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Navigating the Emotional Challenges of Detox

The first step in addiction recovery after you’ve acknowledged the problem is to detox. Detoxing from substance abuse is no easy task, and we’d never want you to do it alone. In this blog, we navigate the emotional challenges of detox and look at the following topics:

Understanding the Emotional Impact of Detox

If detox were purely addressing the physical symptoms, it’d be much easier for people to do. In reality, detoxing a substance from your system is as emotionally draining as it is physically. It’s often accompanied by anxiety, depression, and irritability. This is due to the toxins released during detox. 

The addiction has been in control of your mind and body for so long, and now it’s suddenly being broken down and flushed out. Your system suddenly stops producing the levels of dopamine that drugs or alcohol were triggering, which can cause you to feel negative emotions – temporarily. What’s important to know is that these emotions you’re feeling are a normal part of the detox process.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Early Recovery

Detox doesn’t magically fix you. Your early stages of recovery heavily depend on the additional work you put in, including therapy, medication management, counseling, etc., whatever is best for you. 

Cravings typically peak and begin to reduce at the 48-hour mark of detox, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience cravings in the future. 

Some of the emotional detox withdrawal symptoms you may or may not experience during early recovery include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Sleeping problems
  • Seizures

We highly recommend you take part in a recovery program following your detox because of these symptoms and the high risk of relapse during this period. Your mind and body are incredibly vulnerable at this time, and you need to be in the right supportive environment. With a recovery program, you’ll learn the skills you need to stay resilient and self-aware when you feel the urge to relapse.

Common Emotional Responses in Detox

It can be scary when you don’t feel like yourself. You may be more angry than usual or fall into a deep depression. These are normal and temporary parts of detox. You must keep in mind that your being has been dependent on a substance for so long, and now that substance has been taken away, it will take time to adjust. But it’s all worth it.

Sadness and Depression

When you detox, your brain continues to crave the rewards of the substance. Because you’re not providing it with the substance, your brain halts the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical. 

As a result, feelings of sadness and depression can occur. This isn’t permanent, though; your brain will eventually adjust to making dopamine at a healthy rate. For some patients, prescription medications can help with depression if it won’t interfere with recovery or other health issues.

Anxiety and Fear

The physical symptoms of a detox may scare you, such as heart palpitations and chest pain. Along with this, you’re still dependent on the drug and unable to access it. Your brain has tricked you into believing you need your substance to survive. You may feel like all the negative symptoms you’re experiencing from detox could be fixed in an instant if only you could have the substance back. This isn’t the case. These particular emotions show why medical detox is so necessary: to have accountability and support from healthcare professionals.

Anger and Irritability

Imagine if you were dying of hunger and someone put an entire pizza in front of you, but you’re not allowed to eat it. You’d begin to feel frustration and possibly anger. In the same way, when your body is craving a substance and you’re not providing it, it can result in irritation, frustration, and anger. You’re “hangry” for that substance rather than food because it’s been fulfilling a psychological and physical need for so long.

Detox is a draining process on your physical and mental health, but you must keep your eyes on the horizon. It’s not until you’ve fully detoxed that you can begin to see how wonderful life is when you’re not stuck in an addictive trance.

Strategies for Coping with Emotional Challenges

At Harmony Junction Recovery, we incorporate holistic practices into our addiction treatments to aid in emotional management. Many of these can be taken home and used when you’re feeling overwhelmed, such as mindfulness training and journaling.

The Power of Mindfulness and Meditation

Being mindful means you’re present and grounded in the moment. This is much more difficult than it sounds, especially during detox, where it can feel like an emotional turmoil rollercoaster.

Some of the mindfulness activities that we practice with our patients include deep breathing, guided imagery, and yoga. There’s a purpose to our practices too. Whether you’re still in treatment or you’re back at home, you will experience cravings from time to time. 

A sudden craving is typically accompanied by impulsivity and a loss of control. When these moments occur, you can use the tools learned from mindfulness to ground yourself. Bring yourself back down to earth and remind yourself of your goal for long-term sobriety.

Practical Mindfulness Exercises

  • Deep breathing
  • Guided imagery
  • A focus on each of the five senses
  • Drawing without a goal
  • Nature walks
  • Sitting meditation

The Benefits of Expressive Writing

The average human has around 70,000 thoughts daily. The vast majority of these thoughts are never spoken out loud and may stay suppressed. With expressive writing, you can move thoughts from your mind to paper. 

Why do this in rehab? 

A lot of patients have built up negative emotions surrounding their past, their addiction, and even those who’ve enabled them. When these thoughts stay static in your mind, it can lead to resentment, frustration, and an inability to let go of the past.

Expressive writing is a therapeutic tool that helps you process your emotions and physically bring thoughts to life on paper. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back, and that means you get to leave it there and move forward with life. It may seem like a lot for simply journaling, but the effects of putting pen to paper have seen significant positive results in rehabilitation.

The Importance of Support Systems

When you rely solely on yourself, you’re going to see your downfall real fast. That’s not to say you can’t be independent or strong-minded, but rather to point out the controlling aspects of addiction.

During detox, there will be good days, bad days, and days when you feel like giving up. That’s where your support system keeps you accountable for your sobriety. Whether that’s family, friends, or an AA or NA sponsor, support is key to your success.

Leveraging Professional Support

We never want to leave you hanging after your treatment with us. Harmony Junction’s After Care program includes therapy, support groups, group work, and sober living so you can continue in your recovery.

Embracing the Journey: Emotional Growth in Recovery

Detox may be challenging, but you don’t have to view it as an impossible feat. Embrace your recovery journey and take pride in each small step you make. Seek professional support with Harmony Junction today.

“Believe you can, and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt