Relapse during early recovery from substance abuse can be triggered by various factors. Some common reasons include returning to old relationships, keeping the same peer group, engaging in past behaviors, and struggling with self-confidence. However, one less-discussed but significant factor is "anhedonia."
Anhedonia is often associated with conditions like major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, and Parkinson's disease. It refers to the inability to feel pleasure or enjoyment from activities that were once enjoyable. In the context of early recovery, the brain undergoes rapid and significant changes, and anhedonia can be one of the side effects.
Often times in my past attempts at sobriety I remained in a pretty steady state of depression. I would be at a treatment center and participate in groups and therapy but never truly played my part in the whole thing. My inability to be honest with others about my past was a ticking time bomb that I would use at any opportunity to justify why I didn't deserve to be clean and sober. It was difficult for me to be social with others, I found no enjoyment in things that always gave me enjoyment in my past, and I always had this feeling of "blah". Unfortunately, I was never educated about anhedonia. I ultimately would go on for a few months and feel as if this feeling was permanent and would go out and use again, repeating the same cycle over and over again.
Anhedonia, while challenging, is not permanent. The duration varies among individuals. For me, it persisted until about two months into sobriety, but others might experience it differently, and some might not experience it at all.
Knowledge is power, especially during recovery. Understanding the brain's reactions and changes can equip individuals to navigate the challenges of early recovery more effectively. I wish I had known about anhedonia during my initial recovery attempts. Realizing that this emotional state was temporary could have potentially made a significant difference in my previous attempts at recovery. If you or someone you know is in the early stages of recovery and feels persistently down or indifferent, it's essential to recognize that anhedonia may be playing a role. It's a temporary hurdle, and with time and support, it can be overcome.