Steps to Help You Survive Earlier Recovery

The Greenfield Center realizes fluctuating moods are common in early recovery.

Image of Brain and MoodsThink about it. Your brain is changing. You are not taking any drugs or drinking alcohol, but you haven’t built new ways of coping. You will build new ways of coping, but for now you are in limbo. And your moods will sway. You may be excited one moment, and scared the next. Or happy in the morning then miserable by afternoon. Optimistic about your future one day then feeling doomed by your past the next. They probably talked about this stuff in treatment but some of us never went. Or didn’t listen. Or were there but couldn’t take it in.

All I know is that mood swings are common in early recovery. Mood swings contain anger and fear and confusion. And most of us are moody in early recovery. It’s no wonder we are hard to get along with.



“I like doughnuts. Why should I eat protein?”

Eating protein provides building blocks for neurotransmitters like serotonin. You know, serotonin—the stuff antidepressants try to make more of. Eating protein = more serotonin = less depressed or anxious = HAPPIER. If your brain gets what it needs (protein) you will feel happier (serotonin).

How to eat protein. (Meat, eggs, tofu, etc.) Eat 8 grams of it (for instance 2 eggs, or a piece of meat or tofu the size of a deck of cards) for breakfast within an hour of getting up. Repeat: eat 8 grams of protein within an hour of waking. Then eat more protein for lunch or dinner. To really eat well add some fat (butter, olive oil etc) to your meal and some fresh veggies. For snacks eat fruit and nuts or cheese. Repeat daily. Eating every 3 or 4 hours will keep your blood sugar stable so your mood is stable. Some mood swings aren’t really about what is happening in your life- it’s about blood sugar or what’s happening in your brain because of low blood sugar. Blood sugar is what all the cells in your body live on. Blood sugar goes up or down depending on what you eat. Blood sugar goes down if you don’t eat. If you eat something too sweet blood sugar goes up fast then crashes too low. When your blood sugar drops your brain sends a message to release adrenalin which raises your blood sugar. Adrenalin is the fight or flight hormone. So you feel angry or afraid. (Remember moods?) You start a fight or run away.

You want to drink or do something all because you ate something weird. Or you didn’t eat at all. If you don’t want to have blood sugar mood swings, if you don’t want to feel mad or afraid for no reason, if you don’t want to have cravings, eat a balanced meal (that’s proteins, fats and carbs) every 3 or 4 hours. A healthy snack before bedtime will help you sleep. So to avoid moods and cravings eat one good meal at a time each day.


If you don’t start walking, jogging, swimming or biking… You’re Gonna Be Mad.

“Leave me alone. I’m watching a video”. Exercise improves mood. We get more oxygen to the brain.

The heart beats faster and circulates more blood. If you move you feel better. It’s that simple. Walking is a safe way to start exercising. If you haven’t been exercising at all, start slow. Walk a bit, see how it goes and add a few minutes each day. Aim for an hour of exercise a day. Build up to it. You can do it in 5 or 10-minute chunks over the course of a day. Aerobic exercise (walking, biking, swimming, running) is the fastest way to change your mood. Exercise means any kind of movement. Any kind of exercise will change how your body and brain feel and will support a happier mood. Plus you will sleep better and sleep is important in recovery.

Step Three: SLEEP 8-10 HOURS A NIGHT

“I can sleep when I die. Why would I want to sleep that much now”?
Here are a few reasons in favor of sleep: We are cranky when we are tired. We get more done when we are fresh. It’s easy to get tempted to use or act out late at night. We stay out of trouble when we are asleep.

Sleep is when our body repairs itself. You were mean to yourself when your addiction was active. It was hard on your body. It was hard on your brain. Now that you are in recovery your body deserves to get enough sleep. Your brain loves sleep. Sleep is when our body repairs and our brain rests. If we get a good night’s sleep we feel better aim for 8 to 10 hours sleep a night.

Sleep was hard for me at first. I was drinking a lot of coffee. I was restless and had weird dreams. I learned to cut off the caffeine by 4 p.m. and to drink water instead. I learned that my body likes water better than sodas, energy drinks or coffee. A doctor told me to go to bed at the same time each night. What a strange concept. I tried it and it did help. I learned that if I eat enough protein, get an hour of exercise each day and sleep well at night I have a better shot at making it thought early recovery.

You’ll stay in recovery long enough to have sober sex, to live through a fight, and to manage your moods swings. So eat protein, exercise an hour a day, (drink water) and have a good night’s sleep.

Because recovery can be excellent fun and if you take care of yourself you’ll survive the early stuff and get to see why recovery is worth it.

The Greenfield Center in Jacksonville, Florida is an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Center. These are just a few suggestions we offer that and can help you through the discomfort of early recover.

If you are struggling with an addiction, or if you have a family member or loved one that is struggling, please give us a call (904-389-3784). The staff is trained and experienced to deal with any type of addiction problem.

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