Addictions Recovery: A Guide to Dealing with Addiction Recovery Fatigue

November 10, 2020

Dealing with addiction takes time, commitment, and effort. Many people deal with recovery fatigue when they are undergoing the change of sobriety. 

During recovery, the body is going through changes that can bring up feelings of overwhelm and leave people feeling overall fatigued. 

Grappling with recovery fatigue can be just as challenging as getting sober in the first place. The best way to combat fatigue is to eat healthily, get enough sleep, and limit exposure to stress. Maintaining a physically active and healthy lifestyle is the best way to get the body back on track.

Taking the first step towards sobriety is a huge leap to a healthier and longer life. However, it is important also to understand how sobriety and the aftermath of addiction will continue affecting you. In this article, we will discuss the steps to dealing with addiction recovery fatigue and how to stay strong on the path of sobriety. 

Why Recovery Fatigue?

Before getting into ways to prepare for and combat addiction recovery fatigue, it is important to define what this is and why it is so common for people recovering from addiction. First, after dealing with addiction, your body is already tired from the constant flow of toxic chemicals.

The body is forced into overdrive to combat these chemicals and protect it from succumbing to the substances that are being consumed. This constant process of protecting the mind and body depletes your body’s energy stores. However, while struggling with addiction, one often cannot feel the energy depletion because of drugs or alcohol. 

Once the substance abuse ends, the mind and body can finally feel the effects of this constant energy depletion that has been battling for the length of your addiction. And in sobriety, the body begins repairing itself, which once again takes significant amounts of energy. In the process of the body repairing, there is substantial fatigue.

While it may not feel as though you are doing anything, your body is working hard to repair itself by cleansing all the toxins out and mending any systems that have been severely stressed in response to the substance being abused. This is one of the reasons fatigue is pervasive during recovery and where it often starts. 

Emotional Fatigue 

The other factor that contributes to fatigue is the emotional component of addiction. Once the body is free of toxins, there is no way of numbing out one’s environment anymore. This feeling of facing life and its ups and downs can be extremely draining, especially early on in recovery. 

Since many drug and alcohol users turn to the substance to avoid feeling all that is happening around them, this sudden switch change can be an overload on the nervous system and take a lot of energy. This often manifests in having bouts of depression or anxiety while dealing with the issues that may have been the root of the addiction. 

Emotional stress uses up a lot of the body’s energy stores and can lead to feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion. During this time, it is incredibly beneficial to seek guidance from a therapist with which you can talk through these triggering or anxiety-inducing events. While emotional stress can overtake the mind during recovery, it will get better. 

The emotional toll of recovery can often feel more painful than the physical aspect. Because of that, finding outlets and support groups can alleviate any anxiety that comes up during this period. This is the most important factor to address during recovery, as isolation can cause relapse or severe mental health decline. 

Dealing with Addiction Recovery Fatigue 

Before delving into the advice for dealing with fatigue while going through addiction recovery, it is important to remember that these feelings will not last forever. Whether you are going through treatment or are witnessing a loved one go through it, the feeling of emotional and physical depletion will not loom over recovering addicts forever. 

While there are symptoms of fatigue that will last for quite a while in response to cleansing the body and starting on a new path in life, these symptoms will not always be there or may dull out over time progressively. In the steps below, we will talk about how to work on the fatigue while it is plaguing you and how to prepare for that feeling. 

By taking steps to prepare for the way you or a loved one may be feeling shortly after getting clean, you will better manage it and have systems set in place ahead of time. When it comes down to the time of fatigue, extra energy does not need to be expelled doing preparatory work. 

If you wait until you or a loved one is experiencing this intense fatigue, you may find it more challenging to get ahead of it and find coping mechanisms that are healthy and helpful; therefore, step one for dealing with addiction recovery fatigue is first and foremost, preparation. 

Step 1: Preparation 

Whether you or a family member are newly in recovery or have been battling addiction long-term, it is crucial to be prepared for the changes you will feel in your mind and body throughout this next chapter of your life. It is quite common to have bouts of overwhelming fatigue that can make daily tasks difficult to accomplish.

However, if you are prepared for this feeling, it will not impact you quite as much, and you will be able to cut yourself some slack on days when you feel as though you cannot even get out of bed. In your preparation, you can take a few steps to avoid any additional energy depletion or fatigue. 

Many people find themselves taking on extra fatigue due to:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Inadequate amounts of exercise
  • Too much caffeine intake
  • Too much stress 

All of these factors contribute to the feeling of being burned out and fatigued. This, combined with hormonal and chemical changes due to recovery, will only continue adding to the problem. Therefore, the best way to prepare for any addiction recovery fatigue is to focus on this list. 

Sleep Aid

It can often be extremely challenging to maintain a healthy sleep schedule after becoming clean; however, sleep is one of the most healing things you can do for your mind and body. It is not recommended to turn to medications to help with sleep unless directly prescribed by a psychiatrist; however, there are other ways to encourage sleep.

Start by limiting your screen time at night or wearing blue light blocking glasses. This will encourage your hormones to signal your body that it is time to sleep. Another great way to encourage the body to sleep is to avoid eating for two hours before going to sleep. If your body is not actively digesting, you will be able to get a better night’s sleep. 

Moreover, using your bed only for sleeping will help your mind relate your bed to sleep rather than watching tv, working, or socializing. This will make the transition to sleep easier. Other ways to encourage sleep include meditation. By utilizing meditation while lying in bed or right before bed, your mind may be able to fully relax and let go of the day. 

Remember that the more you can sleep at night and get high-quality sleep, the better you will feel during the day. Sleep is hugely important for recovery and for alleviating fatigue. If you are quickly able to master the art of a good night’s sleep, you will start feeling better faster and see considerable increases in your energy levels. 

Step 2: Healthy Habits

Since you are now aware of what you should avoid doing, let us talk about what you can do to prevent amplifying the fatigue your mind and body may be dealing with. 

It is critical while you are in recovery to eat a healthy and balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, get around eight hours of sleep per night, and get in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Potentially you make the switch to decaffeinated coffee, tea, or simply drink one caffeinated beverage a day instead of two. 

Additionally, by minimizing the stressful situations in your life, you will find that your mental health is improved. You are better able to cope with any feelings of recovery fatigue that come your way. If you are giving a lot of energy to a stress-inducing relationship in your life, or engaging in anxiety-provoking situations, the fatigue will worsen. 

A great way to avoid stress in your life is to be open and honest with those around you about the amount of energy you can give and what you need in return to benefit your health. For example, if your loved one is going through recovery, now would not be the best time to ask them for a lot of mental or physical energy. 

If you are going through recovery, communicate to those around you that you are dealing with a lot of fatigue and cannot physically be as present as you previously have been or cannot engage in strenuous mental exertion. This will set a boundary to those in your life and ensure that additional unnecessary stress is not being compounded onto you during this time.

Proactive Prepping

Whether you have just gotten out of rehab, or a loved one is going through recovery, prepping ahead of time can look different for everyone. The first thing that is recommended is stocking up on healthy foods and throwing out any processed and unhealthy options. If your house is usually stocked with process sugary foods, ask someone to throw those out for you.

By ridding your shelves of these things and, instead, starting fresh with produce, healthy snacks, and lots of nutritional foods, you will not fall onto unhealthy snacking whenever you are tired and do not feel like cooking. Keeping healthy food in the house is the most efficient way to switch over a diet because if you do not have access to junk food, you will often not go out and get it. 

Second, create a schedule for yourself. Think about the time of day that you have the most energy and focus on that. If first thing in the morning you have a boost of energy, take a walk and stretch. If you have more energy at night, plan on getting your workout in then. By creating a schedule, you are more likely to stick with it rather than giving yourself passes.

Additionally, creating a schedule for socializing and being exposed to potential triggers can be helpful. If you feel triggered by social media, set up a timer on your accounts to make the app inaccessible after one hour. Give yourself clear guidelines and boundaries to follow to avoid any additional stress penetrating your life during this delicate period. 

Step 3: Understanding Your Body 

Remember that the body is merely responding to stress when you are going through recovery. Therefore, it is important to be supportive of the changes your body is going through. Once you have gone through detoxing your body, your chemical and hormone balance is different than it once was, and therefore, you are bound to experience bodily stress. 

For those who have struggled with addiction, cortisol levels have risen too high, severely impacting the adrenal glands. Cortisol is released in the body to help cope with stress; however, when the mind and body are constantly under the stress of substance abuse, cortisol levels rise too high, which causes a hormone imbalance. 

Several drugs cause this hormonal imbalance, and the result of this overload of cortisol is adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands are overworked and leads to a lack of energy and a feeling of being clouded or exhausted in the mind and body. 

This can be compounded if you are not eating healthy foods as they will increase your blood pressure and cholesterol, putting more stress on the body. Besides, not getting enough good sleep can make adrenal fatigue worse as many parts of our bodies heal themselves while we are sleeping. 

Therefore, if you are dealing with immense fatigue, it may worsen by not following the steps outlined above as far as sleep, healthy eating, and exercise goes. Remember that it is never too late to change those patterns and get back on the right track!

Adrenal Fatigue  

The adrenal glands play a huge role in balancing your emotional and physical health, and when they are overly fatigued, they can cause problems for other systems within the body. The adrenal glands balance blood sugar, utilize fat reserves, combat stress and fatigue, oversee immune functions, and balance the flight or fight response.

Therefore, during addiction recovery, if adrenal fatigue is reached due to substance use, these systems will all start to become misbalanced. For those experiencing addiction recovery fatigue, the body may be battling blood sugar instability, intense cravings, a reduced threshold for stress, and a depleted immune system. 

These are all signs that the adrenal glands have become fatigued, and the exhaustion you are feeling is due to these glands being burned out from constant bodily stress that came about from drug or alcohol abuse. However, combating adrenal fatigue is possible, and you can revitalize your adrenal glands over time. 

Combating Cravings  

Along with adrenal fatigue comes cravings. This is incredibly common as the two things make each other worse and feed off of one another. Therefore, if you have one, you may have both. Cravings are extremely common in recovery due to a rapid drop in glucose levels. Some reasonable indications that your body is experiencing a reduced level of glucose include:

  • Shakiness 
  • Mood swings
  • Mental fog
  • Intense exhaustion 

When dealing with this glucose drop, it is common to feel like the body is struggling to assimilate what is going on and that the mind cannot focus on anything but the craving. This is a primary reason for relapse while in recovery. The body starts to intensely crave a stimulant or alcohol to manage these symptoms, which is ultimately counterintuitive.

Often for those in recovery, rather than using drugs or alcohol to cope, they will turn to sugar or caffeine for that boost; however, this undermines progress as these substances are often just as addictive as other substances. This creates a constant rise and fall in blood sugar and gets the body accustomed to needing a substance to lift it back up when feelings of exhaustion come. 

The major problem here is that when sugar and caffeine are used to curb cravings, they release additional cortisol and other stress hormones, which will compound any adrenal fatigue you may already be experiencing. This will prolong your feelings of exhaustion and fatigue and make this a longer-lasting symptom of recovery.

This is a constant rise and fall where you will only continue feeling more tired once you come down off of satiating your craving. Therefore, for those experiencing cravings, the best way to combat them is to use healthy coping mechanisms. If you are experiencing a sugar craving, have some fresh fruit.

If the craving is for caffeine, instead have cold water and go for a brisk walk outside. This will effectively wake you up. If you are exhausted and craving caffeine, why not take a nap? Taking a 20 to 30-minute nap can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to get up and get some movement in. There are many ways to cope with cravings healthily and productively. 

Step 4: Stick with It

If you are battling with adrenal fatigue and cravings, the best way to work through this is to stick with the healthy life habits outlined in step two. By focusing on fresh produce and whole grains in your diet, your body will start becoming healthier. Eating high protein foods like seeds and nuts and utilizing vitamins or nutritional supplements can also be hugely beneficial. 

Besides, when dealing with such high levels of fatigue, it may feel impossible to work out; however, getting the body moving should become a non-negotiable. Even if all you can manage is light stretching, a short walk, or some bodyweight exercises, this will reduce exhaustion. 

Additionally, the more you exercise, the more energy you will start to gain over time. After a week of consistent body movement, you will find that you can do a bit more every day. Do not expect high-level workouts every day as your body will have ups and downs in terms of energy availability, but as you move your body consistently, your energy levels will rise. 

As previously mentioned, you will find that it is easier to stick to your healthy habits if you create a schedule and guidelines. It will be easier to work out if you have a schedule, easier to eat healthily if you rid your home of junk food, and only shop for healthy foods, and it will be easier to manage your sleep if you are consistent with your sleep schedule.

Consistency is the best way to keep yourself on track and see the most progress!

Step 5: Finding Support 

If you do not feel that you can stick with these steps to overcome fatigue, it can be majorly beneficial to find a support group to hold you accountable. This will give you an outlet to speak on the emotional and physical stress you are dealing with and a safe environment with people who are overcoming the same battle. 

With the commonality, you will be able to hold yourself and each other more accountable for meeting your goals. This can even provide a support system for those who may not have one already. Therefore, finding a therapist or support group is a critical step in dealing with addiction recovery fatigue and finding additional ways to overcome the exhaustion. 

Finding a support system through this time is potentially the most vital step in dealing with addiction recovery fatigue. With the imbalance of hormones and the potential onset of cravings, this is a time where it can be easy to relapse. For those struggling through these cravings, having a support group or trusted therapist can immensely help. 

Remember that reaching out and asking for help is not a sign of weakness and should not be looked upon shamefully. If you feel like you or a loved one needs more support during this time, reach out to a therapist, doctor, support group, or a friend/family member and offer more encouragement.

For those going through this fatigue and time of potential cravings and emotional turmoil alone, the potential for mental health issues or relapse is higher. If one of your loved ones is going through recovery, keep in mind how vulnerable and stressful this time can be and try to lean in a bit more and provide support to ensure they stay healthy and happy. 

Final Thoughts

Frequently, we think that beating addiction is the hardest part; however, recovery is just as difficult! There are so many challenges in recovery, and the feeling of fatigue and emotions can be overwhelming in the recovery process. When these things come up, it can feel like the biggest obstacle yet. 

For those who are not prepared for this obstacle, they can experience a lot of additional stress, uncertainty, and cravings. However, by learning how to deal with addiction recovery fatigue, you will be able to combat it better and understand what is happening to your body while going through this process. 

Since fatigue is so common, it is also common for people struggling to stay sober. To maintain sobriety for yourself or your loved ones, be sure to follow the steps listed in this article to make the adjustment period easier. By living as healthy as possible, you will find that your body can bounce back from the stress faster. 

Staying active, allowing your body the time to rest when it needs it, and taking care of your mental health will help you deal with the fatigue that comes with detox and healing from an addiction. Stay consistent in your healing journey and start small. Starting with making schedules and slowly shifting what the inside of your refrigerator looks like is a great start. 

As you get further along in your journey, you will find that change comes naturally, and healing will happen faster.

Steps Recovery Center Can Help

If you are beginning the process of addiction recovery and need support and care, we invite you to reach out to us. Steps Recovery Center is here to ensure your recovery goes well and you are safe while detoxing. Let us get you or your loved one their life back — without addiction. We have facilities in Salt Lake and Utah counties in Utah. 

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