Rediscovering joy, or even pleasure after addiction can be a slow process. Drugs mess with your head both literally and physically. For example, cocaine might make you feel great for a little while, but prolonged use destroys the pleasure centres in your brain – a high price to pay for a short period of intense pleasure.

Even if you haven’t had any permanent damage to your ability to experience pleasure, living without the chemical of your choice can be hard. After all, you used it because it made you feel good. After a while, it stopped being as effective, but you chased that sensation to the brink of your own destruction.

You’ve rescued yourself from that, but how will you find happiness now?

Real joy comes from within – and it’s better without drugs!

Real joy is natural and beautiful. You may have to make a conscious effort to recover your ability to experience the ‘real thing’, but you can do so – and you’ll be glad that you did.

A lot of treatment programs offer you ways to explore your spirituality in a new way. They’re not trying to ‘convert’ you as such, but what they are hoping it will do is give you a chance to get to know, accept and appreciate yourself after addiction. That’s the first step towards true happiness and inner peace.

Stop victimizing yourself

You feel pretty bad about the things that happened when you were an addict, and you probably still view yourself in a negative light. Looking at your negative qualities is necessary if you want to make positive changes and overcome them, but no-one is a bundle of negatives and nothing else.

Appreciate the good things about yourself and use them to work on the bad ones, but don’t allow yourself to be permanently focussed on negatives. Practice by consciously acknowledging at least three positive things about yourself every day.

Take time for reflection

You need a sense of purpose that goes beyond your recovery. That may be the most important thing right now, but you also need something to work towards – something that makes it all worthwhile to you as an individual. Dare to dream. Now that you are recovering your freedom and are no longer a slave to substances, what will you do with your newfound freedom?

Spend a little time every day just ‘being’. It will help you to live ‘in the moment’ – one of the keys to rediscovering the simple pleasures of being alive. I know that being ‘high on life’ is something of a cliché, but it really is possible. Every day is packed with positive experiences, but most people don’t even notice them. The best thing about a natural ‘life high’ is that there’s no price to pay.

It’s up to you to make it happen

Substances give you a lift, but afterwards, there’s a price to pay. You feel worse than you did before. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. The good feelings are brief, and then it’s payback time – and boy, do you pay!

No drug treatment or rehab program can change your outlook on life – that’s your task. You’ve already started to regain control of your life, now it’s time to take the driver’s seat and guide yourself onto a path to lasting happiness. If you’re able to think positively, if you have a wonderful goal that inspires you, real joy can be yours.

Reward yourself

A UCLA professor says that you should do things you enjoy or try something new – and then reward yourself afterwards. But she warns against activities that may remind you of the time when you were addicted.

The technique is known as behavioural activation therapy. We love rewards, even when we reward ourselves, and we try harder in order to get those rewards. She believes that her strategy can help recovering addicts stay motivated and rediscover the joy in simple things that they once experienced – and she recommends that you keep trying, even if it doesn‘t seem to work at first.

Real highs are the best ones

It’s the truth. I’m not the only one who says so. Other people who have been through addiction and recovery after addiction will tell you the same thing. Sure, you aren’t going to get all-out sensory overload high, but when that happened on drugs, you always knew it was fake – something that gets bought and sold. An in the end, you weren’t really happy because fake happiness can’t last.

This kind of high is absolutely free and natural. It’s the joy that comes from knowing that life, your life, is good!