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Recovery From Drug Addiction

posted 22 Sept 2010, 06:02 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 Sept 2010, 06:03 ]

I am glad folks are curious and searching for information on
recovery from drug addiction.

Recovery is an emotional, physical, cognitive, and spiritual
process, and happens inside forever, once the commitment to
such a powerful change is made. It is wrenching to change
all those habits at once. Eventually though, with new
programs installed in your brain and habits established, it
is possible to maintain a maintenance regimen.

External changes like a new job, or a new car, or a new
relationship are sometimes used to measure drug addiction
recovery, because there are only feeling and thinking
metrics to judge the internal process, until one has some
experience with that internal process.

After hitting your bottom, most folks are not sure how much
credibility they can place in their own thoughts and
perceptions, since those are the thoughts and perceptions
which got them into trouble in the first place.

So perhaps the first step is the physical detox, which can
take some time depending on the drug of choice. At this
stage, supervision by a medical expert may be very

During this stage the body, which is designed to function in
a very healthy way, and heal itself if given the correct
fuel, will begin to right itself, including resuming
neurogenesis, which is the growth of new brain cells.

New brain cells will be in great demand as the neurons
recalibrate and close up receptors which were opened to
handle the metabolization of recreational chemicals. It will
take some time for the brain to replace the wear and tear,
but rest assured, it is working to build new cells.

As the brain rights itself physically, then thinking
patterns can begin to be addressed, which involves another
critical capacity of the human brain, neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is a term used to describe the brains
ability to rewire and reconnect itself in a ceaseless search
for more effective connections and more effective circuits
for maintaining survival behavior.

At this point, someone in treatment, or someone who has
sought out AA, NA, or another 12 step program or counseling
will begin to address the thinking components of recovery,
which involve the neuroplasticity of the human brain.

Sharon Begley in her book, Train Your Mind, Change Your
Brain, speaks to how attention to what we are paying
attention to changes your brain.

This is an excerpt from an article that she wrote for the
Wall Street Journal;

"Through attention, UCSF's Michael Merzenich and a colleague
wrote, "We choose and sculpt how our ever-changing minds will
work, we choose who we will be the next moment in a very real
sense, and these choices are left embossed in physical form
on our material selves."

The discovery that neuroplasticity cannot occur without
attention has important implications. If a skill becomes so
routine you can do it on autopilot, practicing it will no
longer change the brain. And if you take up mental exercises
to keep your brain young, they will not be as effective if
you become able to do them without paying much attention."

This is where thinking about the steps of your program, for
example, begin to pay off. There is no end to that process,
but the practice itself changes your brain in a healthy,
neuroplastic way.

In fact, a key component of healthy recovery from drug
addiction is a healthy brain, and a healthy brain means you
need to take care of the pillars of brain fitness, getting
enough physical exercise, proper nutrition, including omega
3 fatty acids to keep your neurons supple and flexible, for
good signal sending and receiving, good sleep, stress
management (step 11?), and novel learning experiences, which
certainly includes puzzling over how to create your recovery.

But remember, you can enhance and encourage neurogenesis and
neuroplasticity by attending to the pillars of brain fitness,
which actually closely parallel the pillars of kidney and
liver health, for example.

The key piece of recovery from drug addiction is to manage
your thinking.

Capture and dispute automatic negative thoughts as Daniel
Amen, MD, describes them, simply because it is your brain
and you can do this.

In a sense automatic negative thoughts are like computer
viruses. You install your 12 step filter, for example, and
reboot the brain as you become aware of each negative
thought. Soon you will be repeating thoughts which leave you
feeling good, simply because you can and now your
neuroplasticity is becoming effective in a positive way.

Change the thought, change the feeling, and soon your brain
is moving towards a very healthy and relaxing pattern of
thinking and internal chemistry.

Remember though, that we process sensory data and create
thoughts about sensory data continuously, so this is an
ongoing process.

Enhanced Neuroplasticity From Computerized Brain Fitness

One of the pillars of brain fitness is novel learning
experiences, which for a recovering addict certainly
involves learning new skills, but for others might involve
learning a new language or new musical instrument, which
challenges the neuroplastic capacity of your brain in a
healthy way.

If you do not have time for a new language or instrument,
there are a number of computerized neuroplasticity enhancing
tools available.

About the Author:

Michael S. Logan is a brain fitness expert, counselor, a
student of Chi Gong, and a licensed one on one HeartMath
provider. I enjoy the spiritual, the mythological, and
psychological, and I am a late life father to Shane, 10, and
Hannah Marie, 4, whose brains are so amazing.