Tips to overcome brain fog during addiction recovery

Brain fog, as confusing and as annoying as it is, is a temporary symptom. Here is some expert advice to help you resolve the issue sooner rather than later

Man experiencing brain fog

The continued abuse of powerful illicit drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, can literally ruin a person’s life. They can also take it, too.

The drug addiction itself and the damage done to a drug addict’s brain will certainly change their behavior to such an extent that even their nearest and dearest — their partner, their family, their friends, and their work — will not only no longer trust them, they will have difficulty in respecting or even liking them.

The coronavirus pandemic enforced social distancing, lack of contact, and isolation upon us all. However, the virus has nothing on the sheer power of drug addiction, which not only isolates the addict, it further reduces them to a social outcast.

Not just drugs

Be under no illusions: other, more accepted substances can do the same thing.

For example, perfectly legal and uber-socially acceptable alcohol also has the power to take you to that same place — abandoned, an outcast, and a pariah in their own community.

To get well, to get clean, sober and returned to their former self, the drug addict or the alcoholic needs a complete physical detox, professional evidence-based addiction treatment and therapies to put them on the road to recovery, and endless self-motivation.

Should the addict find a route to recovery through a professional treatment programme, those that do love them will usually be fully supportive.

This recovery, this personal journey to a second chance at life, is certainly not easy.

But then, nothing important ever is.

It will be one the most challenging things this person will go through to get where they need to be — in recovery, in control of themselves and their actions, and in a complete state of sobriety.

Many don’t make it. Many relapse, and fall by the wayside. Tragically, some die. Others, sadly, don’t even bother trying to make it to recovery, mistakenly believing that this is their life now, and this is what they deserve.

However, and fortunately for some substance addicts, they still do have the courage and strength to try again.

Early drug and alcohol addiction recovery presents constant challenges. Most are foreseen and professionally managed by medication and therapy, real symptoms of the previous addiction, lingering and still affecting the individual in recovery.

One of the most common (and decidedly confusing) of these — particularly with chronic alcoholism or an addiction to stimulants, like cocaine and the prescription drug Adderall — is a symptom known as “brain fog”.

What is Brain Fog?

Brain fog is not a medical condition, but rather a group of symptoms that produce a mental reaction. It can be defined as “a usually temporary state of diminished mental capacity and cognition, marked by inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly.”

Brain fog is basically what an addict or alcoholic experiences when their substance-affected brain is denied the chemicals it has previously been given, chemicals that have forced the brain to make real structural adjustments in order to cope.

Many people experience brain fog during their first year of recovery.

What it feels like to have brain fog:

  • You become unable to focus normally on anything, even simple tasks
  • You have trouble remembering things you should be able to remember
  • You have difficulty feeling motivated
  • You are unable to form a plan and follow it through, and
  • You feel emotionally numb

People who have recently quit stimulants often struggle with brain fog since stimulants unnaturally enhance all the faculties mentioned above.

Brain fog is the result of the brain again making adjustments to a new chemical balance: no potent addictive chemicals, no toxins, and none of the other elements of the drug that was previously consumed on a regular basis.

However, given time and by following simple and straightforward medical advice, brain fog eventually eases, and the symptoms normally fully disappear from the recovering addict. This is because the addict’s brain slowly adapts to functioning without the previous level of drugs and alcohol.

On a personal note, I experienced severe brain fog in the early stages of my own recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse.

However, the condition did slowly pass, and was gone completely in around 4-5 months. It was definitely helped by following the expert advice below, and additionally by therapy and my regular attendance at Delaware AA meetings.

7 expert tips to help overcome brain fog in early recovery

1. Eat well

Substance addiction can cause nutritional deficiencies in the addicted individual, and this will worsen symptoms like brain fog. Eat healthy, eat nutritiously, and eat well.

2. Exercise

Exercise is not only important for your body, it is vital for your mind. Doing regular exercise, such as a simple 30-minute walk every day, will help your mind think clearer and better. Regular exercise also helps lower your stress

3. Meditate

Meditation is an excellent tool for increasing your ability to focus, and it can improve your general cognitive functioning as well. Take classes or learn online. Here is an article that can help you kick-start your meditation practice.

4. Sleep well

Insomnia is an issue for those in early recovery. Try to develop a healthy sleep pattern by establishing a routine, eg. a specific bedtime that you stick to, no caffeine in the evenings, and no late-night TV. Read » 10 techniques to help you relax before going to bed

5. Avoid substitutes

If you’re a recovering drug addict or alcoholic, don’t use another substance to try to relax or feel better. All of these substances will affect your ability to think clearly, and may well lead to another addiction. What you need is 100% abstinence from all habit-forming substances.

6. Keep realistic expectations

Be realistic. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and no recovering addict ever got better in a couple of weeks. Early recovery is difficult, but work through it, and get additional support if you need to.

7. Seek medical help

If your brain fog persists, and it is presenting a problem in your daily functioning, do make an appointment with your family physician. It is never a good idea to ignore a persistent symptom like this.

Final words

Brain fog, as confusing and as annoying as it is, is a temporary symptom, and the advice provided above will clear the issue sooner rather than later. I wish you a complete and sustained recovery.

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