Holistic health care is defined as “A system of comprehensive or total patient care that considers the physical, emotional, social, economic, and spiritual needs of the person; his or her response to illness; and the effect of the illness on the ability to meet self-care needs.” In short, it considers the health of a person in three areas: mind, body and spirit. When we delve into the area of holistic health and recovery, all three areas must be addressed for lasting recovery to be achieved.
The mind, in this context, refers to the functioning of our brain as it relates to addiction. There are countless studies that prove the ill-effects of drug and alcohol abuse on the brain. Part of the healing process involves changing the neuro-pathways that have been created by years of continued automatic responses to certain stimuli such as emotions. For example, if we drink before every social situation, we strengthen a neuro-pathway in our brain that connects social anxiety and the need to soothe it with alcohol. After many years of reinforcing this connection to behavior, it eventually becomes automatic and happens on a subconscious level. Freeing the mind of this type of response requires consistent mindfulness. We must consciously redirect and continually strengthen a new response to that stimuli. For example, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, instead of taking a drink, we call a friend or find a quiet spot for a quick meditation or self-talk. This is just one example of addressing the mind aspect of recovery.
We all know that addiction takes a definite toll on the body. Often, when in the throws of a drug or alcohol addiction, we neglect important self-care activities such as regular exercise and nutrition. Re-connecting the mind to the body helps us get in touch with ourselves in a profound way. As we become more in-tune with our bodies, we are able to understand the messages being sent to our brains regularly. For example, we experience “butterflies” when we are nervous or excited about something. Unfortunately, addiction creates blockages throughout our energy systems, precluding us from receiving those important messages. When we take the time to listen to our bodies, we can begin to heal some of the damage caused by years of neglect.
Our spirit is usually the aspect that suffers the most with addiction. Abuse of drugs and alcohol causes us to lose sight of who we really are. We feel guilty and out of control which results in shame and depression. We become overwhelmed with despair and can no longer find joy in the things that used to bring us happiness. As we get sober, and our bodies are finally rid of all the toxic chemicals in our brain, we discover a renewed connection to our spirit or soul. We start to realize and experience the power of spirituality in our lives. Call it whatever you like – God, Higher Power, The Universe, etc. – the meaning is basically the same. Contentedness to others and the universe through meditation and prayer is a fundamental aspect of recovery.
Holistic health and recovery methodologies were designed to address all three aspects of a person – the mind, body, and spirit. As such, not only do holistic practices provide a solid foundation of healing for those who are trying to overcome an addiction, these techniques can be beneficial for anyone, whether in recovery or not. Many western practitioners have begun to include holistic health and recovery in their services offered to patients across the country. We suspect this trend will continue as we discover more of the benefits it can provide to our overall health and well-being.