The Mental Battle of Overcoming Physical Dependence
While recovery from addiction can involve a lot of focus on improving behavior, a significant part of the struggle is also dealing with symptoms of physical dependence. Even though there is an emotional and psychological connection to drugs for an addict, there is no denying that their body has grown so physically accustomed to abuse that it becomes difficult to function without it.
The initial phases of recovery can be a time when addicts must battle their symptoms of physical dependence as they go through the stages of withdrawal and detoxify their body. Withdrawal symptoms can be painful and often lead to relapse but an addict can overcome their physical dependence if they are following the advice and guidance of their rehab program.
The Body’s Reaction to Physical Dependence
As someone’s drug use develops from a recreational habit into full time abuse their body changes and adapts to the chemicals they are putting into it. The more an addict begins to drink or use drugs the more their body will shift and respond to the substance abuse.
One of the characteristics of addiction is tolerance or an increasing need for larger amounts of a drug to get the same effects. Whenever an addict experiences tolerance it means they are becoming physically dependent on a drug and their body begins to require the drug in order to function normally.
As a result of tolerance, addicts may eventually be using excessive amounts of drugs right before they quit. The sudden withdrawal from this amount of drug use can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms as the body is attempting to adjust to functioning without the drug.
The body’s physical response to the lack of drug use can be difficult for addicts to handle and they may find themselves dealing with many thoughts of using again.
Strategies for Overcoming Dependence
During the period of detox and withdrawal, a patient in rehab is likely to experience intense cravings and a desire to use drugs again that is hard to ignore. It is this mental battle with physical dependence that can lead addicts to relapse even in the very earliest phases of recovery. It is important for addicts to have strategies in place that will help them overcome their physical dependence and prevent them from giving in to cravings as they go through withdrawal.
One of the first things to establish while in recovery is to create a support network of people to talk to when experiencing cravings and thoughts of drug use. A support system is there to talk you out of making a mistake and to listen when you are worried you will not make it through recovery. It is a good idea for an addict to have a mentor who has already been through each step of the process and can offer useful advice and empathy in the most difficult times.
Creating and establishing a support system early on in rehab will make the journey easier and more successful in the end.
The hardest part of overcoming physical dependence is in knowing what to do when cravings become particularly hard to ignore. In this phase of recovery, addicts must develop a system of distractions and hobbies that take their mind off of drug use.
When thoughts turn to using again they can read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, exercise, play a sport or do anything that will keep them focused on something other than their cravings. These kinds of hobbies can be helpful in dealing with stress which is another problem that can lead to relapse. Eventually the symptoms of physical dependence will subside and it will be time for the next phase of recovery.