If you were struggling at the worst of your life in your addiction, the chances are that addiction was not fun at the end of your drinking and using. However, the “peculiar mental twist” of addiction in the mind tells a different story. One of the peculiarities of addiction which makes addiction what it is, is the unique ability of addiction to make things seem less than what they are. Think of the sticker they put on car mirrors that say “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”. For addiction, it’s, “Your using is not as bad as others make it appear”. Despite the torture of hitting bottom, your brain will try to convince you that even then, it wasn’t that bad. It’s because the wiring in your brain has been switched around to put value in the experience of drug abuse instead of other pleasurable experiences. That is why many people struggle to enjoy their life in the early phases of recovery, then lament that life will never get any better. Life does get better because your brain starts to heal. The longer you stay away from drugs and alcohol, the more time your brain has to heal and learn how to connect to pleasure on its own.
Pleasure in the brain is run on a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain which act as a messaging system. Dopamine is the messenger of pleasure. Many things in life stimulate the production of dopamine, but few things in life stimulate the production of dopamine the way chemical substances like drugs and alcohol do. The extreme amount of dopamine production creates euphoria, “a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness” which then sends that rush of pleasure to places in the brain where reward and memory are created. As more chemical substances are consumed, more high amounts of dopamine are produced, meaning more high amounts of pleasure. Tolerance is what happens when the brain becomes used to the high amount of dopamine production and wants more. Chemical dependency is what happens when the brain can no longer produce dopamine on its own because it has been exhausted by producing high volumes more often than it is capable of. Consequently, nothing seems as pleasurable in comparison because nothing but drugs and alcohol are creating the same amount of pleasure.
Sobriety is an opportunity to create production of new pleasure. When you start having fun and enjoying yourself in sobriety, you are actually retraining your brain to relate to pleasure differently. Overtime your brain is normalizing to feel pleasure- satisfying, sustainable pleasure- from other activities. Your brain learns that this pleasure feels better than the pleasure of drugs and alcohol because you start to focus more on the less than pleasurable moments drugs and alcohol would often bring you. The more that you associate drugs and alcohol with pain rather than pleasure, the more your brain learns to crave other forms of pleasure instead.
Recovery comes one step at a time, one day at a time. Design For Change offers refuge to those who are fighting addiction and want to come out victorious. You can and you will experience the hope and freedom recovery has to offer. For information on our treatment programs and recovery services, call us today: (877) 267-3646