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Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting Over An Addiction in New Ways

Aerobic weight-training- Getting into an exercise program such as The FIRM (especially the DVDs from 2005 and prior), Leslie Sansone or Cathe Friedrich can really provide dramatic results both mentally and physically.  Aerobic exercise and weight-training each offer a lot of benefits; combined with some abdominal training and athletic stretches, it is often the only vigorous exercise a person needs to maintain a healthy weight when done five to six days a week.  Requiring only the workout DVD, a few small sets of dumbbells, an exercise mat and maybe an exercise step, it can be modified to nearly any fitness level.  Since it can be done at home, there's no fear to be had that you'll have to be seen working out by others.  There's also then no hassle about having to drive to and from a gym.  The psychological sense of well-being can be just as imperative to recovery as the return of physical fitness, and a moderate exercise program will give you some of each.  Combined with clean eating, lots of fresh water and proper vitamin/mineral supplementation, it offers a foundation for physical recovery that very little else can compete with in terms of results.  It's an activity to put nervous energy into and will help relieve depression (at least for a little while).  Start slow and work your way up as your energy and focus allows.  Obviously, the first couple of days of withdrawal probably won't allow for a thirty- to sixty-minute exercise routine to be performed, but after the initial worst days (and depending upon your starting condition) it can be done.  Even if all you can do is five minutes of the workout, every day that you do a little something and at least start the work of rebuilding your body, you'll be making huge strides.  Don't compete with anyone but yourself!

Air, HVAC and water filtration- The eyes, sinuses and skin can get extremely testy during withdrawal.  Besides keeping your home as free from ammonia or bleach fumes, dirt, dust, mildew and mold as possible through regular housecleaning, filtration of common areas of impurities can make a difference in how you feel.  No, filters aren't a cure-all, but reducing allergens and chemicals in the air and water can do nothing but help.  Websites like Amazon, Lowes or Home Depot can provide you with the filters and air cleaners which have the best track record and reviews in these areas. 

Appreciate and revel in the change of seasons or holiday periods- Not every climate experiences such changes, but if you're lucky enough to have them, celebrate them!  I love autumn, personally, so I'm adoring this period of time.  Burning autumn-themed scented candles, reveling in the beautiful foliage in all it's brilliant colors by taking walks or just looking outdoors and also decorating my home for the season are my ways of enjoying this lovely time of year.  I won't kid you- sometimes you'll have to fake the enjoyment a bit.  But the point is to notice the seasons, the climate, the sounds and sights of nature again.  To look outside of ourselves and get involved in the world again.  To appreciate the trouble people go to when they decorate for the season, be it Christmas lights, dyeing Easter Eggs or putting pumpkins out on their front porch for autumn.  Take notice in the thoughtfulness of people around you, who try to make the world beautiful and do unselfish things for others.  Enjoy holiday-specific coffee or cocoa at your favorite coffeehouse.  There are lots of ways to appreciate the nice things in the world around us.  Withdrawal, insomnia, depression and anxiety can be isolating and make us more self-involved, however powerless we may be about it.  You may have to force yourself to ignore the desire just to go hide out somewhere in the midst of those feelings.  But it's worth the trouble to try and do so.

Aspirin- Not everyone can take this, but if your stomach and other internal organs can handle it, aspirin can be a real help during this time.  Ibuprofen is better for the stomach, I suppose (in small amounts), but that medicine doesn't work for everyone.  I think aspirin is especially good when fighting joint inflammation, body aches, headaches and fever/chills during withdrawal.  Some people find relief in ibuprofen, but some feel no relief from that drug at all.  Some people don't even bother to try NSAIDs anymore, heading to the big guns of opiates, benzos or alcohol for pain relief first.  I think that this is a mistake.  Even when they're OTC, though, remember that each NSAID has different properties, side effects, advantages and drawbacks- research them carefully before buying and ingesting.

Aura Cacia Fragrance Mist, Lavender- This can be spritzed on sheets, blankets and pillows right before you go to sleep.  It aids in relaxing the mind- something anyone who experiences insomnia needs, especially those going through withdrawal.  If your sinuses are acting up badly in withdrawal, which often happens, you might want to skip using this until that symptom is gone.  I believe that spraying this right before nodding off is the final step in good sleep hygiene.

Aveeno Stress Relief Body Wash and Mositurizing Lotion- A blend of lavender, ylang-ylang and chamomile, using these products before bedtime (or any time you're stressed out) can ease tension and leave you feeling refreshed.  I find the fragrance light and unobtrusive to others, yet it stays with me enough to be worth using.

Beautiful fresh flowers or something else lovely for your physical space- Don't discount the small stuff- there's a reason why people in hospitals are given flowers, candy or a cuddly and cute stuffed animal.  It doesn't need to be expensive; roses or other flowers which are only a day old but still completely new-looking are often deeply discounted in grocery stores.  A small stuffed animal can be a cheerful little addition to a an otherwise drab and painful time.  Any interest you can take up in a new painting, horticulture, going to a museum or something else that's beautiful to be around is both a distraction and a pleasure during tough times like this.  I don't have a garden, but I buy fresh flowers once a month or so to fill my home with a little beauty.  It can really transform a room visually, too.

Body powder, Head & Shoulders shampoo with pyrithione zinc, anti-fungal spray and antibiotic ointment- Increased sweating and the flushing out of impurities from within the body can lead to fungal and other infections during and after withdrawal.  Conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis can flare up during this period, so be prepared (this is what the Head & Shoulders is for).  This won't be true for everyone, but besides showering or bathing every day and staying cool with a high-quality fan, an absorbent body powder can really help prevent clammy skin and skin infections which breed from the skin being too damp.  I like Ammens Shower Fresh best- I find it's the most absorbent.  In withdrawal, sensitive skin can be especially prone to drying out, peeling, cracking and rashes.  Having some antibiotic ointment like Neosporin on hand can help when facial or body moisturizer doesn't cut it.  I recommend using a non-fragranced, designed-for-sensitive-skin moisturizer.  Many people do well with pure extra-virgin oils (like coconut) or pure body butters made without extra chemicals (like shea butter).  Watch out for parabens and other common skin/systemic irritants if you have sensitive skin.  This might be a good time to lay off of haircoloring, makeup and nail polish (if applicable), because your sinuses and skin might be more sensitive than usual for awhile. 

Ear plugs and/or eye mask- This isn't something that I've heard discussed before, but there's nothing worse than trying to get some elusive sleep only to find the dawn of day, headlights or even a nightlight keeping you up.  Equally, even the slightest noise can be disturbing when only light, fitful sleep is possible (and only for a short period of time at that).  Besides using a fan for white noise and sweat relief, I think that having a soft eye mask and good ear plugs can be the difference between five or six hours of steady sleep and no sleep at all.  I have no scientific proof that this is true, either, but I do know that insomnia can be the worst of all withdrawal symptoms (acute and post-), a lack of sleep certainly contributes to the body and mind healing more slowly and probably increases the withdrawal pains themselves.  Withdrawal can be so much harder to sit through without quality sleep, so anything that can be done to prevent the causes of insomnia can't be thought of too highly.  Hearos ear plugs are the best ones I've seen and used.  The come in different "strengths" and are easily found in many drugstores, grocery stores and through online vendors.  Similarly, soft sleep masks with either elastic or Velcro bands to hold them in place can be found without much trouble.  Look for the ones that get the best reviews- I think Dreamtime's lavender sleep mask is quite nice, has minimal scent and isn't uncomfortable even for stomach sleepers who have their face to a pillow all night long.  For less than $20, an eye mask and ear plugs can provide you with some rather inexpensive and non-drug-based sleep help.

Focus on your sleep hygiene, especially if insomnia is a problem- Don't settle for an uncomfortable bed.  Your bedroom should be cool and peaceful.  Keep your bed made with high-quality pillows, sheets and blankets.  Having several light blankets that you can layer on or take off is best during withdrawal, when you alternate frequently between being hot and cold.  Start your bedtime routine before you get to feeling dead tired at night!  If you're going to take any mineral supplements or nighttime herbs, do so now.  Decide whether you want to shower at night or in the morning.  Nighttime showers or baths can be great because then it'll take less time to get ready in the a.m.  If you don't shower or bathe at night, then remove your makeup (if applicable) and wash your face.  Brush and floss your teeth.  Get into comfy nightclothes that allow your skin to breathe and your limbs freedom of movement.  Make a cup of bedtime-related tea (see below).  Turn off all but one light to read or write by.  Grab a relaxing book to read or your journal and engage in that until you're quite sleepy.  Now is not the time to watch TV, work on your laptop or play around on your cell phone- your brain and eyes need to get a break from the light emitted from these electronics.  You don't have to pick a set bedtime- but that doesn't hurt.  Turn the alarm clock away from your view before turning off the light so that you won't focus on what time it is during the night.  Turn on your bedroom fan if you need the white noise and/or the air circulation.  Spritz your relaxing fragrance spray on your bedding.  Put in your ear plugs, put on your hand lotion and sleep mask if desired.  If you don't fall asleep after a long while of laying in bed, turn on one soft light and go back to reading or writing until you do feel sleepy.  If you're suffering from insomnia, try not to get horribly upset.  While it may feel like the lack of sleep will go on for eternity, that will pass.  Your body will get back to normal eventually.  In the meantime, focus on setting up your lifestyle to support healthy, restful sleep.  Be proactive and continue building the habits that facilitate rest.  The brain can be retrained to help you fall asleep more easily, but it takes doing these steps every night (preferably in the same order each time) for awhile before your mind will get the message.  Don't give up on creating good sleep hygiene, because sleep can really be imperative in healing the body and mind.

Going to church, synagogue or some other house of worship- While not first on every one's list, I still believe that going to a spiritual center of some kind once or twice a week can be a big aid in recovery for many, especially in the period right after acute withdrawal.  Will it work for everyone?  Probably not.  But daily prayer, a short Bible study or devotional reading each day and the dedication of one's life to a higher power can make a difference for some people.  Regular worship services can provide a sense of community, a new social outlet and a much-needed charitable spirit for some people.  It can provide a way to get your mind off of yourself for awhile, especially while you're involved in service opportunities.  Similarly, offering your time and skills at a charity or community event can provide a deep sense of satisfaction, perspective and measurable progress often elusive in day-to-day life.  (Building houses with Habitat for Humanity is one such example.)  Alternately, getting involved in political, environmental and/or community outreach programs that are deeply meaningful to you can get you over the anxiety, depression, sense of time dragging on endlessly and self-pity that can plague many (ex-) addicts.  At the very least, such activities make the days and nights pass by faster, fill up a calendar rather quickly and get things done that many in society have no time for or interest in.

Have a trip or vacation to look forward to- While I know this isn't possible for everyone, at least not in the immediate future, planning for a trip can be a great distraction from the myriad withdrawal woes and I believe will rebuild some of the positive brain feelings you've been missing.  It should be a trip that you're truly interested in for your own personal reasons.  The mere act of beginning to set the wheels in motion- even if a trip currently seems impossible- can cause the universe to act in interesting ways towards getting you that vacation.  Research the places you want to see specifically, brush up on foreign language or culture skills (if applicable), read Internet articles and books from those who've already been to the region, browse through hotels, research the restaurants, check out the local sport activities available.  You never know- you may find an inexpensive cruise or plane trip to the area you want to go to while doing this perusing.  You don't have to set a specific date to go unless you want to, but go about it as if you'll be traveling there sometime within the next year even if it's just an imaginary trip for right now.  Having an interest in a culture and language other than your own can be a great starting point for determining where you'd like to visit.  I'd recommend that if you're doing this purely out of imagination, you pick a place that'll take a lot of research (and thus a lot of time and mental investment on your part) to plan.  The more involved you can get your brain and heart, the better.

Hot and cold packs- A wrap that you can microwave is great during these times of achy muscles, bones that feel as if they're about to disintegrate and chills.  A cold pack or ice bag is good for the times when you're sweating, cannot seem to cool down and feel inflammation.  I find that a cold wrap lying on an upset tummy can make a difference.  Warm or cold wraps which have a washable cover are the most desirable.  Not to sound like a broken record, but Dreamtime's wraps can be put in the freezer or the microwave, have a washable cover and a pleasant but light fragrance which make them cozy for use.  Alternately, you could use a hot water bottle.

Hyland's Relax Calf and Foot Cramps, Tablets or tonic water- Any product containing quinine can help with the dreaded, lingering restless leg and calf cramps that hit almost everyone during withdrawal.  The tablets are little and can be dissolved under the tongue- no horse pills to swallow.  The tablets or tonic water are completely harmless and can really help.  Tonic water also helps (obviously) with dehydration, which the frequent urination and diarrhea during withdrawal can cause.

If doing household chores, running errands and getting organized is difficult (especially just the sheer fact of getting started), consider joining FlyLady or a similar program- While not appealing to everyone, is a decent website to peruse and sends out daily emails which can provide motivation and structure for getting one's home and life back in order.  While things like making a bed after getting up, doing a quick bathroom cleanup daily or washing dishes every night after dinner every night are easy for some people to maintain, not everyone feels that way.  Very artistic, creative types who struggle with focus and life management need reminders to do things around the house sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with them.  While I don't think it's a good idea to get locked into any lifestyle or mindset that's too rigid, I don't see that any harm can come from these simple but powerful daily chores.  Even small routines can be overwhelming and exhausting during withdrawal and for awhile afterwards, but the little bit of physical exercise and slight feeling of accomplishment which comes with completing each chore can go a long way physically and mentally.  Doing these chores will also help pass the time and give you something new to put your mind on for a little bit of time each day.  De-cluttering can be very empowering and provides one with gratification and pleasure that's hard to come by other.

Once your brain fog dissipates some, make a list of the areas in your home and life that you want to de-clutter, clean and/or organize.  Read articles, blogs and books on the subject(s) within these realms that appeal to you.  If getting paperwork under control has been an ongoing issue, this can be a great time to set up a file cabinet with hanging file and manila folders, sort through and purge through the old papers and empty out those packed-with-paper areas so that the storage can be put to better use.  Even starting with something small like cleaning out your purse or backpack can provide a sense of getting something positive done in your life, which everyone (recovering or not) needs every day to be happy.

Make a list of all the benefits you're coming across from quitting- These are going to vary from person to person and it'll also depend on what drug(s) you're trying to get off of.  But list it all, preferably as they happen so you won't forget.  A reminder of these positive things which are occurring can be what keeps you from going back to the drug you've worked so hard to get off of.  Some of these things will happen during immediate withdrawal days, while others are only going to come from staying off of the drug long-term.  Not every drug is the same, but here are some examples:

- Long-term bloating from face and body has gone away
- Pressure on knee and ankle joints is eliminated (probably from the water and fecal weight that's diminished)
- Lack of enthusiasm for doing household chores is gone
- There's a desire to be out and about coming back, even mundane things like shopping at the grocery store
- Interest in reading has returned
- No longer over-sleeping
- Desire to meditate daily has come back
- Thoughts which were consuming while on the drug or medication have become far less so, making objective decision-making possible again

Pepto-Bismol- While I've heard loperamide mentioned often and Dramamine even mentioned a few times, Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets aren't something I've read of being used.  However, I think they help with the achy stomach, diarrhea, burping and acidic feeling that can come from withdrawal.  While everyone's experience is different, stomach and intestinal discomfort can linger on well after the other withdrawal symptoms are gone, so having every tool in the belt which can calm such issues is imperative.  A chewable tablet which doesn't taste horrid can be a bit more tolerable to digest when you just can't stand swallowing one more pill, too.

Spending time with pets, especially play time- A pet's unconditional love, need for exercise and sweet purity of spirit can be so uplifting.  Yes, it can be tiring at first to go out for a long walk, toss around a Frisbee or play, "Grab the long red ribbon until you're tuckered out" game, but it's worth it.  Drug dependence can make a person apathetic to their pet(s).  I think one of the chief joys of getting off of such chemical dependency can be a reawakening of love and concern for other beings- and a sweet, non-judgmental animal can provide an easy source of comfort that no human being can quite deliver all the time.  If you're getting outside, too, it'll provide fresh air, exercise and sunshine to you.

Tissues with lotion- The sneezing, sinus drainage and watery eyes during withdrawal can be just insane.  Be prepared with LOTS of tissues, like a big old box in every room!  The kind with lotion seem gentler on the nose and delicate eye area.  I like Puffs brand, but to each their own.

Vicks Dayquil- This is basically acetaminophen and a couple of decent sinus-clearing ingredients.  Sinuses can really act up during withdrawal.  I find that this medication eases allergy symptoms, sinus headaches, low energy and overall body pain.  The liquid caps are easy to swallow and seem pretty easy on the stomach as long as you've eaten and are drinking plenty of fluids.

Walking- I believe that there are several benefits to starting a walking program (or jogging, running, cycling, hiking, swimming- whatever you are fit enough to do and really enjoy).  For one thing, it gets the endorphins going, which is so important during withdrawal and post-withdrawal.  It can help alleviate anxiety and depression to get those endorphins going.  Secondly, aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and can help repair certain types of heart damage that's been caused by addiction and/or poor self-care.  Third, setting goals- such as aiming to walk farther, faster or for a longer period of time every week- is an important part of addiction recovery.  It's another thing to help take the mind off of cravings.  Spending thirty to sixty minutes in aerobic activity each day can help relieve some restless leg and leg cramp symptoms, at least for people who do not have major physical ailments to start with such as arthritis.  Walking each day passes time- and anyone who's been through withdrawal can certainly attest that time seems to go by with painful slowness during that process.  It can strengthen the legs, improving their appearance.  Increased aerobic activity can aid in weight loss.  It can stimulate the appetite in those who've been struggling with a lack of desire to eat (or lots of nausea).  As long as what you're eating is healthy and balanced, full of nutrition, then that's a good thing!  Startly slowly if you're very out of shape and/or weak.  Maybe just aim for ten minutes a day at first.  Walking outdoors is spectacular- you're getting time out in nature (hopefully-this might not be true if you're living in a big metropolis).  On sunny days, you're getting much-needed vitamin D from the sun.  Even in the city, you get to go out and explore the sights with all of your senses intact again.  A regular walking program may lead you to taking up hiking- a wonderful activity that can be a lifelong passion and adventure.

Writing- Whether it's in a journal, blog or for other creative purposes, writing provides a way to both purge the brain and pass the time.  Buying a beautiful hand-bound leather journal, starting a new blog on a topic that fascinates you or doing creative writing for the first time can be symbolic to the mind and body that you're making a fresh start in life.  Writing every night before bed can be another tool towards winding the brain and body down.

Yogi Herbal Supplement Tea, Bedtime or Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea- Yet another step in preparing for bed, but this is another gentle reminder to the body and mind that it's time to wind down in the evening.  If you're urinating a lot while in withdrawal (especially at night), you might want to skip this step- at least for awhile.  Once that common symptom is resolved, a nice cup of iced or hot tea (whatever your preference is) settles one's system nicely. 

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