Holistic Treatment For Alcohol Addiction
A holistic treatment approach to alcohol addiction aims to support and treat the person in different aspects of their lives, resulting in a focus on balanced, whole-person care.
Holistic treatment for alcohol addiction addresses the mind, body, and spirit using a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach. Addiction is multi-dimensional, so recovery must be as well.
Addiction is a condition that affects people in four main ways:
- Mentally (their thought processes)
- Emotionally (their relationship with their emotions)
- Spiritually (their values and what is meaningful in their lives)
Addiction creates imbalances in these four areas of a person’s life. As a result, successful, sustained recovery requires attention, effort, and action in each of these areas.
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Mental balance focuses on becoming consciously aware of your thoughts and thought patterns, paying attention to what they are telling you, and questioning and challenging them as appropriate. Our thoughts and our way of thinking are based on considering information and forming conclusions as to what it means. As a result, our thoughts exert great influence over our emotions and actions.
While our thoughts guide our perceptions of reality, it is important to remember that they are not reality. They are productions of our brain. The human mind naturally creates a cascade of thoughts and images that combine to create narratives that grab our attention and hold it captive. However, just because you think something doesn’t make it true. The practice of not believing everything you think is an essential skill for recovery.
While it can be hard to control your thoughts, you can learn to not allow your thoughts to control you. You can detach from them, observe them, question their accuracy, dispute or talk back to them, and ultimately, shift them.
Because our thoughts so often determine our emotions and direct our actions, achieving and maintaining mental balance is essential to the process of recovery.
Emotional balance involves acknowledging, accepting, and allowing yourself to feel your emotions, whether they are pleasurable or painful.
In the same way that our thoughts are not facts, neither are our feelings. They are simply our emotional responses to our experiences, the thoughts our minds generate about those experiences, and our beliefs about them. That is not to say that your feelings aren’t valid. They are, because they represent how you feel. However, when your thoughts about something change, so will your feelings. Different interpretations of our internal and external experiences lead to different emotional responses.
Most people react to difficult emotions by avoiding them or being overwhelmed by them. Learning how to recognize, feel, accept, and make peace with your uncomfortable and painful emotions is known as distress tolerance.
Many people relapse due to an inability to cope with painful feelings, so building distress tolerance is critical. Becoming consciously aware of and accepting the full range of your emotional experience is a core part of self-acceptance, another key component of recovery.
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Physical balance focuses on exercise, nutrition, and hydration. It also includes the creation of healthy habits like getting enough sleep and practicing relaxation techniques, as often as possible.
Physical movement is essential to health and well-being. Movement as simple and low-impact as stretching, walking, and chair-based exercise is beneficial. Finding and participating in whatever forms of exercise are the best fit for your individual needs and capacity is most important.
Nutrition And Hydration
A healthy diet which includes proper nutrition and drinking enough water is fundamental to overall health and well-being. Eating a healthy diet makes you feel good which helps regulate your mood and strengthen your ability to manage stress.
Sleep is important for the restoration of the central nervous system, energy recharging, and information processing. Without enough sleep, we are more likely to be anxious, depressed, and irritable and have difficulty concentrating. These emotions can be roadblocks to recovery.
Relaxation practices activate your body’s relaxation response (the opposite of the “fight or flight” reaction). The relaxation response (through practices such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Yoga, and Qi Gong) reduces the physical, mental, and emotional effects of stress and helps facilitate the beneficial but often illusive qualities of a sense of calm, serenity, and inner peace.
Active addiction shrinks one’s world, effectively making it smaller, as life increasingly revolves around the addiction. Spirituality expands the world, helping us reconnect with that which is greater than ourselves and live in greater alignment with our values and become the person that we are meant to be.
Spiritual balance involves cultivating a connection between self, others, and that which is beyond oneself (often some form of “higher power,” God/the Universe/Nature/the Divine, etc.). Spiritual balance helps people find meaning and purpose, even in situations that are difficult and challenging.
For some people, spirituality is closely connected to organized religion and a particular belief in God(s). For others, spirituality has more to do with connecting to nature and the world around them.
There are methods a person can use when seeking spiritual balance including prayer, remaining present, and the development of personalized spiritual principles.
Staying In The Moment
Many approaches to spirituality emphasize the value of being present-centered or staying in the moment, as opposed to focusing on the past or the future. There are many ways in which staying in the moment promotes health, healing, and recovery. Mindfulness and the related practice of meditation are among the most helpful techniques to achieve present-moment awareness.
The practice of spiritual principles is part of most of the world’s great spiritual traditions. There are many different spiritual principles, including: gratitude, kindness, acceptance, open-mindedness, compassion, humility, patience, forgiveness, and service to others. These represent values of a holistically balanced individual.
A holistic treatment approach can be included in various forms of alcohol addiction treatment.
Mutual Support And 12-Step Programs
Mutual-support groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous), can play a valuable role in the process of recovery by providing an environment that promotes emotional safety and provides the experience of feeling welcomed, supported, and understood. For people recovering from addiction, who often struggle with anxiety, fear, depression, guilt, trauma, loneliness, and trust, this is a very big deal.
When other mental health conditions co-occur with addiction, they often need to be addressed through professional treatment. Psychotherapy can be extremely beneficial in dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of addiction, as well as the adjustments and challenges of recovery. Medical conditions should always be evaluated by a medical professional.
To be successful in any process of meaningful change (including recovery) both awareness and action are necessary. Translating awareness into action in recovery from alcohol addiction is similar to the process of learning and building new skills in any area. To get better, it is necessary to learn what works and practice what works with consistency and persistence. Only then can one take steps on the road to recovery.
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