Pain and Neglect in Early Recovery Treatment

More often than not, many individuals entering treatment soon discover that they are experiencing a great deal of discomfort. They enter treatment expecting to struggle with rules, expectations, meetings, and groups, some are aware of the neglect in their health, nutrition, lack of physical exercise, their weight, etc… But many are often truly surprised by the extent of the pain and neglect that they have been masking with their usage. 

 Newfound pain in their knees, back, ribs…. These often lead to performing Sherlock Holme’s attempts to recount and investigate, even trying to remember how these injuries occur. 

This is a topic that does not get enough attention or focus. Most people when considering getting Sober, don’t tend to realize the other effects that come along with usage. They will focus on the money issues, the betrayals of values, the moral and potential legal ramifications, and even the loss of opportunities. But Health has taken a back seat for most folks entering treatment. 

This is in part due to the side effects of usage. It tends to mask the neglect that one does.  

Folks entering treatment are often surprised that 2 weeks after detox, they are experiencing intense or nagging injuries and pain, dental neglect is often found during this time. After all, many substances can affect dental health. Amphetamines tend to cause grinding injuries, opiates can affect dental status in numerous ways including poor nutrition damage. Alcohol has an incredibly high sugar content that can cause many issues. As well as just plain neglect due to a lack of awareness or addressing regular checkups. And this is just from the dental front.

These nagging and emergent issues can give someone on the cusp of addressing their issues of addiction and recovery pause and can lead to many folks entering treatment, or addressing recovery to resume usage, or waiver in their commitment to active recovery. 

In many ways, addiction is an issue/disease of immediacy. When discussing this idea with clients they can relate to this particular internal dialogue. 

“ I feel _______, I don’t want to feel this way any longer”…. Then without any external challenge, they will often fall into the thinking or reflect of “ I know what will make me feel better” or “ I just need this to stop for now”. And instead of looking at long-term ramifications, the immediacy of the discomfort takes hold and they will often relapse before they have given themselves time to work through the discomfort and find other ways to address the discomfort.

This same type of struggle with delayed gratification, and the need for immediacy is what can tend to lead a person who is heading to court, or to probation, where they know that they will be tested that day, to use. They are so worried about outcomes and the unknown that they don’t know how to deal with it, so they use to reduce that stress and feeling of worry, thinking that they will deal with outcomes later or that somehow things will work out. 

That idea of immediate relief or gratification can be the siren call to relapse when a person who is struggling or in pain is wanting some relief. 

One of the other medical considerations that is often not given enough credit is that regular substance usage often depletes a person’s dopamine and serotonin levels. This has a significant impact on one’s ability to regulate emotions, develop distress tolerance, and recognize happiness and good feelings. 

Helping someone going through early recovery means helping them stay when they are so uncomfortable or struggling that they can hardly stand it. As well as encouraging and helping them understand that this is part of the healing process. And finally approaching their struggles with loving understanding, that they are not just looking for excuses, or just wanting to get high. They may be in a state that they don’t or unable to manage the overwhelming feelings or discomfort or even pain and need a lot of outside encouragement and help.