When a person quits drinking alcohol or tries quitting any kind of addiction one is often left with an empty feeling or a kind of void or black hole; also time – minutes and hours of time to fill that were once taken up by the addiction. I’m not sure which is worse – the depression of the black hole or all that extra time. How to fill that void and fill those hours is a challenge to any recovering addict. If you are successful with this, you will likely be well on your way to recovery – if not, you will probably relapse or replace one addiction with another. For e.g. some may quit drinking but then start to smoke, gamble, or over eat. Some get hooked on addictive medications or pain killers. Some are drawn to dangerous thrill seeking or sex addictions. Notice that the new addiction may be just as destructive as the last. Why do we feel so good (we think) with an addiction and so bad when we stop?
The human brain is an extraordinary organ. It controls everything. It allows us to think, dream, solve problems, and feel emotion. When we drink, eat, or take drugs the brain then releases a chemical called dopamine which then gives us feelings of pleasure. The brain remembers this pleasure and of course wants to experience this over and over again. Let’s use food for example; we eat every day to survive and this is of course more important than any other need. But when someone drinks alcohol, the brain takes on the same need as when you eat, but this need becomes more important than any other need and eventually the addiction is so strong that nothing else matters and instead of getting pleasure from the addiction you end up depending on it just to get through the day.
Naturally we as humans love the way our brain produces the dopamine and gives us pleasure. So when someone quits drinking and doesn`t feel that pleasure anymore it can create other emotions such as sadness, anxiety, stress, and depression. Did you know that we can replace our bad addiction with a healthy one and still feel that pleasure?
Here are a few things that you can do to get that good feeling back plus fill your time with healthy choices:
• Eat healthy. Get involved with grocery shopping and cooking. Foods such as bananas, watermelon, beets, chicken, fish, and cheese help replace depleted nutrients. Most people with an alcohol addiction are malnourished, even though they swear that they eat well. Alcohol inhibits the bodies ability to absorb nutrients. Plus alcohol is full of empty calories.
• Take vitamin supplements. You aren’t going to be able to get all your nutrients from food and being deficient of vitamins and minerals affects your health in profound ways. Alcohol induced deficiencies include Folic Acid, Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12.
• Supplement Minerals. Magnesium is known to increase dopamine levels. Being deficient in magnesium can lead to anxiety, depression, muscle spasm, tremors and chronic pain. Other mineral deficiencies may include Calcium and Zinc.
• Try Ginko Biloba. Ginko Biloba contains flavonoids known to improve memory and enhance dopamine levels.
• Exercise. Have you ever heard of runners high? Vigorous exercise is a serious mood boost. Find a sport or activity that you enjoy and make it part of your weekly routine.
• Try Green Tea. Green tea contains polyphenols which can increase dopamine levels. Plus green tea is a healthy choice.
• Start a journal. Journaling is a great way to de stress, plus it keeps your thoughts from going round and round in your head. Write down your struggles, your frustrations and resentments, your goals. Journaling keeps you conscious of how you are thinking. If your thinking is getting too negative add a gratitude list to your journal.
• Meditation. Learning meditation is an art, but to keep it simple, find a quiet place and each day sit and be still. Concentrate on your breath going in and out. Try doing this for 10 minutes and then increase the time as you feel comfortable. Your brain will probably jump from one problem to another, but keep at it, and in time meditation will improve concentration and decision making and lower anxiety. If this seems too hard, and you aren’t getting anywhere with it, try Yoga.
• Do something you love. There is no better medicine in the world than being passionate about something. Return to things that you left behind because of your addiction. Get involved in your life and enjoy yourself. Laugh often.
Yes we all miss the high of our addictions. After all, if we weren’t getting something out of them, why keep them up? Stopping an addiction isn’t easy and when our moods plummet to anxiety, worry, depression and fear, it is easy to just go back to what we know. We know the addiction will make us feel better. It is the “feeling” that we want, not all the destructive behaviors that go with it. Unfortunately, chasing that “feeling” results in millions of deaths each year. Try the simple methods above to improve your chances of staying well. If these natural methods don’t work, consult a doctor for medications.