It’s a cliche. In the beginning of treatment as we’re being shuffled in and out of groups and therapy and activities and those awful twelve step meetings we loathe the moment they say it. All these people claiming to be happier and healthier and better off without drugs and alcohol. It’s unbearable to hear. Yet as the person next to us clutching our hand happily thrashes it about in cadence with the words, we mumble right along with it, “it works if you work it so work it because you’re worth it!”
At 90 days or less sober, the brain isn’t in a place to really understand what the work is, how it’s working, or how it could possibly be worth it. Within the first few weeks to few months sober, the brain is working hard to recover. Drug and alcohol abuse rewire the brain to drive all pleasure from external substances, namely drugs and alcohol. Being without substances, in the beginning, leads to symptoms of withdrawal, a period of detox, and an ongoing sense of depressed agitation. On the surface, we feel we’ve lost our friend, our companion, our drug of choice. We’re cranky because we’re not high, we can’t get high, and we’re never going to be high again. Underneath, there’s a much more complicated circuitry occurring. Due to the way our dopamine, the neurotransmitter communicating pleasure, has been compromised, our brains are actually incapable of feeling pleasure. All idea of pleasure and reward has neurobiologically become chemically dependent upon drugs and alcohol. When we hear “worth it” we literally cannot even understand what that’s supposed to mean, because the only thing of worth to our brains at this point is drugs and alcohol.
Then, time passes. Words become clearer. The annoying things our therapists say start to make sense. Suddenly, we can make connections, draw conclusions, and feel some relief. We learn how to identify our feelings, and notice when they come up. We make decisions based on our needs, likes, and dislikes, because we’re able to recognize what those things are. By giving ourselves a chance to heal, we’ve laid the foundation for doing “the work”.
Unfortunately, many people don’t make it past the first stages of recovery. Cravings, withdrawals, and depression are too much for them to handle. They leave “before the miracle happens” because they can’t find even a semblance of hope in waiting.
Once you decided to not pick up one more time, you started doing the work. Even if you don’t feel it now, some small part of you believes that the work is worth it, that you are worth it.
Keep up the good work.
Sound Recovery Solutions provides medically assisted detox, treatment, and supportive programs for young men in need of recovery from addiction. Focused on leadership, development, and practical life skill building, our program helps put men back on their feet. For more information, call 561-279-3866 today.