The smart-aleck answer to the question “Is it possible to have a healthy life right after detox” is “What…are you kidding?” However, the straight answer is “What do you mean by ‘healthy?’”
When it comes to recovery, we speak of at least two kinds of health: physical, and emotional. Some folks would add spiritual health (which has nothing to do with religion) to that list. We need to remember that our bodies and minds were subject to the effects of chemicals more-or-less continuously for months — in most cases, for years. Major changes took place due to the effects of drugs on our brains, as well as their effects on other body systems, especially in the case of alcohol. It would be unreasonable to expect these changes to reverse and return to normal overnight. Just as it took years to create the problems, so may it take months to recover from them. The good news is that it rarely takes anywhere near as long for repairs as it took to do the damage, and improvements begin to show up relatively soon if we’re patient.
Our physical health depends on what condition we were when we came to detox (young, older, fit, couch potato, etc.), what residual effects we may experience from the drugs (post-acute withdrawal), and what other health problems we brought with us. Many, if not most, addicts suffer from a variety of problems that can range from cirrhosis of the liver and/or viral hepatitis to diabetes, malnutrition, or general poor physical conditioning — often several issues of varying severity that need to be addressed. Even those of us who styled ourselves athletes during our addiction may find that the reorganization of our internal chemistry leaves us with less get up and go than we figured, or that the drugs were covering up some condition that is revealed by a physical exam when we’re sober. These things aren’t inevitable, but the possibility of some problems should be anticipated.
Mentally and emotionally, most of us addicts (alcohol is a drug, and alcoholics are addicts) find that for the first few weeks and months we run the gamut of emotions, from manic highs — where we believe recovery is the most wonderful thing that could happen to anyone — to bouts of depression and the thought “If this is all there is, I might as well use.”
But there is good news! For one thing, though we may feel lousy, physically and emotionally, these things slowly improve if we stay clean and sober and work on a program of recovery. Furthermore, we have the assurance that, even though it may seem as though it’s happening at a snail’s pace, people who remain abstinent and take care of themselves otherwise always improve eventually. For us addicts, accustomed to feeling good in a matter of minutes whenever we feel like it, these periods may seem endless. But they are not, and periods of feeling good eventually occur, increasing in frequency and quality as the repairs take place and we get back into the swing of living.
As time passes, we begin not only to feel better, but to think about getting back to what we perceive as our normal lives. We want to clean up some of the messes we made, right some of the wrongs, find jobs, begin to save a little money, and try to earn the respect and trust of others. These improvements are immensely aided by the support and help of other recovering people. Put succinctly, people who go to meetings and develop a support system, learning to follow directions and do the next healthy thing, tend to recover if they persevere. Those who don’t rarely remain clean and sober for long.
So the answer is that it is possible to live a healthier life immediately after detox. A healthy life may be further down the road, but it is attainable. Millions of people have gotten through the first weeks and months of abstinence, and achieved lasting sobriety. The secrets are, first, to want it more than anything else, and second to stick with it and — as they say — wait for the miracle.