A holistic approach to treatment can often be misunderstood as a month long vacation, basking in the glory of whichever tropical sun seems to be out this year. Holistic rehab actually uses “alternative” methods that are proven to have some therapeutic value to recovery. Non 12 step recovery centers offer more tools to a newly recovering person than traditional twelve step and behavior modification programs. This isn’t to say that these methods don’t work, it’s to offer even more tools along whichever recovery journey you’ve chosen.
One alternative approach to substance abuse treatment is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a big component for several different reasons. Based in meditation and DBT, mindfulness is a practice that the addict or alcoholic can learn to embrace to listen to sensations in their bodies which might be triggering a reaction that causes them to relapse. Tuning into our bodies, we may also begin noting the different feeling states throughout the day so that when we can meet with our therapists. Mindfulness can also help recognize that some feelings can manifest physically as other feelings. Anger can actually be a disguised shame that reveals itself by becoming tense an irritable. Through mindfulness we can dig deeper into these feelings and discuss them with a therapist when appropriate. Mindfulness can also tell us that when we are feeling triggered to use, it’s often because we are feeling sadness or our thoughts are leading us to believe we are, “hopeless.” Mindfulness creates a slight pause in between the feeling and the action or response.
Meditation is one of the greatest tools to captivate mindfulness or mindful awareness throughout various phases of the day. Beginning with a short practice in the morning, sometimes we focus our awareness on the different sounds in the room or the area we are in. Other times we may meditate to a guided meditation or a live meditation to offer a particular insight on a new meditation practice. Throughout the day, when we can we may meditate in short increments or longer if we feel more comfortable, reviewing our mindfulness notes or simply replaying the past events over in our minds to see our progress and different opportunities where we can use as a growing experience. Meditation doesn’t necessarily have to be sitting with your eyes closed. Meditation can be any experience in which you are fully present for, without judgment. Standing in line at the grocery store can become a form of meditation if there are no feelings or stories attached to it, all while being fully present. These experiences through meditation can help us to build habits in situations that require patience.
Yoga or walking practices are especially helpful. Yoga, as well as walking, can be extremely relaxing as well as good for the mind. While learning a meditation or mindfulness practice, yoga and walking can release enough energy in the body to allow relaxation and even endorses to be released for a boost of energy. In our yoga practice, we feel the different sensations in our bodies as we stretch and we breathe into them. We learn to tap into these sensations and release, noticing the tensions and pressure points. In our walking practice, we can learn to be mindful of each step, or the sounds and scenario, or even the way our bodies feel as we walk mindfully. Breathing the air rhythmically and keeping count of the breath on inhales and exhales can also help to add more present time awareness into our walking practice. Walking can become a meditation practice.
Holistic treatment allows other forms of therapeutic activities to be integrated into a plan which includes traditional treatment options such as therapy, group therapy, and medication. However, alternative approaches also recognize the benefits of healthy eating as well as various relapse prevention training groups. To focus on the disease, to focus on the body, or to focus on the mind exclusively is to bandage a problem until another comes along. Through holistic treatment, mind, body and spirit are all evaluated and treated with different courses of action.
Healthy eating is a subtle piece of holistic treatment that can add as the glue that binds all of the different approaches and practices together. By learning mindfulness around eating, we are able to be more aware of if we are eating to nourish ourselves, out of boredom, or as a response to an emotion. Preparing healthy meals in and of itself can help boost confidence and reiterate a feeling of self care. Having prepared a healthy meal and sitting to enjoy it, we can see that we are now taking care of ourselves from the inside out. As recovery is an inside job, it’s important for to recognize the different components to healing ourselves emotionally and putting healthy steps in place to help in recovery from addiction. “You are what you eat,” and while there is truth to this, you are also as happy as you feel after you eat. Generally while entering recovery, nourishing and healthy meals may help with the detox process and grow into a healthy habit to carry on through the rest of recovery.
Between healthy eating to meditation practice, holistic treatment offers a number of practical approaches to helping the addict heal from the traumas of their past and addiction. After treatment, these tools remain available for our clients to practice in their everyday lives whenever stress or discomfort arises. Holistic treatment is not against a twelve step approach. Holistic treatment options can be used in place of or alongside 12 step recovery. In a treatment setting, 12 step alternatives can be extremely beneficial to learn. After treatment, with the new skills learned and applied, a twelve step meeting could be the perfect compliment to a well balanced recovery. Non 12 step approaches are an excellent way to offer new tools to somebody who may not have had them available solely through a 12 step program. As an alternative, most holistic treatment centers and programs are not against the 12 steps and aim to promote any and all beneficial methods and tools to help assist in getting and maintaining long term recovery.