Tag Archives: neurotransmitter

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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Why Do Recovering Addicts Crave Sugar?

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Maybe recovering addicts, like the rest of us, reach for sugary foods and drinks because they make us feel good. Think about it: it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and you’re at work and tired so you reach for a soda, candy bar, donut, or something else loaded with sugar.

Why do we crave sugar? What can we do to avoid it?

Blood sugar levels have an effect on our mood, energy level, and cravings for sugary foods. Sugar gives us energy and releases the chemical dopamine which is also called the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Recovering addicts increased dopamine with their drug of choice. But now that they no longer have the drug they are substituting sugar to get that high. If, for example, alcohol was your drug of choice, it is very high in sugar. Therefore, turning to sugar is an easy and cheap way for a recovering alcoholic to increase their blood sugar level and dopamine, and to chase that high. You will even see someone who is trying to cut down on their drinking substitute it with sugar, often starting in the morning with sugary drinks and using sugar in a similar way that they used alcohol.

The high that is produced from sugar is very short lived and usually followed by, what some people call, a “sugar crash”. The person physically feels worse, continues to crave sugar, and eat sugary foods. This is very similar to how someone craves their drug of choice.  Over time, just like with their drug of choice, the person will need more sugar to get the same “high”.

The most important part of recovery is to stay sober, but maintaining a healthy diet can also help you be more successful in your recovery as well as your work and life.  If you eat sugary foods or drink sugary drinks your blood sugar will rise and fall more rapidly than if you eat protein. Think about how you feel after you eat a couple of cookies compared to how you feel after you eat a turkey sandwich. If you eat a lot of sugar you may feel more agitated, depressed, or anxious, which can lead to relapse. When you feel good it is easier to overcome cravings, especially in early recovery.  Keeping your blood sugar level as consistent as possible by eating a healthy, balanced diet will minimize mood swings and can help you be successful in your recovery.

The Chemistry of Addiction

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This is a great informative video by one of my favourite Youtube geeks, Hank on the SciShow channel. If your looking for more answers than just the description in the big book, Hank will let you know how exactly we react chemically to drugs. This is why we are addicts, KNOW YOUR BRAIN!!

“Published on Nov 18, 2012
Hank describes how our brains respond biochemically to various addictive substances and behaviors and where those responses have come from, evolutionarily speaking.

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