Addiction Recovery and Fatigue
Addiction recovery and fatigue often go hand in hand.
It is common to lose your momentum when going through addiction recovery. It makes perfect sense – depression and anxiety can sap at your will, robbing you of energy and motivation.
However, today, we are going to talk about addiction recovery and overcoming fatigue. By fatigue, we mean it as distinct entity from the listlessness that depressives know all too well. We are referring to lethargy, tiredness, bone-deep weariness.
Your body goes through a lot during recovery. It can overwhelm you and leave you feeling tired all the time. Tackling this tiredness can be as much a battle as recovery itself. This is especially the case if you’re recovering from addiction to something you took to give yourself energy – cocaine, speed, caffeine, or any other stimulant.
It is helpful to understand this fatigue as you go through recovery. It is helpful to know how to cope with it.
What is addiction recovery fatigue?
What are we talking about when we talk about addiction recovery and fatigue?
In short, of course, we might simply mean getting more tired than usual as a result of the recovery process. This is enough to floor anyone – recovery can be brutal and it can knock you for six.
However, it goes a bit deeper than this. It is a fair amount more complicated.
Addiction, fatigue, and the price your body pays
Firstly, addiction itself is tiring. Your body has dealt for however long with a constant flow of toxic chemicals. It has been bombarded with uppers, downers, chemicals to filter and process, chemicals that stop it from performing its natural processes. That’s before we add fatigue from the emotional and mental trauma associated with addiction.
Your body will be fairly beaten up by the process on day one of addiction recovery. The process of trying to keep yourself physically and mentally fit through addiction will have exhausted your body’s energy stores.
Addiction can mask this. However, as you quit and go through the addiction recovery process, this fatigue hits home.
When you stop substance misuse, your body and mind will be able to start to repair themselves. This takes a huge amount of energy. Though you may think of it as a passive process that simply happens as you go about your daily life, addiction recovery and the process of bodily repair cause a great deal of fatigue.
It has to cleanse itself of the toxic chemicals and undo the damage done by those same chemicals. Your body needs to mend many systems that have been overly stressed by your addiction. Malnourishment, common in addiction, makes this worse.
It is worth noting the spectre of adrenal fatigue during addiction recovery. Your adrenal glands play a massive role in regulating your emotional and physical health. They are generally greatly overtaxed by addiction.
When your adrenal glands become overly fatigued, the rest of your body suffers. Other systems within your body can suffer too. This is because your adrenal glands utilize fat reserves for energy, balance blood sugar levels, help to combat stress and fatigue, help to maintain healthy immune function, and regulate your fight or flight response.
These systems quite often get unbalanced during addiction and recovery. This means that you might be adding blood sugar instability, with the intense energy crashes and sugar cravings associated with it, an inability to deal with stress, and poor immune health added to the strain of addiction recovery.
Addiction recovery and emotional fatigue
Addiction recovery is far from a simple physical process. It is a profoundly emotional journey with plenty of mental stress involved.
Emotional stress during addiction recovery is a large part of the fatigue you might experience. It can use up a lot of your body’s energy stores, whilst also overwhelming you mentally and cognitively. In fact, it will likely feel like a more real, more present drain than the physical aspect of recovery.
To help nip it in the bud – or, at least, to put a bit of damage control into place – it is a good idea to seek some form of counselling. This can be from a professional therapist conducting one-to-one meetings. They can help you through the triggering, anxiety-inducing events that will crop up throughout the process. It can be group therapy, either in a professional setting or at a local community group, with people whose similar experiences and ability to listen will be very helpful.
Dealing with Addiction Recovery Fatigue
It’s not all doom-and-gloom. If you’re partway through your addiction recovery, you probably have more fatigue to come. However, the process doesn’t last forever. In fact, you will have already begun the process of repair. There are also plenty of things you can do during the addiction recovery process to both lessen the fatigue and to make it more manageable.
Prepare for addiction recovery fatigue
We all know the cliché – fail to prepare and prepare to fail. It holds true in most circumstances, no more so than in addiction recovery. It applies to managing your addiction recovery fatigue as much as any other facet.
A large part of this preparation is just learning and accepting what you will be going through and planning around it. There is a high, high chance that you are going to experience lethargy and fatigue as you go through early recovery. If you are prepared for this, it will make it easier to take part in regular, daily tasks. Also, understanding that you will be working sub-optimally for a few weeks or months, and adjusting your schedule to account for that will help immensely.
Lean into it, if you need to. Don’t try to push through your fatigue on days on which that just isn’t going to happen. Rather, take the time out if you can. Rest, relax and recover.
Get to know your body
Your body will be going through a lot of stress as it goes through addiction recovery and the fatigue that ensues.
After the detox process, your hormonal and chemical balances will be a lot different. This will cause a lot of stress. It will be responding to this stress in many ways, of which excess fatigue is simply one symptom.
You need to support your body, not fight it. Your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) will be higher than average. In turn, this will impact your adrenal glands, which we have seen. They will be overworked, which will cause adrenal fatigue, resulting in brain fog and exhaustion in both the mind and body.
It is important that you understand this. You are not being sloppy. It isn’t lazy to be overtired. You should give into it sometimes. It is also a good idea to do everything you can to optimise your recovery, giving your body everything it needs to overcome this fatigue so that you can get back to living your best life.
Live healthily through addiction recovery fatigue
There are, of course, things you can put in place to help you diminish the effects of fatigue. Certain factors will come into play that will make your fatigue worse. These include poor nutrition, a lack of good quality sleep, low activity levels, too much caffeine, and excess amounts of stress.
Eliminate these if you can. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins. Try to go to bed at a reasonable time every evening, allowing for 7-9 hours of sleep before you have to get up again. Take part in daily exercise, no matter how extreme or gentle. A half hour stroll through your local park can help to lower your stress levels and tire you out for a good, deep sleep.
If you can, avoid excess caffeine intake. This can be hard, especially for those coming off of uppers like cocaine and speed. However, it will help you in the long run, giving you more energy, if you can stick to a maximum of just a couple of cups daily.
Finally, if you can, try to cut out excess stress. Addiction recovery and life in general are inherently stressful, so you won’t be able to avoid it entirely. However, if you can keep yourself out of additionally stressful situations, you will find your fatigue reducing quite drastically.
Form a routine and persevere
It may be very hard to cope with adrenal fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and the cravings that come hand in hand with addiction recovery. However, persevering will pay off. Make your recovery your first priority, allowing other things to sink to the background. That way, any energy you do have will be used for your addiction recovery, letting other things fall by the wayside as you suffer from lethargy.
With this in mind, really zero in on what we have spoken about. Get good quality nutrition going. Try to get outdoors and/or exercise a little every day. Keep your stress levels to a minimum and sleep as much as you can, or as much as you need.
This will be easier to do if you keep a bit of a tight schedule. You will find these healthy habits easier to stick to. They will actually begin to complement one another, rather than wrestling for supremacy.
Plan your food out ahead of time. Get a good week’s shopping in and make sure you can manage with preparing each dish. Schedule your meals. Set aside a little time each day to go for a walk or head to the gym, or whatever form of activity best suits you. Make sure that you aren’t drinking caffeine too late in the day, then go to bed at the same time every day.
You are already suffering with fatigue. Making choices is tiring on top of this, so take the choice away.
Making a simple and practical plan each and every morning with two or three things you want to achieve will help you to stay on track. It can be as simple as attending a meeting, getting washed and dressed and out for a walk. You don't need to overburden yourself in the early days, so keep it simple and achievable.
A final word on addiction recovery fatigue
Whilst it is extremely common to suffer from periods of fatigue in addiction recovery, there can be causes that cannot be fixed by altering your lifestyle alone. If your fatigue is ongoing and debilitating, its always best to see a healthcare professional. A routine blood test will reveal if anything is askew.
A simple trip to your doctor can also help you to access counselling and assess you for mental health conditions that could be contributing to your tiredness. Its best to rule out the obvious as soon as possible. You can then refocus on your recovery, knowing that all bases are covered.
For classes on addiction recovery wellbeing, including exercise, nutrition and meditation, join our Recoverlution Wellness hub. Our Wellness hub is dedicated to helping you achieve optimum health, physically, mentally and spiritually during your addiction recovery.
Reducing Cortisol: How to keep you stress in check
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