Recovery can mean many different things to many different people.
For some it means going to an inpatient hospital until transferring to a halfway house and then to out-patient therapy. For some it means taking medications to help them stay sober. While these are great techniques that have proven to help thousands of people in recovery, there are additional all-natural techniques a person can implement to help them along the way.
Taking care of the whole person while in recovery will offer strength in fighting cravings and give a person better opportunities for recovery success. This means taking care of the physiological, psychological, and even environmental issues that will either limit or enhance recovery success.
Addiction and Recovery Defined
It may first be necessary to define addiction to understand why recovery from addiction is so important. According to the National Institute on Health, addiction is a chronic disease that causes people to compulsively use drugs or alcohol despite the negative consequences the drug can cause such as damage to the brain. It is hard for non-addicts to understand what makes a person choose a drug over food, jobs, even their own children. But drugs are that powerful and dangerous. They convince your brain that you cannot survive without the drug. Because of this recovery can seem almost impossible to some addicts. It is important to fight addiction with the best recovery process available.
The National Council of Alcohol and Drug Dependence defines recovery as the process in which a person changes the way they live so that it is healthier and gives them a better quality of life. They go from being non-productive members of society to holding down a job. They change their environment to one more conducive to recovery. A recovering addict will also attend meetings or events that will enhance their recovery. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers an explanation of recovery that has many facets. A summary of those are:
- There are many pathways to recovery, meaning what works for one person may not work for another. Each person needs to find the path that works for them the best.
- A person in recovery recognizes they need a change or transformation from the way they were living to a better way of living.
- It is holistic in that it is important to treat the whole person while in recovery, not just a portion.
- Has many cultural dimensions and requires a great deal of support from family, friends and professionals.
- Involves healing and giving a person new meaning to life, making them more hopeful and grateful about what life can offer.
- Encourages becoming a positive member of society through positive actions.
Psychology Today reports the definition has improved and also involves addressing the traumatic event or events that took place in the past that lead to a person using drugs or alcohol. They also address the importance of respect in the recovery process. It is important to know that recovery is a long process and it can take many months, even years, to complete. But it can be done, especially when treating the whole body.
Reduce Cravings during Detox
Cravings are urges a person has to return to using their drug of choice. Sometimes cravings are triggered by the senses, sometimes the brain is simply creating the urge because it wants the body to feel the way it felt when using drugs. A former alcoholic will need to stay away from a bar; otherwise he or she may be tempted to drink again. Some addicts in recovery choose to move from their old, drug neighborhood, to a brand new neighborhood so the brain can’t be triggered by people or locations that remind them of using drugs. Regenerative Nutrition claims cravings happen because residual toxins remain in the body causing the body to desire the addictive drug. If you can eliminate all toxins from the body then cravings can be significantly decreased.
Cravings are at their worst during detox from a drug. This is a fragile period of time for the addict. However, there are natural medicines associated with detox that can aid in replenishing vitamins the body lost while using drugs or alcohol. Dr. Julian Whitaker suggests taking the right vitamins each day can help curb cravings to alcohol and other drugs. He implies that by replenishing the vitamins your addiction took away from your body can help you have fewer cravings.
Smart Recovery developed an Acronym to assist those in recovery with learning how to fight cravings. The acronym is as follows:
- D: Delay and encourages a person to not give in to the urge to use the substance they are craving.
- E: Escape or leave the situation causing the craving.
- A: Accept the fact that cravings are normal and something you will have to deal with but that they are temporary.
- D: Dispute the craving by telling yourself to fight irrational urges.
- S: Substitute the craving for an activity that is more beneficial to your health and wellness.
Some claim Vitamin C given in high doses can offer tremendous help in fighting cravings because most addicts are deprived of Vitamin C. They claim it can even help addicts who are detoxing from hard drugs such as heroin. Drugs and alcohol rob the body and the brain of many nutrients, making it hard for the body to recuperate quickly when the abuse of substances stops. It is important to put in the effort to rebuilding both the body and the brain to increase chances of success.
Rebuild Body and Brain
Every part of a person’s body needs specific vitamins and nutrients to help us function properly. The reason many substance abusers appear unhealthy is because they are unhealthy. It is sometimes easy to point out the external issues an addict may be having. For instance, they may appear too thin because addicts don’t eat properly. They may appear to have dark circles around their eyes and constantly have a dry mouth. This is because many substances cause dehydration. It is very important to begin working on healing the body and the brain as soon as recovery begins. Medline Plus explains that drug and alcohol abuse can cause malnourishment and a decline in overall health. Opiates can harm the digestive system, alcohol can cause diabetes, and stimulants can cause dehydration. These are just a few examples of how drugs harm the body. There are many more negative effects substance abuse can have on the body, making it very hard to recover unless you are able to rebuild and replenish the nutrients your body needs. You can do this through the foods and drinks you ingest during recovery.
There are many alternative medicines that can assist in healing the body during recovery. Natural medicines such as Vitamin C, Selenium, Zinc, Chromium, and Acidophilus will strengthen the liver. Calcium and Magnesium will strengthen the nervous system. B complex and potassium enhance energy while herbs such as milk thistle, valerian, passion flower, goldenseal and chamomile also assist in recovery by easing anxiety and cleansing the system of toxins.
Because the brain is also in need of repair after being damaged by alcohol and drugs, it is very important to rebuild the brain cells. Better Nutrition claims alcohol alone can change 200 genes in the brain. It is suggested that N-acetylcysteine can make neurotransmitters level again. As an antioxidant, it is extremely important in helping people control addictive behaviors.
Addiction Professional Magazine published an article on how to nourish the body of the addict when in recovery. The article states that sugar and caffeine can actually be triggers for relapse even though they seem relatively harmless. Therefore, following a whole food diet is a necessity. Medical Nutrition Therapy was created to heal the body and mind of the addict in recovery. Other goals of this therapy include reducing stress, stabilizing moods and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Basic chores can seem overwhelming to a person in recovery because they did not care about that while they were using. Anything that can be done to teach the person in recovery how to succeed in all aspects of his or her life is important. Learning basic life skills, including how to eat healthy, will be beneficial.
Other than eating the right foods, drinking healthy, and supplementing with vitamins, herbs and minerals, there are also many alternative physical therapies a person can do to aid them on the path to recovery.
Natural Therapies for Recovery
The American Holistic Health Association reports alternative therapeutic techniques that can be used in recovery include acupuncture, bio-feedback, neuro-feedback, exercise, hypnosis, meditation, and Yoga. These are just a few in a vast array of treatments. It is important the recovering addict find the therapies they find enjoyable and meaningful to them. It is not encouraged to continue a natural therapy that has not shown any benefits. An example of another holistic therapy that may work for some but not all is prayer, as used in the 12-step programs that encourage connecting with a higher power. Guided Meditations have been shown to enhance a person’s recovery process by connecting them to spirituality and allowing the brain to have a calm period of time to heal itself. However, this may not be for everyone. A more universal therapy seems to be Creative art therapy, a great technique for use in recovery and in expressing thoughts and feelings without having to speak about them. The American Art Therapy Association reveals art therapy can help a person in recovery get back in touch with their inner self. In addition, art therapy can help ease anxiety and decrease depression. The important thing to remember is that art can come in many forms, from painting to music to dance. Light therapy can also be known as photo therapy and uses sunlight to improve the well-being of those in recovery. Sunlight provides nutrients that can aid in fighting depression, which is often experienced by those in recovery from drug addiction. While this is not an approach you see often in treatment or recovery programs, there is research that shows the benefits of sunlight are real.
Another tactic for assisting in recovery is that of a support system. Research has shown a high correlation between recovery success and having a positive support system. Trying to overcome addiction alone makes the process much harder. Being accountable to someone, meeting others with the same issues, and giving back to the community in which you live can all be very rewarding.
Importance of Support
A good support system is key to a successful recovery. A good support system can include many elements including a person you can call when you don’t feel strong enough to fight urges by yourself. It can include a group of people that meet each week who are experiencing the same issues as you. It can include a therapist you see on a regular basis to help you learn to express your feeling appropriately. It can also include building a stronger spiritual connection whether it is through church fellowship or meeting with a group that expresses your same beliefs.
Recovery support can involve establishing a network of connections in the community and at home, in work and personal relationships, and with professionals who can offer stability and positive interactions. It is just as important to limit the time you spend with negative influences, especially early in recovery when vulnerability is high. Not everyone will offer support. Some may even try to sabotage your recovery, thus making it even more important to do everything in your power to get the whole body as healthy as possible and surround yourself with people and activities that compliment your goal of recovery. The most important thing to successful recovery is to know and believe it is real and it is very achievable. Believing in yourself, taking care of yourself and finding your own strength will help you achieve your goal of recovery.