A return to the basics this posting. They may seem obvious, but how often they’re not practiced. Let’s look at three things that you can do to help yourself stay clean after you’ve quit.
1. Do Not Isolate
More and more, research is pointing to “feeling disconnected from others” as one of the primary causes of addiction in general. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says that resentments are the number one cause of relapse. I’ve found that not to be true to my personality type. I just don’t hold resentments long, never have. I’m sure feeling resentful triggers a lot of people (Bill W. for sure), but I can’t think of one time I’ve gotten loaded over a resentment.
For me, my using was almost always about loneliness, the need to connect – really connect intimately – with others. Also, for me, it usually turned sexual.
So, at the beginning of my addiction, meth was the perfect drug as it solved my life’s biggest problem. High on meth, I no longer felt lonely. Instead, I felt like a superman, super-connected to my sexual partners, or super-connected in conversation. It even worked to make me feel more connected to life’s daily chores (Wal-Mart, here I come and I’m excited).
Of course, these connections weren’t actually real. That incredibly pleasurable hook up and the deepening, almost profound friendship I was developing (in a mere hour) for this person was, in truth, a byproduct of the dopamine dump meth brings about in the brain. Real connection lasts beyond the moment. It’s cumulative, too, in that it grows. Most of my meth-induced connections didn’t outlast the high. No wonder when coming down or when not loaded, I felt even more disconnected than before. (Another problem was that, as my using career progressed, I began to need larger and larger amounts of meth to get that connection feeling.)
In my anecdotal polling of fellow addicts, I’ve found loneliness to be one of our biggest triggers. So it’s important that we don’t isolate. This is where the 12 Step programs are immediately helpful. The meetings and fellowship before and after fill our experience with others just like ourselves. We experience that we are not alone in our recovery.
2. Keep Busy – Declare War on Boredom
Boredom is one of great enemies of sobriety. Start to keep a busy calendar. Set up coffee dates with as many of your non-using friends as possible. Go out to eat or to the movies. (If you’re like most tweakers, you haven’t been to a restaurant or movie in ages.) Keep yourself busy. Here are just a few good ideas:
Volunteer for a non-profit organization. This is the best because it not only fills the empty time in your day, but gives you a sense of doing something worthwhile and builds self-esteem.
Join an art class, or some kind of group activity that meets regularly.
Up the number of CMA or AA meetings you go to in a week. Take “commitments” at those meetings.
Go to the gym or take a yoga class.
Start a creative project—painting, writing, dancing, singing or whatever floats your boat creatively.
You get the picture. Keep yourself busy. Make plans and fill your calendar with commitments of one kind or another—and then keep those commitments. As the old saying goes, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop.” In this case, it’s very true. So declare war on boredom and inactivity.
3. Get Your Ass to the Gym (or Exercise in Some Way)
It is vital to begin exercising regularly. Exercise is not only for your body’s muscles. Meth’s effects can be particularly long lasting and harmful to the brain. Studies by Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, M.D., show that a fast-paced workout increases the production of specialized brain cells that affect learning and memory. He found that regular exercise not only relieves anxiety and mild to moderate depression, it literally helps the brain heal faster. And, just as importantly, a fast-paced workout actually helps redirect the brain away from cravings and fights off the impulse to use – often for hours. Important information to remember.
So, as a recovering meth addict you exercise for three reasons: 1) it’s good for your body and overall well being; 2) it assists your brain in healing faster; and 3) it helps counteract the impulse to use.
Should you exercise? Duh.
One other scientific fact it helps to know: it takes 21 days for your brain to create a new habit. If you are at day 18 of exercising and you think, “This is useless and I hate it,” stick with it through day 21 and, most likely, you’ll feel differently.
Join a gym or an exercise class and give it at least 21 days. This is the new you in recovery.
[STUDY UPDATE: I’ve been asked if any of the exercise studies cited above were meth-specific. No, they were not meth-specific studies but, given the nature of the study, each is still very relevant for the recovered meth user. But you wanted a meth-specific study, how about this one out of Iran published in June of 2016. I’ll just cut and paste the “CONCLUSION: This study showed that regular swimming exercise reduced voluntary meth consumption in animal models of craving by reducing anxiety, OCD, and depression in the meth-withdrawn rats. Thus, physical exercise may lessen some of the withdrawal behavioral consequences of meth. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27482339]
And There You Have It…
Incorporate these three things into your conscious program of recovery and I promise you, you’ll increase your odds of staying clean after quitting.
You CAN quit crystal meth. Learning strategies to better maximize the possibility of keeping clean after you’ve quit is what this blog is about. I hope it’s helped. Peace.