Addiction is a chronic condition. Those of us in recovery may struggle to come to terms with this idea; processing the fact that you have a chronic disease usually doesn’t happen overnight. For the almost 38% of people with addiction who have a co-occurring mental health disorder, the two conditions will be part of your life for the long haul.
Having a chronic illness on top of that can be especially overwhelming. Dealing with any health issue in sobriety presents unique challenges. For instance, if you have chronic pain, you’ll have to work with your doctor to find a treatment that avoids addictive painkillers. You’ll have to face any fears about your health without numbing out on substances.
Depending on the severity of your alcohol or drug use, you may deal with related health problems—either caused by the substance itself, things that happened while you were using, or the way you used. For instance, people who shared needles during drug use may have contracted Hepatitis B or HIV.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a particular condition, it may take a while after removing substances for your body to reach homeostasis. No one is at their optimal health when in active addiction.
Having any kind of health condition when you’re in recovery can feel frustrating; you’ve done the work to take care of your body, so why is it turning against you? I know this feeling firsthand. I’m a healthy person in my 30’s—with over five years of sobriety—who recently had a prolonged health scare.
Even though I knew it wasn’t totally rational, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that this was happening now—not when I was drinking 15 drinks a night. I later found out what I was dealing with may be associated with alcohol use, which added to my frustration.
As someone who has been lucky enough not to have any chronic health condition that affects my life, I took physical health for granted. If dealing with a health issue during a global pandemic taught me anything, it’s that physical health is not a guaranteed or fixed state. It changes throughout your life.
But being sober significantly improves your outcomes. There is no illness that drinking or drug use makes better. Recovery will also improve your mental health, which will make coping with a diagnosis or health problem more manageable.
Using substances to cope will never be helpful, physically or emotionally. When I was dealing with the health issue, I was glad that I was sober to be in control of the choices I made about my health.
No matter what health condition you have, recovery allows you to take care of your body in a new way. Doing so will not only improve your quality of life—it may help you feel like you’re taking control of the things you can. This might be especially useful after a health diagnosis that feels out of your control. For certain conditions, recovery might save your life; for instance, if you have diabetes, alcohol use can be dangerous.
Self-care in recovery means taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will help you build a solid foundation for long-term recovery.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn to take care of your health in all ways and build a life in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.