Common sense tells you to take care of your body, and that is even more important in recovery. People who have had lengthy periods of time addicted neglect their bodies. They have fed all their needs, whether for food or pain relief, with drugs or alcohol. But addiction experts say that helping your body will help your recovery. Speaking at a recent meeting of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, Dr. Sharone Abramowitz said that focusing on things that improve health, not just prevent relapse, can help patients stay sober.
There are several facets to the problems of getting healthy in recovery. The first and most obvious is that drug or alcohol abuse causes problems like cirrhosis, dental problems, infections or breathing concerns. Some may go away when you stop using, but others require attention. Second, if you have problems like type 2 diabetes, arthritis or some other chronic condition, you may ignore it or have self-medicated it with drugs or alcohol. Third, when addiction is the priority, healthy diets fall by the wayside. Your body can compensate for a poor diet in youth, but it has a greater impact as you get older.
When other health conditions pop up, the recovering addict is doubly vulnerable. They automatically want to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. They may also have a sense of hurt or betrayal by their bodies, with a reaction of: “I am doing the right things now, how can this go wrong? I don’t deserve this.”
How do you handle health in recovery? It is one more piece of the puzzle. A normal life you have to learn to lead. Other people figure out how to take care of themselves, pay their bills and see the dentist when they have to. People in recovery can, too.
You have a plan for attending meetings and finding a sponsor. A plan for getting back into a normal life with a job, family and friends. Add taking care of yourself to the mix. Start with a physical with a primary care doctor and say: “I haven’t seen a doctor in a long time and I’ve been through addiction treatment, so how is my body doing?”
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