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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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How To Break Any Bad Habit

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“I just read and fell in love with this article from Mind Body Green and had to post it for you all! Enjoy!” -Love, Robyn

Learning to understand the self is a lot like stirring water in a glass. If we don’t stir, sentiments stay at the bottom of the glass and our water stays polluted.

Take a simple goal: Eat better.
For me, eating always starts with a craving. It’s rarely because I’m hungry. Usually I eat out of boredom. Or, on a deeper level, maybe loneliness.
First, the feeling. Then filling that feeling with food.
I imagine what I’m craving. Pizza. I see it. Feel it. I taste the crust and the cheese, and I know exactly where I’d go to get it. I see myself driving there and sitting in the booth eating it. (I am an extremely visual person. In this case, it’s not to my advantage.)
Then I become obsessed with this image. Inner conflict begins. Desire vs discipline, Want vs need. I start to reason with myself.  I work out hard. I deserve this. It’s not a big deal. What’s a slice? I need to get out of the house anyway.
Reasoning turns into deals. Okay, one slice but I’ll get a salad.
It’s on. The fantasy becomes a reality. I’m now actually sitting at the pizza place. And of course, I always break the deal I made with myself. Three slices and no salad. I eat until I’m stuffed. The Addict, The Liar, the Pseudo Self wins again.
On the way home, I feel guilty about myself and the pizza is never as good as I imagined it.
If I take this process and apply it to other areas of my life, is it the same? Dating? Relationships? If so, are the consequences and feelings the same?
Study patterns in your thoughts and behavior around fitness and nutrition. Chances are, they’re the same patterns you apply to other areas of your life. Maybe you maneuver in extremes: Win or lose. If so, do you apply that to work, love, etc.?  Do you use food or exercise to reward and punish yourself? If so, do you use work and relationships to reward or punish yourself?
Filtering your cloudy water means breaking patterns you believe are unhealthy. The more you are able to break unhealthy patterns, the cleaner your water will be.
Now, if you’re able to get stronger at rewiring your thoughts and behavior with food cravings and exercise habits, including all the fears you hit while working out, can you apply those new muscles to breaking patterns in other areas of your life?
I believe you can.
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Here’s how.
1. Know what’s triggering your behavior.
Usually it’s from a feeling.
For me, it was boredom and loneliness.
Pizza was a way of coping or numbing that feeling.
Being aware is the first step.
2. Force yourself to change that behavior.  
There will be an internal fight and it will be difficult. But this is where the road can fork. Give yourself other options. I could go on a walk. See a movie. Write. Any behavior that’s different, even if it’s only slightly more healthy. The goal is just to break it. You may not succeed in the beginning. It takes lots of practice. But eventually, if you keep at it, you’ll get stronger.
Next time I have a feeling that triggers me, I’ll walk around the block and maybe reward myself with fruit, juice, or even a protein bar instead of stuffing my face at a pizza joint.
Now, in relationships, something will trigger the same feeling. You may get into a fight and feel unheard, angry, lonely, etc. Think about your bad habit (your “pizza”) in relationships…  Is it to shut down or explode? Well, you can apply the process above to change that behavior, too .
3. Identify the feeling that triggers your behavior. 
What’s the feeling? Feeling hurt, unheard, lonely?
4. Focus on addressing that feeling. 
 
Maybe you talk to a friend. Go for a walk. Stay and talk it out. Journal. Call your brother. Exercise? Whatever. Just make sure it’s more healthy. Know that you can do this because you did it with the eating and it will work the same.  Remember the results you got from breaking the bad eating behavior and trust that process.
If you’re afraid to do something in the box or at the gym, but you overcome that fear and by doing so, see results, that revelation – that you can overcome a fear and see results can now be applied to confronting your boyfriend, boss, or parents.  You may believe one has nothing to do with the other.  On the surface, true.  But fear is fear.  And no matter what door you go in or how you tackle it, the more you conquer it, the more you will be able to conquer it in other areas of your life.
Once you prove to yourself that you can do something you were afraid of, that PROOF – belief – will spill into other areas of thinking.
Imagine fear as the black and white image in a coloring book. The more you color, the more the fear disappears. It doesn’t matter where you start or how you do it, all that matters is that you keep coloring. And the more you color, the more that page will come to life.
So it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about eating better or facing workouts you never thought you could do. Keep stirring to get that water cloudy so that you can then break patterns – filter that water clean in all areas of your life.