Getting Back into the Swing of Things
Early recovery is a time of complete chaos, or at least, it was for me. The impenetrable brain fog, the almost complete lack of sleep, and the previously suppressed or numbed feelings returning to sharp focus can make those first weeks of sobriety almost unbearable. This is why we attend some type of rehabilitation facility, hit 30 meetings in 30 days, or stick close to our sponsors or sober friends. However, we often overlook our diet. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you I didn’t get much nutrition when I was out on a run. And when I finally got my appetite back after sobering up, all I would want to eat were fats and sugars. Unfortunately, this is the worst diet to have for a newly sober person. Luckily, an article by US News and World Report details the best diet for those in early recovery. For the tl;dr crowd, we’ll go over the highlights here.
Make It a Habit
A new routine is one of the most important parts of early recovery. In rehab or sober living, we learn to get on a new schedule. We get out of bed by a certain time and get chores done before leaving the house. We also make sure we’re on time for process groups or nightly meetings. This mindset should extend to our diet. When we’re out on a run, getting and consuming our substance of choice becomes the prime directive. Meanwhile, our other needs get neglected. Establishing a healthy eating routine gets your body ready for much-needed nourishment.
Be Careful with the Substitutes
Alcohol was my drug of choice and like most alcoholics, I went through a period of serious sugar cravings after I quit drinking. Take a look at your average twelve-step meeting to see what kind of snacks they offer. Almost invariably, it’s cookies, doughnuts, other sweets, and plenty of coffee. However, like alcohol, sugar temporarily boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for good moods. What it comes down to is that we’re still looking to outside substances to regulate our moods. Furthermore, once the sugar wears off, the crash sets in, depression follows, and cravings skyrocket. The same holds true for caffeine, which is why many detoxes only offer decaffeinated coffee. The article recommends limiting coffee intake to one cup a day for the newly sober.
Take It Easy
Though I craved sugar and fats during early recovery, I couldn’t handle eating much of either. After getting not much more than alcohol and a snack here and there while on a run, my stomach just couldn’t take those heavy foods. Nausea and severe heartburn were constant whenever I tried to eat that kind of stuff. Similarly, those who abuse opioids also suffer from gastrointestinal issues after they quit using. Sticking to easily digestible foods like oatmeal, rice, and fruits and vegetables high in fiber can go a long way in alleviating some of these problems.
It’s All About Balance
A one and a half ounce shot of vodka contains about 97 calories. It also contains no protein, no fat, no carbs, and no vitamins or minerals. When I was drinking, I was easily hitting my caloric requirements for the day but I was getting no nutritional value with those calories. Furthermore, alcohol inhibits the absorption of nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folic acid, and zinc so even if I was eating quality food, I wasn’t going to get the nutritional benefit from it. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables will help ensure that you get the nutrients you need in early recovery.
Help Is Here
With everything that goes on in early sobriety, including revamping your diet, you may want to consider a residential treatment center if you’re struggling with alcohol or drug abuse. Ocean Recovery has a registered dietitian on staff to help you determine your nutritional needs and deficiencies and devise an effective meal plan. Restructuring your life becomes much easier when you have the support of a caring and knowledgeable staff.