thought it was going to be,” said Dr. Glasner-Edwards.
THIRD, after you complete the activity—even though it was supposed to be enjoyable—reward yourself.
This extra reward “reprograms” your brain to recognize the activity as pleasurable, reinforcing the idea that it should be repeated. This repetition of a pleasurable activity help your dopamine production return to normal that much faster.
Recovering from addiction doesn’t have to suck, because with help from the proper rehab program, there are things that you can do about it. It is possible to have a joyful recovery.
If you live in the Denver, Colorado, area and you are looking for a way to break the chains of negativity and depression during your sober journey, then you should contact the best drug and alcohol rehab that Colorado has to offer—AspenRidge Recovery.
AspenRidge combines accepted emperically-based treatment protocols with 12-Step philosophies, in order to treat your disease as it affects you as a complete person, not just a list of symptoms.
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