Physical, Mental, Emotional: The Whole Body Fix for Addiction
When it comes to feeling solid in life, focused, content, and able to manage frustration and stressors as they arise, as well as take small steps forward toward personal and recovery goals, the key is the mind-body-spirit connection.
Essentially, this term, the “mind-body-spirit connection” communicates that it is impossible to ignore one arm of this triangle and feel complete and whole. When it comes to healing from addiction, the medical community has taken a step toward supporting this concept. When a client is living with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder like anxiety or depression, the recommendation is usually that the person undergo treatment for both disorders simultaneously. No longer will clients and their families be advised to attempt to isolate and treat one disorder before moving on to the next one. Because the effects of these disorders are so deeply intertwined, it is impossible to manage, for example, triggers for drug and alcohol relapse when a major trigger is the effects of an untreated mental health disorder.
Comprehensive care is the best way to address every part of life impacted by addiction and prepare the individual to live a full and healthy life in recovery. Intensive and integrated treatment should promote:
- Physical healing after heavy ingestion of toxins through drug use
- Balanced emotions and mental health through treatment for any intrusive symptoms of depression, anxiety, or others
- Openness to spiritual growth and exploration
- The ability to check in with oneself, identify areas of need, and then address those issues before they become triggers for relapse
Healing the Body
The physical effects of drug and alcohol abuse are devastating. The first step in most people’s treatment programs is focused on finding balance in the body.
This often includes:
- Providing medical stabilization, if necessary
- Treating withdrawal symptoms
- Identifying underlying medical issues
- Providing ongoing medical care and monitoring as needed
After stabilization, a detox plan can be created that focuses first on providing medical care for the withdrawal symptoms experienced and then continues to assist the body in processing out the toxins ingested during addiction while strengthening the body overall.
This may be accomplished through:
- Medication management if a maintenance medication is used during detox
- Nutritional therapy to ensure a well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet
- Personal training and cardiovascular exercise
- Attention to lifestyle choices, such as regular and quality sleep, quitting smoking, and more
Mental and Emotional Growth
Once stable in treatment, the focus can turn to therapeutic healing that addresses mental health and emotional issues. Just as medical care begins with a physical, mental health care begins with an evaluation and assessment. This process will identify the mental health symptoms and behavioral patterns that could indicate a mental health disorder and inform the course of treatment going forward.
Treatment goals will be established based on the information gathered, and a treatment plan will be created that utilizes a range of therapeutic options, including:
- Traditional therapies: Personal therapy often focuses on identifying and altering the behaviors, assumptions, and perceptions that may be informing the urge to drink and get high.
- Group therapy: The support of others who are similarly struggling with addiction and the ability to support them in return is a critical part of finding normalcy in recovery.
- The 12 Steps: Working the 12 Steps in the context of meetings and a sponsor/sponsee relationship can provide an excellent resource for support in treatment and beyond.
- Alternative therapies: Sports therapies, animal-assisted therapies, artistic therapies, and other experiential therapies use nonverbal tools to elicit a better understanding of the addiction experience and the right path forward in recovery.
Spiritual exploration and growth in recovery can be religious in nature, but it doesn’t have to be. If you feel called toward a specific religious or spiritual path, then recovery is a great time to explore it deeply, but if you do not, you can still engage your spiritual self. There is no need to define a spiritual path specifically or to sign on to any organization’s ideology in order to learn more about yourself and where you find your own sense of peace and contentment.
Recovery is about discovering your authentic self. During active addiction, you were consumed with fulfilling cravings and combatting withdrawal symptoms. In recovery, when you learn how to manage those issues and solidify your path of medical and mental health treatment, you have the freedom and space to look inward and notice who you are and how you feel.
Many people opt to do this through:
- Volunteer work
- Outdoor exploration (e.g., walking, hiking, camping, etc.)
Bringing It All Together
Treating the whole person during addiction treatment does not have to necessarily extend the amount of time spent in treatment. There are a number of holistic therapies that can positively impact the mind, spirit, and body in recovery, and access to these therapies can be one of the benefits of choosing a program that offers integrated addiction treatment. These treatments allow for progress and healing in more than one area of recovery. For example, yoga provides physical and mental health benefits, and it is also considered a spiritual practice by some.
The types of therapies and treatments that are incorporated into your treatment plan can be chosen with the goal of healing the areas of greatest need and providing coping tools that will serve the individual for a lifetime. Long-term treatment is recommended, and continued engagement with holistic treatments that promote ongoing growth in recovery can be a critical part of relapse prevention.