Speaking with thousands of people a year, I hear some of the same worries very frequently. On the top of the list of topics I receive, the number one question I often hear is, "Will it ever get better"? This question stems from the fear of doing so much damage to one's brain from abusing opioids, that they may never feel normal again. Another reason for this question is the fear that by abusing opioids for so long, their idea of “normal” may be outstretched by an over stimulation of their brain. It is a very serious fear and I was very aware of it myself when getting clean.
When I first went into treatment over 4 and half years ago, my main fear was the same. I was so worried that I may never be happy again. That everything I did from here on out would be boring or non-climatic. For the previous 3 years, I had been blasting my body with opiates to make me feel good or better yet, “normal.” What kind of damage did I do to myself?
When you start to witness the hell you feel during withdrawal, you may wonder if the feeling is going to last forever. How am I supposed to function at a job or take care of my family when I have absolutely no energy? My mood swings were back and forth and I couldn't be social because the last thing in the world I wanted to do was strike-up a conversation with anyone. I felt like a mummy and didn't want to do anything at all.
All of these feelings are completely normal. When going through withdrawal you may feel that life will never be happy again and that you may never be a social person again. You can't even imagine smiling or being happy for any reason. The future seems so bleak and terrible. This is all because your brain chemicals are completely out of sync, and it takes time for them to get back to normal levels. This may be a slow process for some, but every minute that you don't use, your brain is working to bring you back to a normal level. The great news is that you WILL get your energy back and you WILL be happy again in the near future. Take this time to log all of your feelings in a journal so you can see the improvement over time.
This dark time in recovery is a very unstable one. A time in which you should seek out support from people who have been through this before and who can keep you on track when you want to quit. Keeping a journal of your emotions and thoughts is an outstanding way to therapuetically put all of your feelings on paper and also take a huge burden off of keeping it all in. It is a great tool to go back to if you ever get cravings. For a lot of people, reading how they felt in the beginning of recovery can steer them away from doing something they will regret. One great thing about the human brain is that it tends to forget the pain we go through fairly quickly. This journal will keep your mind green and help you stay vigilant.
The reality is you have done some damage to your brain. It takes time for your brain to heal and during this time you will have your ups and downs mentally. But never quit because your freedom is right around the corner.