This is the last in the Neuroplasticity and Addiction Treatment series. Recovery from addiction is a long term process. Recovery calls for intent, focus and repetition. The recovering person claims their intent — to stay sober and clean. In order to do this, the person has to accept that alcohol or the drug of choice will cause the same problems over and over if the person continues to drink or use. The recovering brain only half-believes this in the beginning. The old neural pathways told the brain alcohol/other drug is good and necessary, and these neural pathways are strong. These messages to the brain don’t disappear just because the drug has been removed.
The neural pathways of addiction weaken over time as the recovering person focuses on recovery, telling the brain that recovery is good and necessary, creating new neural pathways. One of the great benefits of attending AA or NA is that the recovering person receives positive recovery feedback over and over. The rewards in recovery aren’t as immediate, strong and reliable as the original rewards of alcohol/ other drugs once were, but they’re real and become increasingly more substantial. The drugs only worked for awhile, then they became more and more unreliable and less potent.
The recovering person is continuously working on a new life, a new way of thinking. Recovery is about positive change and growth. Although there are ups and downs in recovery, they’re nothing compared to the violent ups and downs of addiction.
In early recovery, the recovering person tries to stay away from alcohol/ other drugs, but as recovery progresses there’s a generative effect in which the person’s pulled forward to something good and fulfilling. Rather than expending negative energy to stay away from the drug, recovery creates more energy to move forward. If a person is just white-knuckling it in sobriety, they’ll wear down and likely give in to the desire to return to their drug of choice, but when the person is actively participating in recovery with the goal to improve and grow as a human being, then the energy spent in recovery is regenerated over and over, creating ever more energy and desire to recover. The addictive mind slowly changes — the addicted person now becomes a new person with a new life full of possibilities.