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Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

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“Having only drank for one year of my life, I hardly consider myself an alcoholic. But I know how important it is for me to see it as any other drug so I am welcomed to AA as NA/CA just the same. I wanted to understand holistic approaches to alcoholism just as I understand the addiction. Turns out their not really much different. This blog can help not only a drunky but a junky too.” -Love, Robyn

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Alcohol addiction is a multifaceted brain disorder which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat and why a holistic approach to alcoholism is the prescription needed for craving-free and long-term sobriety

The roots of alcoholism lie in an imbalance or depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain that is caused by the alcohol itself, nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar, allergy, poor diet, hypothyroidism, toxins in the environment, childhood abuse,chronic stress or many of the other things that disrupt neurotransmitters.

However, these biochemical roots affect every aspect of an individual’s life. It alters personality, cognitive functioning and spiritual connections. It impacts the physical, emotional, social, cognitive and spiritual levels deeply.

We’ll call these other issues, secondary contributors to alcoholism. Although they are not the core root, if they are not addressed they have the power to sabotage recovery.

The physical, emotional and spiritual elements are deeply intertwined. The biochemical/physical impacts the spiritual and the psychological and the spiritual affects the biochemical and psychological and vice versa.

When an individual addresses the true biochemical roots of their addiction with a holistic approach to alcoholism, physical healing begins and biochemical repair is essential to success in long-term sobriety. Deep spiritual and emotional healing can’t be complete without it. However, if one only addresses the biochemical and neglects the spiritual and emotional then they are still at risk of relapse or relapse.

The damage that is done on the physical level has a great impact on the psychological and the spiritual. When your brain and body systems aren’t functioning properly, it has a profound impact on emotional and spiritual health which is often exhibited in a variety of negative psychological symptoms.

Incorporating a holistic approach to alcoholism into your recovery plan helps the individual to heal on all these levels and therefore increases the success rates of long-term sobriety quite drastically.

Unique Aspects of a Holistic Approach to Alcoholism

Alcoholism is unique from other diseases in that it often destroys marriages or relationships or alienates family and friends. Family members and friends must often distance themselves from the alcoholic in order to save their own sanity and in some cases protect themselves emotionally and/or physically. When this occurs, the alcoholic is left in a position without much support. For those who stick around, there is usually a great deal of damage done to the relationship and healing is required.

Another unique component to alcoholism, is that after one engages in the alcoholic lifestyle for an extended period of time, it then becomes a learned behavior to some degree. They learn to respond to stress, pain, sadness, anger etc. by taking a drink or a drug. It becomes a habitual response without thought. These types of behaviors must be unlearned and replaced with healthier behaviors. Habits and routines must be broken. A new lifestyle needs to be embraced.

Alcoholism recovery is also unique in that there is likely to be a great deal of shame, guilt and remorse for actions and behaviors that the alcoholic engaged in while intoxicated, which must be dealt with in a healthy manner to keep them from interfering in sobriety.

Depending on factors such as each individuals background and how long one has been living with alcoholism, there can be a variety of other secondary factors that need to be taken into consideration and addressed, such as relationship issues, childhood sexual or physical abuse, impact on marriage, parenting issues and interpersonal skills. Many people who’ve lived with alcoholism for a long time may be lacking in a variety of social skills that are necessary to get through life. These factors will not apply to everyone, but for those who it does, this is where traditional counseling is called for.

And yet another exclusive aspect of alcoholism is that sometimes the individual goes through a grieving period when they begin recovery. Giving up alcohol is like losing a very good friend or a loved one. Emotional support is a crucial for those who have this experience.

With all these different factors weighing in the alcoholism recovery equation, to address only one aspect will not lead to successful long-term sobriety. All issues must be addressed simultaneously or they become possible triggers for relapse and undermine recovery.

A holistic approach to alcoholism may include the following:

1. Biochemical repairs that addresses the physical as well as the psychological:

  • Identify neurotransmitter imbalances and metabolic disorders
  • Nutritional support during detox and later
  • Changes in diet and nutrition
  • Recognizing environmental factors
  • Addressing nutritional deficiencies
  • Individualized diet plans
  • Dietary and nutritional counseling
  • Exercise

2. Counseling, groups or seminars for social and emotional issues:

  • Childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse and neglect
  • Dealing with loss and grief of alcoholism
  • Coping skills
  • Parenting skills
  • Lifestyle adjustment
  • Communication skills
  • Assertiveness training
  • What to do with loneliness, boredom, too much time on your hands
  • Repair relationships

3. Discovering spiritual connections:

  • Developing a relationship with yourself
  • Connecting more deeply with yourself
  • Healing relationships
  • Engaging in spiritually fulfilling activities
  • Forgiveness of self
  • Activities that make you feel whole, complete and connected
  • Deep and meaningful activities
  • Mindfulness based meditation
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Communing with nature

Another very important component in the holistic approach to alcoholism is that treatment is individualized and personalized according to each persons needs and issues.

One person may have many secondary issues while another individual may have none or only one. Treatment approaches will vary to some degree in the biochemical aspect as well as the emotional and spiritual aspects.

Someone who has been drinking for 20 years may have a lot more complex biochemical and social issues than someone who become an alcoholic two years ago after their husband died.

An individual who lived with childhood sexual, emotional or physical abuse or neglect may have more challenges to face than someone who had a loving childhood. Their alcoholism recovery plan would likely include a lot more focus on the counseling aspect.

One person may need a great deal of counseling and training in areas such as communication and assertiveness while others may be quite competent in these areas. Some people may adjust easier to a new lifestyle while another may struggle a great deal. All these details need to be taken into account and adjusted for specifically for the individual.

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Understanding Withdrawal Symptoms

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Going into a detox facility during withdrawal from drugs and alcohol is not only safer but highly recommended to those who are trying to stop using because you will receive a lot of support. Commonly, after one goes through detox, they will be able to work with staff to determine the next steps in their treatment. This can include inpatient or outpatient programs that will help educate and inspire a life of sobriety. 

“You don’t have to go through withdrawals alone. It can be scary not understanding whats going on with your body. Below are a list of symptoms to look out for to assure that, yes, you are going through withdrawal and yes, you need to seek help. 

“I know that I had no idea that I was going through withdrawals when I first experienced it. I was in denial about my addiction and I wish I sought help immediately before I decided to simply replace my drug of choice, thinking they weren’t as bad as the ones I was using before. ” -Love and light, Robyn

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When it comes to alcoholism and drug addiction, going cold turkey is not the right option. Supervised detox is usually safer and may be the best route for you or your loved one.

Treatment for alcoholism or drug addiction involves undergoing therapy to help you mentally and physically recover from theaddiction. In order to get better, you must physically “cleanse” your body of the substance. To avoid a life-threatening reaction brought on by withdrawal from alcoholism or drug addiction, it’s best to seek professional help instead of trying to go it alone.

Ending Drug Addiction: Withdrawal and Detox
Withdrawal — stopping alcohol or drug use — can be extremely dangerous if done on your own, which is why a carefully administered plan for detoxification is the safest way to end your drug or alcohol addiction.

According to James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and research scientist at the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, “Everyone is going to have to go through detoxification to withdraw from a substance. The question is, when is it medically dangerous and when does it require medical oversight?”

Withdrawal from many drugs can bring symptoms such as agitation, sweating, an inability to sleep, and high blood pressure. Opiate and narcotic withdrawal symptoms can be among the most difficult. Opiates and narcotics are classes of drugs that include heroin, codeine, Demerol (meperidine), and Oxycontin (oxycodone), which are taken to achieve a sense of euphoria in those who abuse them.

Other substances that tend to cause more severe withdrawal symptoms, and potentially life-threatening symptoms, are barbiturates, alcohol, and benzodiazepines, according to Stephen Gilman, MD, an addiction psychiatry specialist in New York City. “Withdrawal from these substances should be handled in a hospital.”

Drug Addiction: Symptoms of Withdrawal
Symptoms of withdrawal depend on the object of the addiction. The following symptoms may result:

  • For alcohol: sweating, anxiety, tremors, fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate, seizures, delirium tremens (the “DTs” — a state of extreme agitation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, tremors, and confusion), psychosis and, adds Dr. Gilman, “ultimately death if not treated by a professional.”
  • For opiates/narcotics: anxiety, insomnia, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.
  • For stimulants, such as cocaine: excessive tiredness and depression.
  • For barbiturates (such as Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal): nausea, fast breathing, increased heart rate, tremors, muscle pain, insomnia, hallucinations, convulsions, and delirium. If withdrawal is not monitored, the consequence could be death.
  • For benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Librium, Valium): delirium, muscle twitches, hallucinations, sensitivity to light, sound, taste, and smell, ringing in the ears, tingling, numbness, and insomnia.

Ending Drug Addiction With Medication
Another reason detox in a controlled setting is important: Medical professionals can administer medications to ease withdrawal symptoms. Ironically, sometimes these are the same drugs that are being abused.

From http://www.webmd.com by Linda Foster, MA and medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

Breath Control by MC Yogi

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This is one of my favourite sounds to listen to when I feel the stress building and my temperature rising because it reminds me to BREATHE! Its such a simple song but the lyrics are exactly what you need in those times of high stress. Deep breathing is one the best known coping skills because its so simple and so effective. This song can help you focus on your breath, taking inhalations and exhalations to “just let it all go.”