In the first part of this series, we touched on some of the health problems that those in recovery often face, especially in the early days. As previously mentioned, many of these health issues will improve in time. However, if symptoms persist or get progressively worse, it is always wise to speak to a doctor to rule out any underlying issues. Below are a few more of the common ailments that recovering addicts could face in early recovery.
Those who have been dealing with an alcohol problem for many years may find that they suffer from anaemia. Anaemia is a shortage of red blood cells in the body; the reason alcoholics suffer from this condition is that alcohol damages bone marrow, which is where red blood cells are produced. Another reason for anaemia in alcoholics is internal bleeding, which is often caused by the damage that alcohol causes in the stomach and intestines.
Blood clotting is also affected by excessive alcohol consumption. Healthy liver function is required for normal blood clotting within the body, but many alcoholics suffer liver damage after years of heavy drinking. Those affected in this way may bleed more than usual, making anaemia more likely.
Drugs such as cocaine can put a lot of stress on the heart and can cause chest pain and even heart attacks. Those with a cocaine addiction may find that they suffer from chest pain, but this should clear up once they stop taking the drug. Nevertheless, if the chest pain persists, it could be a sign that the heart has been damaged by the addiction. It is important to have this checked immediately. If the chest pain lasts for longer than twenty minutes and is radiating to other parts of the body (such as the jaw or arm), it could be a sign of a heart attack. If this happens, call emergency services immediately.
Erectile dysfunction is actually very common in early recovery but the good news is that this condition is unlikely to last for long. This is an issue that can be treated, as well.
Many recovering addicts report of always feeling tired. This is usually because their body has begun to work overtime in order to try to get back to some semblance of normality. For some, the feeling of fatigue is due to a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals, such as folic acid. It may be a case of taking vitamin supplements, but it is also important to ensure a well-balanced diet. If you are a recovering addict, try to take it easy in the beginning, no matter how keen you are to make up for lost time. Your body is attempting to recover from years of abuse, so give it the time it needs to heal before exerting too much pressure on it. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and practice meditation and relaxation techniques when possible.
Early recovery is often accompanied by headaches, which usually occur in the back of the head or centre of the forehead. These headaches are known as tension headaches and many describe the feeling as similar to having a tight band around the head. Some people suffer pounding headaches on one side of their head. Alcoholics may experience headaches for up to a month after quitting alcohol while some former drug users continue to have these headaches for many months. Most headaches are not serious but if you are also experiencing vision problems, nausea, vomiting, and weakness, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Many recovering addicts expect to be in good health as soon as they give up drugs or alcohol but are disappointed when they begin to suffer health issues. Many will become disillusioned with their recovery and may relapse. Nonetheless, it is important to realise that most of these symptoms will disappear and, when they do, you should feel wonderful.