Drug abuse can affect your life in several ways; health issues, family and relationships problems and even mental instability. I know all about these effects firsthand. For many years I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and at some point, I thought my life was damaged beyond repair. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.
It all started when I was only 9 years old. I was very curious about alcohol and how it seemed to make adults happier once they had had a couple of drinks. I decided I’d find out how that magic worked. I stole a bottle at a family party and got drunk with only a couple of sips. I loved the feeling it gave me. A few years later I started experimenting with marijuana, and soon after I started abusing all kinds of horrible drugs. At this point, I didn’t even realize what I was doing was wrong. I thought I was just having fun and that I could quit anytime I wanted to (even though deep down I knew it was a lie). At the age of 23, I got put in jail for drug-related charges. It was a wake-up call. While in prison, I realized I had to change so I decided to get clean.
As soon as I was let out of prison I checked into a rehabilitation center in Washington State. At this point, I was ready to make some changes in my life, but I still had a very troubled mind. Feelings of guilt and stress overwhelmed me and I was suffering from anxiety and depression. However, after a few therapy sessions and group meetings I was able to start seeing differences in my mental health. As time passed, I started feeling better, stronger and I stopped feeling the need to use drugs in order to feel happy again. I have been sober for 9 years now and I want to share 5 mental health benefits I got from quitting drugs with you.
I used to get terrible mood swings. I would get angry at the smallest things. While in rehab, I learned that this happened because drugs release chemicals in your brain that can make you feel euphoric. There is a downside though, they can also induce paranoia, anxiety, and depression.
Getting sober means removing any last trace of the chemicals you used to put in your system by consuming drugs that were causing an unbalance in your mental state. This means the area of your brain that controls mood and behavior will be unaffected by external toxins, which means it will work as it should.
In my experience, it didn’t take long for me to notice I was less irritable and more stable. This not only made me feel better about myself, but it also improved my relationships with my family and friends. I was no longer the angry ogre I used to be. I was more understanding and easy-going.
As I mentioned before, I suffered from anxiety and depression along with my addiction. I wasn’t able to see the positive side of anything. I used to think there was nothing to live for. It got so bad that at one point I even considered taking my own life…
But recovery gave me a new perspective. I relearned to appreciate the little things and leave behind the guilt and shame that used to overwhelm me. I realized I had a chance to make something out of myself. I still had a future to look forward to and I had the opportunity to shape it into anything I wanted. I was able to forgive myself, which is one of the hardest challenges in recovery. When I was able to leave the past behind, I was finally able to move on and start building a better future.
During one of my therapy sessions in rehab, my therapist suggested we tried meditation. I had never done it before, and I was actually a little skeptical about it. But I gave it a chance, and from then on we dedicated 15 minutes of our sessions to practicing mindful meditation. You wouldn’t believe how much those daily 15 minutes changed my life.
Through meditation, I learned to live in the moment and be aware of everything that is going on inside of me. It helped me control my emotions, thoughts, and worries. Meditation is so simple, yet so beneficial. You just need to close your eyes for a few minutes and focus on your breath, clearing your mind from any other thoughts. If you make this a daily practice, you’ll start seeing you’re more relaxed during the day and you’ll learn to manage your emotions.
When your mind is healthy, it’s easier for your body to be healthy too, since a healthy mind is able to make better, more responsible decisions. I used to put all kinds of toxic chemicals in my body while I was an addict, but when I started the process of getting clean I decided I would treat my body with love and respect. I started eating more leafy greens and fruits while cutting back on my consumption of junk food and sugars. I started working out regularly and caring more about my personal image. These good habits have helped me immensely over the years.
At the end of the day, my biggest achievement in recovery and in my life has been happiness. Real happiness, not the euphoric feeling I used to get from each high. That was ephemeral, and as soon as the high was over I was left feeling worse than before. The happiness I’m talking about came as a result of making good decisions for myself, rebuilding the bridges I had burned and being able to leave the past behind. Quitting drugs doesn’t mean you won’t ever have feelings of sadness and pain, it just means you will be able to handle them better, knowing that everything will be alright.
Having a better mood, obtaining a better outlook on life, being able to control your mind, being more healthy and happy, are only 5 of the many benefits you’ll get from quitting drugs. If you’re thinking of getting clean, it doesn’t matter how serious your addiction is, I encourage you to do it. I have been sober for almost a decade, and though it has been challenging, it was the best decision I have ever made.
Do you know any other mind benefits you can get from getting clean? If you’d like to share your experience, please leave a comment below.