Anyone who has ever battled an addiction knows how hard it is to stay sober. During recovery, I was constantly looking for tips and tricks that would help me stay clean, anything that might give me the strength to resist temptation. I never thought nutrition could play such an important role in sobriety, but almost a decade later, I can honestly say that a well-balanced diet has helped me big-time in staying sober.
My problems with substances began when I was only 9 years old. I had been curious about alcohol for a while, but when I asked to have a little bit I got lectured by my parents. So I snuck a bottle at a family party, and it only took a few sips for me to get wasted. I had never felt anything like it, and I loved it. A cousin of mine found out and made me promise I wouldn’t do anything like that again. But I did, and it escalated quickly. By the time I was a teenager I started experimenting with marijuana and other drugs. At the tender age of 19, I was hooked on meth and cocaine. 4 years later, I ended up spending two years in prison for drug-related charges.
It was during my time in the bucket that I realized I had to make some serious changes in my life. I started attending AA and NA meetings in prison and when they let me out I checked myself into a rehab facility.
I went through the drug detox and withdrawal process and pushed through the hardest parts. After that, I got a job and started getting really good at it. The weird thing was, everything wasn’t going as well as I made it seem. I was working so hard I got depressed, and it led me to relapse. Before I knew it, I was back in rehab.
I promised myself this one would be the last time. Given my determination, I took more advantage of my time in rehab and learned more from it than the first time.
One of the things that made the most difference in my recovery process, and later in helping me stay sober, was nutrition. I understood that after putting so many toxic elements in my body, I had to start nourishing it to restore the damage I had caused.
So, after making it through this grueling process, I thought this would be the perfect chance to share my top 6 nutritional tips that helped me stay sober.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight oxidative damage in your body, which happens when cells expel free radicals, deteriorating your organism. This can be caused, among other things, by drug and alcohol abuse. Antioxidants are fundamental for addiction recovery since they play an important role in repairing your body by combating said free radicals.
You can get antioxidants by including plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet. I usually eat two portions of fruit at breakfast and as a snack in the afternoon. I also eat two portions of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Amino acids
They are known as the “building blocks of proteins” in your body and are essential for your body to function correctly. These compounds play a key role in transporting and storing nutrients. They are also are fundamental in the process of healing wounds in your organism and repairing tissue.
In addition to this, they facilitate the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine by neurotransmitters. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of happiness and satisfaction, which you can really use when you’re going through withdrawal and recovery. Some sources of amino acids I like to include in my daily meals are lean meat, poultry, seafood, dairy produce, quinoa, and soy.
One of the systems that suffer the most damage as a result of substance abuse is your digestive system. Probiotics are good bacteria that help recover and maintain your digestive system’s health. They are found mostly in yogurt, which I love to eat in the morning with my portion of fruit.
Consuming plenty of probiotics will also help regulate your metabolism and they play an important role in the release of serotonin, which, as we stated before, is essential for those in recovery.
- Eat less more often
It’s important for former addicts to maintain their blood levels stable in order to avoid crashes. This is why it’s essential to eat small portions of food throughout the day.
While I was in recovery, I got into the habit of eating breakfast 30 minutes after waking up, then, I would eat small snacks every two hours until bedtime. By applying this method, you avoid getting hungry or anxious and giving in to problematic cravings. Some of my favorite healthy snacks are almonds, cashews, and nuts in general.
- Cut on refined carbs and sugar
I know, it’s hard to cut on sugary foods, but it’s completely worth it. Refined carbs are all sugars that do not come in the form of a natural piece of food, like a fruit. They are found in products that undergo chemical processes.
These foods tend to cause mood fluctuations, which is the last thing you need as a recovering addict. They also supply calories but few or no nutrients whatsoever, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.
- Keep a food diary
While in rehab they had us keep a food journal, and while at first it didn’t sound appealing at all, it was actually very helpful. Linking how I felt about what I was eating helped me identify which foods were working for me and which weren’t so I could adjust accordingly. If you don’t feel like writing it on paper, several apps are available which can help you track your diet.
“You are what you eat”, and when you’re in recovery you need to pay close attention to what you’re eating. Nourishing your body with nutrients is necessary to fix the damage your body has endured, but it’s also essential if you intend to stay sober. Eating better will make you feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.
Do you have any other nutritional tips for recovery? If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below.