It’s that time again. We feel hot, our moods are up and down, we might feel like crying or shouting or both. As stress levels are heightened when we are due on our period it can be quite difficult to know the difference between a craving and Pre-menstrual stress – PMS. If we look at some of the symptoms of PMS we will realise that they can often be very similiar to the way we feel during the build up before a relapse – anxious, angry, stressed, headaches, cravings, tearful, wanting to be alone, sleep disorders , argumentative etc. Sound familiar? In early recovery our emotions are already imbalanced and therefore during our time of the month we need to be aware of the differences.
As women in recovery from addiction we need to take extra care of ourselves before and during our periods as this can be a vulnerable time and relapse prevention is vital. It’s important to be open with those around us too, like our partners or other family members that we are feeling a bit low so that they can understand this is a difficult time for us.
We do not need to suffer this each month. There are many ways we can reduce our symptoms of PMS and these ways also serve well as relapse prevention strategies. Here’s a few for us to consider;
Not all of us are luck enough to have someone in our lives ready to give us a massage, as suggested in the picture to the left. But there are many things we can do to take ownership of our emotions and well being.
1) EXERCISE: Research shows that regular exercise lessens the symptoms of PMS. In some cases it has been known to lighten the menstrual flow and helps keep the cycle regular. Delayed periods often occur where we have been using substances or suffered from eating disorders. Moderate exercise brings the balance back to the monthly cycle. It also produces feel good hormones called endorphin’s that lift mood and help reduce stress by burning off excess adrenaline. So even though we may just want to curl up on the sofa, the best thing for us is to be active.
2) BALANCED DIET: This is actually very important for those of us with an addiction. Many women crave sugary foods like chocolate or ice cream before or during a period. However, although these types of food may offer a short term sense of relief in the long run they do little to help alleviate some of the emotional difficulties we suffer from at this time. Sugars cause us to feel temporarily uplifted but can often be followed swiftly by a crash, causing us to want more sugar. As addicts in recovery this may be confusing for us the body becomes tricked into believing it is craving our drug of choice. We need to take responsibility for this in early recovery, choosing iron rich foods such as green vegetables alongside a balanced diet.
3 SLEEP: Generally we feel weaker during our monthly cycle. Wherever possible we must try and get to bed early and establish a good routine. In fact, this is highly important for all addicts in recovery. Being awake at night is often the time we are most tempted to relapse. Allah tells us in the Qur’an that He has created the night for us to rest and the day for work.
4 CHARITY: You may be wondering why this category is here. Well this was the advise of the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, to his wife Aisha, ra. He advised her that during her menstruation she should give in charity so that she may reap in the rewards while she is not offering the 5 daily prayers. As addicts, prayer may be an important part of our daily routine that keeps us in recovery. During our period we are no longer taking that time to sit and reflect or to consciously think about Allah. Sometimes our eeman (sense of faith or spirituality) may feel like it’s disappearing. We begin to lose or connection with Allah and that can cause us to start thinking about using drugs again or carrying out our old behaviours. Giving in charity or doing some kind of good deed will help us to reconnect back with our Creator. Other forms of worship we can engage in are listening to talks on YouTube or reading Islamic books. It is important that we do not completely disengage from our Islamic way of life just because we are not praying, otherwise we may lead ourselves wide open to relapse.
These are just a few of the things we can do to take responsibility for our recovery during this vulnerable time. I hope some of you can add a few more things below. I hope this has helped raise awareness of this subject and importance of taking care of ourselves.