When you develop a substance use disorder (SUD), your life can change drastically. Major change occurs again when you start your path to recovery. Detox and inpatient treatment often are not enough on their own.
Here are some facts about addiction, and how sober living promotes change following treatment.
Substance Use Disorder as a Chronic Disease
Though stigma often paints substance abuse as a moral failing, SUD is a disease of the brain. It alters brain chemistry and reactivity. Substance use can alter the brain’s dopamine production in the following ways:
- Boosts dopamine production and transmission
- Prevents the reabsorption of dopamine
- Binds to dopamine receptors
All of these substantially change the operation of neurons in the brain. Receptors become less sensitive and sometimes shut down entirely, meaning one causes substances to even feel normal. Without normal dopamine production, you can lose motivation for healthy, everyday activities.
Brain Changes from Substance Abuse
Physical dependence on drugs and alcohol decreases the functionality of the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain responsible for impulse control. Drug-seeking behaviors increase as inhibitions decrease.
This is particularly prevalent for younger people because the prefrontal cortex is the last area to fully develop.
The amygdala becomes hyper-attuned to negative emotions. This can cause increased stress levels. That, combined with severe substance cravings, can induce repeated active usage. Some drugs also affect the brain stem which alters unconscious functions.
People dealing with SUD may experience:
- Rapid breathing or heart rate
All of these brain changes occur as a result of SUD.
The issues can become chronic, prevailing whether you are sober or in active addiction. Though substance abuse is a chronic disorder, and you will be in recovery your whole life, drug & alcohol addiction can be treated. As this disease requires life-long management, healing often requires more than just detox and the typical 30–90-day treatment stay.
This is where sober living homes come in.
Building a New Normal in Sober Living
When you develop a chronic illness, your sense of normal changes. You must alter your patterns and routines to meet your new needs. As a person newly recovering from SUD, you need to find your new normal. This may include discovering sobriety-supportive activities, new hobbies, a support system, a recovery support group, and therapy.
These changes are important to your long-term recovery.
After detox and treatment, sober living homes support you in building a new normal. Sober living homes are a great stepstone between the rigid structure of an addiction center or drug rehab and going back to your everyday life. They provide some freedom paired with a built-in accountability system.
Living here will distance you from previous environmental triggers while you begin to implement what you learned during treatment.
In these houses, you are surrounded by others working toward the same goal, which provides you with support, free time to explore sober hobbies, and group outings to build community and accountability. You will find fun activities that do not involve substances and the chance to adapt to your life in recovery.
Mindful Activities Promoted in Sober Living
New chapters of life often require new perspectives and activities. Mindfulness—a powerful tool for sobriety—is encouraged throughout treatment and in sober living homes as a way to gain perspective and promote self-care activities. Some mindful practices to consider include:
After you wake up in the morning, set aside five minutes to write down as many things as you can that you are grateful for. It can be as small as the sun rising or as big as someone helping you get to a doctor’s appointment. Anything you appreciate counts. This will ground you in the present and start your day on a positive note.
Yoga uses the body to promote mental healing. Cognitive awareness is a core element of yoga. When using it for mindfulness, the point is not to master a difficult pose or push yourself beyond your abilities. The important thing is that you keep yourself mentally connected to your body. You can do yoga individually or together with other housemates.
With limited internet and smartphone access, you will have time to reconnect with old enjoyments. Pick up some colored pencils, crayons, and a coloring book. Better yet, bring them with you to sober living. Spend time sitting and coloring a page. Focus on the way the coloring instrument feels in your hand and your emotional reaction to coloring. Coloring is a good way to slow and focus your mind on a detail-oriented task which promotes mindfulness.
This can happen anywhere and at any time. You focus on your body, starting with either the crown of your head or the tips of your toes. Guide your mind from one end of yourself to the other, taking note of sensations in each body part. Focus on loosening any tension.
Mirror Positive Self-Talk
The mirror can be your worst enemy, but it does not have to be. Whenever you find yourself looking in a mirror, state three things you like about yourself, then state three positive affirmations.
Play an Instrument and Sing
It does not matter how you sound. Play music and sing with the people around you. Music can soothe the soul, connect individuals, and allow you to stay fully present.
These all fit into the structure of sober living. They promote housemate connection and can strengthen your motivation to stay sober. You can incorporate each of these mindfulness activities into your new routine. They are also easily maintained when you decide to live independently.
SoberLivingNearYou.com Will Help You Find the Best Place to Build a New Life
SUD is a mental illness and chronic disease. It alters the chemical integrity of the brain. Once it is there, it cannot be cured, only treated and managed. As such, anyone seeking recovery from a SUD must develop new living strategies and daily practices that cater to continued sobriety. Sober living homes are a tool for developing your new routine.
Finding a sober living home can be tough, but with SoberLivingNearYou.com it doesn’t have to be. Our directory has compiled thousands of sober living listings across the United States. Finding a sober living home to restart your life in is as easy as logging in and starting your search.
Make sure your next step is the best one possible with SoberLivingNearYou.com!